When the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears hit the field on Sunday in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, they’ll do so with quarterbacks that have been the picture of inconsistency. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was stellar against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 272 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, on a tipped pass. On the other side, Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler has also been hit-and-miss in 2010, throwing for 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. On Sunday, it could just come down to which quarterback is able to avoid the crippling mistakes.
Hasselbeck spent the season much-maligned, going through a stretch of games in which he turned the ball over 10 times, by way of both interceptions and fumbles. Against the Saints, though, he was brilliant, looking like the Hasselbeck of old. He made all the throws, putting beautiful touch on a deep pass to Cameron Morrah that set up a touchdown and hitting Mike Williams in stride, over double-coverage, for a touchdown. With Hasselbeck firing, the Seahawks became a different team, charging back from 10 down to hang on for the win.
In Cutler, the Bears have a quarterback with plenty of potential, though plagued by inconsistency. At times, he’s been brilliant, throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles and 277 yards and three interceptions against the Dallas Cowboys. On the other hand, he’s struggled, as well, throwing for 168 yards and two interceptions against the Green Bay Packers in week 17 and 152 yards with two interceptions against the Patriots in week 14. Which Cutler will show up on Sunday? It’s anyone’s guess.
The Bears do have a strong running game, powered by second-year back Matt Forte. His numbers are down, even though he did break the 1,000 yard mark this season, but Forte should see plenty of touches against the Seahawks, a team that struggles against the run. If Cutler can limit his mistakes and the Bears get the running game going, it bodes well for the Bears and their chances to advance.
Hasselbeck has been there, done that with the playoffs, starting 11 games in his career so far. Cutler hasn’t and will be making his playoff debut on Sunday. Does the experience matter? It’s tough to tell, but Hasselbeck shouldn’t be rattled by a road playoff game on Sunday. Which quarterback shows up — the one from last weekend of the one that struggled down the stretch — could mean the difference between another upset and the end of the Seahawks’ playoff run.