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(Sunday, January 16th)
Final Score: Chicago 35, Seattle 24
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Jay Cutler made the most of his first playoff start, accounting for four touchdowns on Sunday to lead Chicago over Seattle, 35-24, and catapult the Bears into the NFC Championship Game.
Cutler passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns and also scrambled for two scores as the Bears built leads of 28-0 and 35-10 in a lopsided game that was only made closer by two Seattle touchdowns.
Chicago, the No. 2 seed, will host the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers next Sunday in the first playoff meeting between the longtime rivals since 1941.
The Packers knocked off Philadelphia and top-seeded Atlanta in consecutive road victories to earn their game against the Bears.
Cutler threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen on Chicago's third play of the game, giving the Bears a lead they never let go.
"Whether it's running the football or making the different throws that we asked him to do, he was outstanding," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said of his quarterback, who was 15-of-28 passing.
Chicago dominated on both sides of the ball, scoring four uninterrupted touchdowns and holding Seattle to eight consecutive punts to begin the game.
The NFC North champions advanced to the conference title game for the first time since 2007, when they beat New Orleans and then lost to the Colts in the Super Bowl.
"We came out of the gates quick," said Cutler.
Olsen caught three passes for 113 yards while Matt Forte rushed 25 times for 80 yards to help Cutler guide the Chicago offense. Chester Taylor rushed for a short touchdown and Kellen Davis caught a 39-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.
Seattle spun its wheels against the vaunted Bears defense, only getting traction when it was too late to mount a serious comeback. The only losing team ever to make the NFL playoffs was knocked down early and often and didn't score until Olindo Mare's 30-yard field ended their ninth possession.
The Seahawks have now lost eight straight road playoff games since winning their first and only postseason game as the guest on December 31, 1983, at Miami.
"We were scrambling. They just got us out of synch and we didn't respond very well," said first-year Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Throwing often as Seattle played catch-up, Matt Hasselbeck was 26-of-46 for 258 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Mike Williams. No one ran more than four times in the loss -- wide receiver Golden Tate was the team's leading rusher with a 13-yard scamper.
Indeed, Seattle's unique season came apart in a steady first-half snowfall against a Bears team that played better in all facets of the game.
But what a run it was.
The Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, clinching the division in a Week 17 victory over St. Louis and becoming the first losing team to make the NFL playoffs.
Seattle then rallied to beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints last week -- a home "upset" that was highlighted by a 67-yard touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch that literally shook the ground around the city.
"We took the next step that a lot of people didn't think we could," said Carroll. "We still thought until the end that something good was going to happen (against the Bears)."
A heavy underdog for the second week in a row, Seattle couldn't summon any more magic against the only playoff-bound team they beat during the regular season.
The Bears, in the postseason for the first time since 2006-07, scored on their first possession when Olsen ran past Lawyer Milloy on the right side and Cutler found him with a good pass near the 15-yard line.
"We didn't expect it to go to him," Cutler said, "but he ran right past the safety a made a great catch. It got us going."
Olsen caught a 33-yard pass on Chicago's next scoring drive, which ended in Taylor's one-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 with 1:19 left in the first quarter. Devin Hester set up the 50-yard drive with a 26-yard punt return -- his only significant return of the game.
The Bears made it three touchdowns in their first four drives when Cutler scrambled to the right, cut back to the left and broke a couple of tackles for a six-yard score in the second quarter.
An early three-and-out by Seattle in the third quarter set up a 70-yard Bears scoring drive to make it 28-0. Cutler scrambled to the right again and was hit as he carried the ball past the pylon.
The Bears quarterback finished with eight rushes for 43 yards.
The Seahawks finally scored on Mare's 30-yarder with 1:52 left in the third -- the first of 10 straight points.
Forte was intercepted after a direct snap on the ensuing Bears possession -- linebacker Aaron Curry picked off a pass intended for Hester -- and Seattle converted it into Hasselbeck's two-yard touchdown pass to Williams to get within 28-10 early in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks attempted an onside kick, with Mare booting the ball in between the Bears line and Hester, but it was recovered by Chicago. The Bears scored later in the fourth when Cutler and Davis hooked up to make it 35-10.
Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman nearly intercepted Hasselbeck at the goal line after that, but the ball popped out of his hands as he dove. Williams made a shoestring catch for a three-yard touchdown.
Seattle scored again on a 55-yard drive capped by Brandon Stokley's nine-yard touchdown catch.
"We did exactly what we wanted to do the whole game until the last two drives," said Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
The last time the Bears and Packers met in the playoffs was on December 14, 1941, when Chicago won the Western Division with a 33-14 decision before beating the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game...The Bears improved to 2-0 against Seattle in the playoffs. They beat the Seahawks during their run to the 2007 Super Bowl...Seattle tight end John Carlson and cornerback Marcus Trufant both left the game on stretchers after suffering head injuries. Both players had feeling in their extremities and the stretchers were only precautionary, the team said. Carlson was injured on a 14-yard pass play in the first quarter when tried to hurdle Bears safety Danieal Manning near the left sideline. Trufant was hurt during the third quarter after delivering a hit on Chicago tight end Kellen Davis.
01/16 17:32:01 ET
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