LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Bears know firsthand how dangerous the Seahawks can be.
Yes, the 8-9 Seahawks, the first team with a losing record to win a division.
Seattle came away with a win in its first visit to Soldier Field this season, and Chicago must be more prepared when the Seahawks return for today's division playoff game.
"We know what happened in the first game," Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said of the surprising 23-20 loss Oct. 17.
Losing to Seattle again would be a huge letdown for the Bears (11-5), who won the NFC North and gained a first-round bye. Seattle upset the defending Super Bowl champion Saints last week, and the Bears are taking nothing for granted.
They saw Seattle's Marshawn Lynch break eight tackles on a touchdown run in a 41-36 win over New Orleans at Qwest Field. They saw Matt Hasselbeck come up big, throwing four touchdowns and winning over the fans after getting booed off the field in his previous home start against Atlanta. When Seattle beat the visiting Rams to clinch the NFC West, he sat out with a hip injury.
"The fact that the expectations have been very low for us in these games, I can understand that based on our early performance during the season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Other than that, we realize there aren't many people that give us a chance to win these games. But that's not the battle cry. The battle cry is to get prepared to play really good football and see if we can throw a game out there that gives us a chance to beat a great opponent."
The Bears are wary of the Seahawks.
"They're used to being in that spot," Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers said. "They didn't have a great season recordwise, but they're used to being in the playoffs. They played like they were."
No one needed to remind the Bears that Jay Cutler got sacked six times and that a usually reliable defense had its issues in that loss to Seattle, failing to force a turnover or get a sack.
It didn't help that Peppers was a nonfactor or that Briggs sat out with a left ankle injury. As bad as that performance was, the Bears took another turn for the worse when they followed that with another home loss to Washington.
But after a week off, Chicago settled on a starting offensive line and abandoned its pass-happy ways. Improved blocking and a commitment to the run helped reduce the pounding on Cutler and sparked a turnaround.
The Bears caught a break in the opener against Detroit when officials ruled Calvin Johnson didn't complete the play after catching what looked like the go-ahead touchdown, and there were some more breaks during their season-saving surge.
Now, Chicago gets a team that barely made the postseason.
"I was here when we were winning our division — we were owning our division — year after year after year after year after year," Hasselbeck said. "That's a great feeling. It's a great place to be in."
It wasn't easy for the Seahawks, but they're in again.