for this game

Seahawks without Alexander for showdown with Bears

Sep 26, 2006 - 11:48 PM Seattle (3-0) at Chicago (3-0) Sunday 8:15 pm EDT

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- The NFL's highest scoring offense and the league's stingiest defense did not end up meeting in the NFC championship game last season. Unfortunately, the prime time showdown on Sunday night will be missing a key player.

The Seattle Seahawks will not have reigning NFL MVP and rushing champion Shaun Alexander in uniform when they face the Chicago Bears in a battle of unbeaten teams.

This matchup was expected to take place in the NFC championship game last January, but the second-seeded Bears were beaten at home by Carolina, 29-21, in the divisional playoffs. Seattle rolled to a 34-14 victory over the Panthers before losing to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.

Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and set a single-season record with 27 touchdowns in 2005, but will not play on Sunday due to a broken bone in his left foot. He was clearly hobbled in last week's 42-30 win over the New York Giants, rushing for just 47 yards on 20 carries.

Maurice Morris, a fifth-year backup, will start on Sunday night alongside Pro Bowl fullback Mack Strong. Morris gained just 18 yards on 15 carries last week.

Without Alexander, look for Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren to attack Chicago's defense with a four-wide receiver alignment. The acquisition of Deion Branch from New England on September 18 makes that possible.

Matt Hasselbeck matched a career high with five touchdown passes in last week's win over the Giants. Darrell Jackson caught two of the scoring passes. The other receivers - Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram - also had a touchdown catch.

In his Seahawks' debut, Branch caught two passes for 23 yards and gained eight yards on a reverse.

Of course, lining up in four-receiver alignments invites blitzes and the Bears will do their best to try and disrupt Hasselbeck's rhythm.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and outside linebacker Lance Briggs will probably spend most of the night trying to disrupt pass patterns since they don't have Alexander to worry about.

Defensive ends Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown and defensive tackle Tommie Harris will be relied on to provide a pass rush. Harris leads the team with three sacks.

Urlacher had 10 tackles and the Bears' defense yielded just three field goals in a 19-16 win at Minnesota last week. The touchdown for the Vikings came on a seven-yard interception return by cornerback Antoine Winfield.

After allowing a league-low 202 points last season, the Bears have yielded just 23 points in three games this year.

Chicago has more than just an elite defense. Rex Grossman is developing as a quarterback. After setting career highs with 289 yards and four touchdowns in a Week Two win over Detroit, Grossman hit Rashied Davis with a 24-yard scoring pass with 1:53 left in the win over Minnesota.

Although Seattle's offense gets most of the attention, the defense led the league in sacks last year. The Seahawks held the Giants to just a field goal and intercepted Eli Manning three times while building a 42-3 lead last week. New York erupted for 27 points in the fourth quarter.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant held New York's Plaxico Burress to one catch.

The Seahawks have started 3-0 three times in the last four seasons, but never have been 4-0. They last visited Soldier Field in 1999.

The Bears last started 4-0 in 1991 when Mike Ditka was coach.

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