Devin Hester is a long way from being a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, even if he is the best in the Windy City, but he and Jay Cutler connected in a big way and may have given a glimpse into what's to come down the road.
Cutler's miserable Bears debut two weeks ago became further forgotten when he completed all three of his passes on the decisive drive. The third was for 36 yards to Hester with 1:52 remaining, on the slant the receiver had requested, rallying the Bears to a 25-19 victory over the depleted Seattle Seahawks.
Cutler pumped his fists, hugged his linemen, and raised both arms triumphantly after the go-ahead score.
Exactly the scene the Bears envisioned when they traded a king's ransom to Denver to get him.
"I pride myself in that. I want the ball in those situations and I think this offense is starting to get a feel for it," Cutler said.
"Any time you can get Devin Hester one-on-one, it works."
Cutler overcame a malfunctioning helmet headset and a raucous Seattle crowd that made play calls hard to hear to complete 21 of 27 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.
He also completed more than 70 percent of his throws last week against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers -- a doubly strong response to the career-high four interceptions he threw in a loss on opening night at Green Bay.
"To me, you judge good quarterbacks based on what they can do late in the game, and Jay wants the ball in his hands," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He had a good look about him knowing that we had to go down and score. We all had confidence that he would lead us."
Hester said he had "chitchatted" Cutler throughout the game, telling him "Hey, the slant's there."
Almost everything else was, too, for Cutler and Chicago (2-1) late against a defense that was missing two starting linebackers and two starting cornerbacks -- then lost a third when Ken Lucas missed the winning drive because he aggravated a groin injury.
When asked what Cutler's shown him since that messy debut in Green Bay two weeks ago, Hester said: "A lot of poise. There are situations when the game's not going to go our way, and he continues to be confident and telling us 'Stay in the game!'
"That's what this team is counting on."
The Seahawks (1-2) can no longer count on health, or home-field advantage. They missed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck because of a broken rib, plus six other starters, and lost for the seventh time in 10 home games.
Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, who set career highs with 26 completions, 44 attempts and 261 yards, converted a fourth-down pass and led Seattle drove to the Bears 29 with 30 seconds left. But Wallace then threw high and incomplete to Julius Jones on fourth-and-2.
Chicago was up 17-16 with 8 minutes left when Seahawks rookie linebacker Aaron Curry sped into Cutler's passing arm and knocked the ball loose. Cory Redding recovered the fumble at the Bears 39. Olindo Mare, who was just 4 of 6 on field goals, converted the turnover into a 46-yard field goal. The Seahawks led 19-17 with 5:17 remaining.
The Bears answered by driving to the Seattle 36 by the 2-minute warning. Then Hester ran a slant route inside third-string cornerback Travis Fisher. Safety Deon Grant tried to level Hester but nailed Fisher instead. With both Seahawks on the turf, Hester trotted in for the go-ahead score.
The Seahawks debuted blinding, nuclear green jerseys. They should have been wearing ones with a red cross on them.
Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones and three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu were among the other starters missing. Six others played while banged up.
Yet Seattle jumped out to a 13-0 lead after 18 minutes. They blew it largely because of two turnovers in the second half.
A fumble by T.J. Houshmandzadeh after a catch set up Cutler's 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie Johnny Knox, who juked Curry to give Chicago its first lead at 14-13 early in the third quarter. Then an ill-advised interception by Wallace out of his own end zone to Lance Briggs at the Seahawks 14 led to a 37-yard field goal by Robbie Gould and a 17-13 lead for Chicago.
The two missed field goals by Mare inside 43 yards left the 36-year-old former Pro Bowler an endangered Seahawk.
"You've got to make those kicks, especially in a game like this when you're in a game like this kicking and fighting and scratching and playing your tail off and you miss those kicks," coach Jim Mora said, anger growing in his voice. "Not acceptable. Not acceptable. Absolutely not acceptable.
"We'll look at making a change everywhere. We're not going to play our [rears] off and have a field goal kicker go out there and miss two field goals and lose a game."
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