MMQB: Bears 25, Seahawks 19

Olindo Mare's two missed field goals weren't the only reason the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Chicago Bears 25, Seattle Seahawks 19
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Qwest Field
Seattle, WA

Play of the Day: On a 2nd-and-7 play just after the two-minute warning from the Seahawks' 36-yard line, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw a quick six-yard slant to wide receiver Devin Hester, who caught the ball just as Seahawks safety Deon Grant and cornerback Travis Fisher were colliding. Hester, one of the fastest players in the NFL, was off the races and scampered the 30 additional yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Handouts to the Standouts

Nate Burleson had an outstanding day, finishing with game-highs of 9 receptions for 109 yards. Burleson also made a head's up play by stripping a sure interception out of the hands of Bears cornerback Zackary Bowman in the end zone.

Julius Jones came up just short of the century mark, finishing with 98 yards on 19 carries, while adding 38 yards on three receptions, including a 39-yard touchdown catch-and-run to open the day's scoring.

Middle linebacker David Hawthorne was all over the field, leading both teams with 16 tackles and notching the Seahawks' first interception of the 2009 season. Hawthorne later appeared to force and recover a critical fumble near the goal-line, but the officials took it away from him after a challenge by Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

Rookie linebacker Aaron Curry continued to over-pursue plays, but he did make a few plays in the Chicago backfield and registered his 1st NFL sack, stripping Cutler from behind which help set up the Seahawks with excellent field position that resulted in a 46-yard field goal from Olindo Mare.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"

(Deep breath)

Mistakes. Mental mistakes, physical mistakes, coaching mistakes, etc…From Mare's pair of missed field goals, to T.J. Houshmandzadeh's fumble (and him running his mouth during the week), to Jim Mora burning a timeout by challenging an obvious touchdown, to Justin Forsett letting a punt hit the ground, to Seneca Wallace's poor decision that resulted in an interception at his own 11-yard line on the very next play after Forsett's blunder, to calling an end-around on 3rd-and-1 with a diminutive wide receiver coming off multiple leg injuries, the Seahawks simply made far too many unforced errors to win a football game.

The obvious goat is Mare, but why are the Seahawks settling for field goals? Whenever the Seahawks drove inside the Bears' 35-yard line, the play-calling got awfully conservative. More on that later.

One carry for zero yards from Wallace was reminiscent of the Seahawks' loss last year to the Miami Dolphins, where Wallace had opportunities to run, but chose not to. Wallace was coming off a calf injury in that game, so it was excused, but today it appeared as though Wallace had some lanes to pick up 5 or 6 yards, and possibly a lot more on a few plays, but forced throws into tight coverage instead.

Someone on the Seahawks' sideline needs to take the red challenge flag away from Jim Mora and only give it to him in the case where rational minds from above determine that the play is challenge-worthy. Mora's challenge of Johnny Knox's clear touchdown not only prompted a "Really? He's challenging that?" from Stevie Wonder, it needlessly burned a second-half timeout. Would having that additional timeout have made a difference if Seattle started that final drive with three timeouts instead of two? Perhaps so, which is why the head coach needs to be more judicious in what he challenges. This may be his first year on the Seahawks sideline, but he's not a rookie at this and should know better.

Don (bleepin') Carey. I pressed my face up against my HDTV, and I still don't know what Carey saw on the review of Matt Forte's fumble that prompted him to overturn the call on the field. I'm not saying that it was 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt a fumble, I'm just saying that there was nothing on the several replays shown of that play that warranted it be overturned.

Two other real-quick officiating beefs:

  1. There's one official assigned to watch for pre-snap movement on both sides of the ball, yet he somehow missed a 320-pound right tackle false-starting on Hester's 36-yard touchdown.
  2. Only a Don Carey crew would not only not give Julius Jones a first down on that 3rd-and-1 play, after they declined a penalty on the Seahawks' behalf (who wouldn't want a 2nd-and-5 over a 3rd-and 1 in the final two minutes, where plays are more valuable than yards?), but to take the time to measure what should've been ruled a 1st down, and not bother to let the replay official check the spot of the ball, and to grant the Bears a timeout after the Seahawks had lined up and snapped the ball, was inexcusable and the league should rid itself of their version of C.B. Buckner.

 

Seattle may have deserved to lose this game, but the officials made sure of it.

Sorry Seahawks, but the lime-green uniforms were hideous and need to be auctioned off for charity or burned. I kept telling myself that this was just the Seahawks' way of expressing support for the people of Iran. That worked up until I received an e-mail at 1:15pm PT from the Seahawks Pro Shop, telling me how I can purchase a "GREEN" jersey of my very own.

It was then the motive for volunteering for Mr. Blackwell's list became crystal clear: Selling jerseys.

For the record, I recognize and support any team's desire to increase revenue, including the selling of advertising patches on practice jerseys, which the Club has done with their partnership with Bing, Microsoft's search engine.

But the lime green anywhere on the player's uniforms is something that should've been ushered out when the Seahawks' swapped head coaches, and an allegedly more aggressive coaching staff took over.

Remember, the Seahawks redesigned their logo in 2002, in part, to give the team a meaner, more aggressive look. That purpose is thoroughly defeated when you dress like 45 extras for an Enuff Z'Nuff video that wrapped in 1987.

Aside from the green eye on the logo, and the striping on the pants and jerseys, and of course the green dot on the radio helmets, can we please restrict the lime-green nonsense to the stands?

A sea of green towels and pom-poms waving, or mittens clapping, is acceptable and on some level, kinda cool and I suppose, in an alternate universe, would be intimidating to a visiting opponent. But 45 athletes made to wear lime-green on the field just looks gimmicky, and the only solace one can take from today is that future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, and future Ring of Honor members Lofa Tatupu and Matt Hasselbeck, were spared the embarrassment of having to wear those monstrosities.

Offense

Seattle started out brilliantly, moving the chains consistently as they jumped out to a 13-point lead before they promptly folded like a cheap suit. Check out this inspired play-calling:

3rd-and-3 at the Bears' 20-yard line, send Justin Forsett off right end, gain one yard and settle for a field goal.
3rd-and-13 at the Bears' 26-yard line, hand the ball of the Julius Jones, gain one yard and miss the ensuing field goal.
3rd-and-5 from the Bears' 16-yard line, throw a 4-yard pass to Deion Branch that falls incomplete, Mare misses the ensuing field goal.
3rd-and-10 from the Bears' 21-yard line, throw a 4-yard pass to Nate Burleson that falls incomplete, settle for a field goal.

To be fair, if the Seahawks had executed those four plays properly, perhaps one would've resulted in a first down and then, well, who knows what sort of offensive explosion would've ensued.  

Aside from Jones, the Seahawks absolutely could not run the ball on Sunday. Despite the opportunities, Wallace a non-factor, and Edgerrin James (4 carries, 7 yards) looked like a player who had spent the entire off-season outside of an NFL facility. Justin Forsett only got two carries (for four yards), which was surprising considering how well he played in San Francisco the week before. Even during the ‘Hawks final drive, Forsett inexplicably remained on the sidelines.

As noted above, Burleson was outstanding on Sunday. He was targeted 12 times, caught 9 passes, and posted his 6th career 100+-yard game. Meanwhile, Houshmandzadeh, who declared he'd be open 95% of time, caught 45% (4-of-9) of the balls thrown his way and fumbled once. He also hurt his finger, which is another one that can be added to the list.

3rd, 4th, and 5th receivers Branch, Deon Butler, and Ben Obomanu chipped in with a combined 4 catches for 32 yards. Tight end John Carlson was nearly invisible, catching just 3 passes for 28 yards, but a lot of the throws he couldn't come down with would've been impossible catches for anyone to make. Backup tight ends John Owens made a big fourth-down catch, while rookie tight end Cameron Morrah made his 1st NFL reception.

Another game, another injury to the Seattle's offensive line. This time, it's left guard Rob Sims, who injured his oblique and was replaced by Mansfield Wrotto.

Walter Jones was inactive, meaning either Sims or second-round guard Max Unger would've been the team's left tackle if something were to happen to Brandon Frye. As one might expect, this patchwork offensive line didn't open up too many holes for Seattle's running backs, and Wallace was often left running for his life as Chicago sent blitz after blitz at Wallace, forcing him to either scramble or throw off his back foot.

Defense

Considering who they were playing without, and playing against (a Top 5 quarterback in the NFL with a first-round running back coming off a 1,000-yard season), the Seahawks defense had a very strong game.

Hawthorne's 16 tackles nearly tripled his career production in the NFL heading into Sunday, and he added an interception and what should've been ruled a forced fumble/fumble recovery, which may have garnered some POW consideration for the second-year ‘backer from TCU. Aaron Curry had perhaps his strongest game as a professional, finishing with 7 tackles, including two for a loss, and his first NFL sack, which resulted in a turnover and (of course) three points for the Seahawks. The other starting linebacker, Will Herring, had 7 tackles.

The Seahawks run defense redeemed itself after last week's debacle, limiting the Bears to just 85 yards on 28 carries. Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane did their jobs well, and Red Bryant was a downright beast. But they could've been better, as 23 of the Bears' 85 yards on the ground came on their final drive, which included Chicago's two longest runs of the night (11 and 9 yards) as the Bears caught the ‘Hawks in some blitzes which compromised their gap control.

Injuries in the secondary likely caught up with the ‘Hawks, as Hester didn't beat regular right corner Ken Lucas for the game-winning touchdown, he beat Travis Fisher, who was making his Seahawks' debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury.

Jay Cutler is one of the top quarterbacks in the game, and he sliced the secondary apart, going 21-of-27 for 247 yards and three touchdowns, finishing with a 126.4 passer rating despite his interception, which came on a tipped pass. The Seahawks got decent pressure on him, and put quite a few shots on the pouty QB, but nobody in the secondary made a play on the ball today, and that proved costly.

Special Teams

From the sounds of it, Seahawks head coach Jim Mora is none too pleased with Mare, who missed a pair of field goals in a game where the ‘Hawks lost by six points. Doing the math and it's easy to figure that a few kickers, perhaps even Brandon Coutu (who worked out for the Cleveland Browns on Friday), will make their way to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Monday or Tuesday.

Mare did put 5 of his 6 kicks into the end zone, and if it weren't for the blazing speed and chutzpah of Johnny Knox, those all would've gone for touchbacks as Mare put them 5-to-8 yards deep in the end zone. Mare finished with two touchbacks, and on the 4 that were returned, Knox gained 53, 29, 22, and 30 yards. So before Mora and Tim Ruskell make a move, remember this: Two of the key guys on the Seahawks' kick coverage units are starting on defense, and today wasn't the first time that the opposing kick returners had plenty of room to run.

If they think that the 36-year old kicker is so unaware of how his misses affected Sunday's outcome, that he'd somehow be motivated by the team bringing in a couple free agent kickers to push him, fine. But I'd caution them to not cut their noses off to spite their face. Mare is a proven weapon on kickoffs and there are reasons that the guys they bring in on Monday or Tuesday are available to come in Monday or Tuesday to audition for Mare's job.

Jon Ryan was only needed twice, but boomed a 61-yard punt, which was returned for 9 yards (see above) and had a 47-yarder that wasn't returnable.

Ben Obomanu had a nice 45-yard kick return towards the end of the first half. He read his blocks well and displayed excellent vision and burst through the hole.

Summary

So that's the difference a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback makes.

No disrespect to Seneca Wallace, but both teams needed big-time play from their quarterbacks on Sunday, and only one delivered. It's no coincidence that it come from the guy whose team packaged two first-round picks to acquire, and are currently preparing to back up the Brinks truck to in the not-too-distant future to keep him in the fold for the next, oh six-to-seven years at about $100 million dollars overall.

If the Seahawks are feeling dejected today, they should be. This was a game they should have won, and could have won, even if the most recognizable Seahawks were in street clothes. For the first 28 minutes, the Seahawks out-coached and outplayed the Bears, but in the immortal words of Dennis Green, "they let ‘em off the hook", turning a 13-point lead into a 1-point deficit in the blink of an eye.

What hurts is that had Seattle won this game, they would've been 2-1 despite an alarming number of injuries, and would be in a much stronger position within their division, and conference, for when they start to get those guys back. Instead, they're 1-2 and have to head east for the first time under Jim Mora to face the Indianapolis Colts, who in case you didn't know, are kinda good at playing football.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog and writes for FalconInsider.com on the Scout network. If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so by clicking here.

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