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Seahawks Cure Road Ills In Chicago, 23-20

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It’s no secret that when it comes to road games, the Seahawks are only really better than Detroit and St. Louis over the last few years. There have been lots of theories as to why, such as the early starts, the time zone changes, and the way the sun sets.

Heading into Chicago with a 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time start against a 4-1 team, the odds did not look good for Seattle. The Hawks need everything to go right. They cannot make mistakes and recover, as they are just not good enough for that right now.

That’s why that old familiar feeling of dread filled me when on the second play of the game, when Bears QB Jay Cutler aired the ball out and up the middle of the field and the yellow flag fluttered down after the ball bounced harmlessly to the turf, that’s when I wondered if this was going to be a drinking before noon kind of game. The 58-yard defensive pass interference call was questionable, but it set up the first touchdown of the game for the Bears.

Seattle’s first drive, so far this season something very ugly, was actually a thing of beauty, harkening back to watching the Seahawks of 2005, a team that scored almost every time they got the ball on their first drive. The touchdown run by Justin Forsett capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was beautifully orchestrated by Matt Hasselbeck.

While that would normally be my play of the game, I’m going to split that honor with the 11-play, 92-yard drive that Seattle put together on their second possession of the third quarter.

Why? Because this whole season the Seahawks have come out of halftime and not been able to adjust to the opponent’s adjustments. Seattle looked bad n their first touch of the third quarter, going three and out, and doing so very quickly. When they got the ball back after forcing a Bears three and out, the coaches and players had obviously learned and adjusted, because that drive was even more beautiful than the first drive. Not only did it quiet the Bears crowd, it extended Seattle’s lead to 10 points.

The Good:

1. BMW – Big Mike Williams exploded for 10 catches and 123 yards, finally putting the ghosts of the Detroit and Oakland eras to rest. Deon Butler, in his first start in place of Deion Branch, made four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.

2. Run Offense – New acquisition Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, teammates at Cal and reunited in Seattle, have finally formed the running backfield duo the Seahawks have been searching for since Shaun Alexander dropped off the cliff. They combined for 27 carries and 111 yards, keeping the Bears defense off balance and getting tough yards when they needed it. Lynch has the bruising style, tough attitude and speed that Julius Jones, et al, never could give.

3. Pressure Defense – Cutler never looked comfortable as Seattle found a weakness in the blocking schemes and went to that well all day, getting six sacks and a safety as well as hitting Cutler all game long.

4. Third Down Defense – Seattle’s defense tossed a shutout on third down, holding Chicago to 0-for-12. After the trip to Denver earlier in the season where the Broncos moved the ball at will and seemingly converted every third down, it was very refreshing to see the opposite end of the spectrum.

5. Matt Hasselbeck – It wasn’t the greatest performance of his career but with a stat line of 25/40, 242 YDS, and 1 TD; it was the best performance of the last couple years for the veteran QB. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come for the rest of the season.

6. Russell Okung – The rookie got his first full game in as a pro and drew one of the toughest assignments in keeping QB killer Julius Peppers off of Hasselbeck. Although Okung had the occasional chip and tight end help, most of the game he was on the island and Peppers was not mentioned at all except when they were talking about how they weren’t mentioning him. Peppers ended up with one tackle and one assist. He never got close to Hasselbeck.

The Bad:

1. Pass Defense – When the rush didn’t get to Cutler, he was able to pick apart the secondary pretty efficiently, going for 290 yards on 17 completions.

2. Punt return – Why would anyone kick to Devin Hester? John Ryan did a good job of directional kicking until his last punt with just over a minute left in the game. Hester returned the punt for a touchdown and Ryan got his clocked clean on a sweet block by Bears receiver Earl Bennett.

3. DPI – Although it turned out to be the only big play the Bears offense managed, that 58-yard pass interference penalty on Roy Lewis was the key to Chicago scoring on their first drive.

4. Matt Hasselbeck – Hasselbeck came out of the locker room at halftime and did not look comfortable at all. He turned into Captain Checkdown with happy feet, being indecisive and inaccurate. This is how Hasselbeck has looked this season, especially in the second half of games. Although he was able to get back in rhythm and lead the Seahawks to victory, it was not a very comforting trend. Hopefully it’s now been broken.

The Ugly:

1. Living On The Edge – The Seahawks have talent and ability. They don’t have the talent and ability to overcome mistakes, so getting four penalties in the first quarter–two on Stacey Andrews again–really made life difficult and could have changed the results dramatically.

2. Wildcat – Seattle tried one wildcat play, snapping the ball to fullback Michael Robinson. It was beyond ugly and does not need to ever be repeated again.

3. Identity – The Seahawks are good at doing a lot of things, but on offense anyway, they need to be really good at one thing, something they can know is their bread and butter. In 2005, it was either Hasselbeck rolling right and hitting the tight end shallow or Alexander over the left side. The Seahawks don’t have a go-to play like that yet. Maybe that is another thing that will develop, but I don’t like waiting.

4. Screen pass defense – Chicago ran three screen passes. All three gained yardage and made me wonder if the Seahawks did any prep during the off week on defending the play. The opposition will continue running it until Seattle shows they can stop it consistently.

Overall, there is no way I can bad mouth a road win against a team with a winning record. Not with the way Seattle travels, that’s for sure. Chicago fans may point to a kick return called back on a holding penalty as proof that Seattle didn’t deserve to win, but on this day, Seattle’s offense and defense dominated the Bears and showed that when things are working, they can play with anybody.

That’s good because the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals make their annual trip to Seattle next Sunday. Seattle and Arizona are tied atop the NFC West with 3-2 records, making this matchup and early season chance to take control in the West. For the first time in a couple of years, I’m actually feeling good about Seattle without feeling like I’m drinking too much of the homer Kool-Aid.

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.
  • charlie doherty

    Looks like for one week, both the Patriots and Seahawks did well on the same day and with new guys in old slots (or in New England’s case, a familiar face in Branch, who was vital in that huge win over Baltimore yesterday). I didn’t like the Moss trade, but am glad to have Branch back. Sorry we took took him from you guys :)

  • Russ Evenhuis

    I’m sorry Branch decided to actually catch the damn ball. :-) I can’t hate on him too much though, he was always injured here. He’s a good guy and a good receiver.