Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll said after the win against New Orleans last weekend that you can’t win or lose a game in the first quarter. Then, the Seahawks went out of their way to prove him wrong against the Chicago Bears a week later.
As much as I wanted to believe in Seattle traveling to Chicago for the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on Sunday, little doubts kept creeping in. A morning start (for West Coast viewers), a full strength Bears team, and an emotional upset win over New Orleans the week before all combined to make me worry.
As John Carlson was being wheeled off the field from a nasty concussion on his only catch, the sense of foreboding grew in my gut. Watching the drops, the lack of synch in the offense and the Bears scoring early made me break out the alcohol earlier than usual.
Play of the Game: It wasn’t the biggest play but when Carlson caught the 14-yard pass, the offense was catching fire. After the long break to take him off the field, Seattle’s offense lost the momentum it had found. It wasn’t until much later in the game that the offense found it again but by then, the opportunity to win the game was lost.
1. Leon Washington – Washington held up his part of the big returner battle, as he returned one kickoff for 62 yards. Devin Hester, on the other hand, will be remembered for getting tackled by punter John Ryan after gaining 26 yards.
2. Brandon Stokley – The little guy that wasn’t with the team until the season had started came up like no one else in the receiving corps managed to. Eight catches for 85 yards and a touchdown made him Seattle’s top receiver.
3. Never Quit – Seattle has not quit in any game all season and this was no exception. If head coach Pete Carroll deserves any credit for anything this season, it’s that. Jim Mora last year couldn’t make it happen despite having a statistically better team. That Seattle won the NFC West and made it past the first round of the playoffs shows that Carroll is not just a cheerleader.
1. Offense – The numbers turned out pretty good, but Seattle didn’t solve the Bears until it was too little too late. There was plenty of blame to go around. The play calling was awful and the execution let everyone down. Dropped passes, lack of separation, and mistakes made even the best game plan a moot point.
2. Defense – The problems on defense mirrored the offense. The game plan was confusing at best, and downright stupid at worst. How do you justify not blitzing at least one player on most pass plays when that is what worked so well against Bears QB Jay Cutler earlier in the year? How can you justify not covering the tight end, like, ever? Yes, Cutler had a good game but when the vast majority of his 274 yards came down to the three Greg Olsen (tight end) catches for 113 yards, you have to know the Bears were targeting that weakness.
3. Injuries – Maybe it’s the extra game Seattle had to play before traveling to Chicago. Maybe that took some of the steam out of the bodies, but Seattle had two bad concussion injuries, one to John Carlson and one later to Marcus Trufant.
4. Run Game – Marshawn Lynch disappeared in this game, getting two yards on four carries. Whatever carry over from the beastquake against New Orleans was left at Qwest Field—not that any of Seattle’s other running backs did any better, as Justin Forsett had just nine yards on four carries as well.
1. Mike Martz – I’ve never been a Martz fan, obviously, but he was calling a good game (as Chicago’s offensive coordinator) up to the point he had Matt Forte step back and be the quarterback for the “Wildcat” offense. Most “Wildcat” plays are running plays, but Forte looked to pass. That turned out badly as Aaron Curry (of the Seahawks) made a rare great play to intercept the pass and set up his squad with great field position. Martz is his own worst enemy sometimes.
2. Safeties – Usually a strength for the Seahawks, the safeties had a horrible game against Chicago. Earl Thomas had a terrible game, looking like a rookie a lot of the time. Thomas has been able to avoid that thanks to the guidance of Lawyer Milloy. Milloy has had the fountain of youth, looking like the veteran leader but without the effects of age. In this game, however, from the first tight end route that he covered Olsen on, Milloy looked like the ancient mariner that his age suggests.
3. Mike Williams – After his huge game earlier this year against Chicago, big things were expected from the big man and he did not come through. Williams ended up with four catches for 15 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdowns are nice, of course, but his inability to fight through the blatant interference of Charles Tillman and dropped passes made it impossible for Seattle to use him effectively.
4. Adjustments – Seattle didn’t adjust well at all to anything Chicago did until late in the game. Tight and press coverages? Go with the pump fakes and double moves. It worked well against New Orleans because Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck is a master of the pump fake. By the time he hit Ben Obamanu streaking down the right sideline, Seattle was well behind Chicago.
On defense, Seattle rarely got any pressure on Cutler. The defensive play calling was very vanilla after being daring all year.
This game went very much like a lot of the Seahawks losses this year. Seattle got behind early and spent a lot of effort struggling to get back. No running game and a Koren Robinson-sized case of drops in the wide receivers department held Seattle down more than anything the Bears defense did.
I do need to give props to Julius Peppers. In the first Bears-Seahawks game this year, Russell Okung handled Peppers pretty handily. This time, Peppers beat Okung often and badly, collapsing the pocket and getting a holding penalty for his efforts. To me, that matchup was the biggest difference in the two games.
If this turns out to be Matt Hasselbeck’s final game as a Seahawk, then it should be redemption for all the Hasselbeck supporters. Can we finally see that the problems with the offense are not solely down to #8? I would love to see Hasselbeck come back next year as a mentor for a quarterback Seattle drafts or picks up from a trade. Maybe a Matt Flynn in Green Bay becomes a Seahawk, or maybe there is another gem hidden on a bench somewhere. It’s obvious now that Whitehurst is fool’s gold, so the focus should be in finding the next choice.
That’s all in the future though, subjects for future articles. Right now I’m going to enjoy the feeling of being a fan of one of the final eight NFL teams in the playoffs and the heartache of what might have been, because as many draft positions going to the playoffs cost the Seahawks, it is always worth it to go to the postseason than to sit at home.