Related column: Russell Wilson saves the day — twice
CHICAGO — Here are my highs and lows from the Seahawks’ crazy 23-17 victory over the Chicago Bears
1. For the third straight road game, and for the fourth time in seven road games this season, the Seahawks blew a fourth-quarter lead — this one with 24 seconds remaining. This was the most inexplicable of all. After Russell Wilson‘s touchdown pass to Golden Tate gave the Seahawks a 17-14 lead with 24 seconds remaining, the D only needed to do what even bad defenses can do: Just finish the game with everything working in their favor. But the Seahawks allowed a 56-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall, which put the Bears in field-goal range. Then Robbie Gould kicked a 46-yarder as time expired to send the game into overtime. Everyone at Soldier Field knew the Bears’ only hope was the throw it up to Marshall, and the Seahawks had him covered with cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas in the vicinity. But instead of batting the pass down, Sherman went for the interception, and the Seahawks got burned. Inexcusable mistake. The defense was lucky that Wilson wouldn’t be denied on this day.
2. The Seahawks couldn’t handle Brandon Marshall. Marshall posted 10 catches and 165 yards. He was targeted 14 times, and the Seahawks couldn’t limit him. Marshall abused Brandon Browner, who did not have a good game regardless of who he was matched up against, and Marshall won battles with Sherman, too, who did not play particularly well either. Did the scrutiny over a potential performance-enhancing drugs suspension affect the starting cornerbacks’ play? You be the judge. Whatever the cause, it was an uncharacteristically subpar performance from the consistent duo. In addition, the Bears added a wrinkle with Marshall, putting him in the slot and having him attack the middle of the Seahawks’ defense. He would slip behind the linebackers and find an open spot in the Seattle zone for double-digit gains. The Bears don’t put Marshall in the slot much, so this was a significant shift aimed to attack the Seahawks’ defensive weakness. At least the Seahawks kept Marshall out of the end zone. Other than that, he was a beast. He accounted for 71 percent of Cutler’s 233 passing yards. His 14 targets accounted for more than half of the passes Cutler threw. The Seahawks knew the Bears would try to get the football to Marshall by almost any means, but they couldn’t do anything to stop him.
3. Despite gaining a season-high 459 yards (their most since 2010), the Seahawks still experienced their typical third-quarter lull on offense. The Seahawks had possession of the football for only four minutes and 49 seconds in the third quarter. They managed just 14 yards and one first down and punted twice in those 15 minutes. The third quarter has been a problem for the offense all season. If the Seahawks could avoid that Sunday afternoon swoon, there’s no telling what the unit is capable of doing.
1. Russell Wilson played his finest game. He impacted the game with his arm and his legs. Wilson completed 23 of 37 passes for 293 yards, threw for two touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover against a defense known for forcing takeaways. He also rushed for 71 yards. And at the end of the game, Wilson was at his best. In the Seahawks’ last two drives, Wilson was a combined 9 of 12 for 115 yards and rushed five times for 47 yards. No wonder the Seahawks drove 97 and 80 yards to score touchdowns at a most critical time.
2. With Wilson a factor in the run game, the Seahawks rushed for 176 yards and 5.5 yards per carry. After a subpar rushing performance in a loss to Miami last week, the Seahawks were much better this time. Marshawn Lynch gained 87 yards on 19 carries. But it was Wilson’s 71 rushing yards that added a fresh dimension to offense. The Seahawks put in more read option plays, and Wilson thrived. Instead of looking like a wide-eyed rookie quarterback trying to fit into a system, it now appears the Seahawks are beginning to build an offense to Wilson’s specifications.
3. Because the Seahawks opened things up on offense, their receivers were able to show they’re better than perceived. Rice had six catches for 99 yards. Tate had five catches for 96 yards. Doug Baldwin got into the action, catching four passes for 46 yards. Eight different receivers caught passes. Nine players were targeted. For once, the offense threw the ball enough to get into a rhythm, and the Seahawks’ receivers made the most of their extra opportunities. Wilson’s 37 pass attempts is a season high for the rookie. If Wilson keeps playing like this, the Seahawks’ maligned receiving corps will have plenty more opportunities to prove how good they are.
The Seahawks (7-5) needed this win badly. They needed to end their struggles on the road and make up for losing to the Miami Dolphins a week earlier. Now, with this dramatic victory in hand, they enter the last quarter of the season with a home-heavy schedule and reason to believe that a 10-6 record remains possible.
Even if Browner and Sherman lose their appeal and serve four-game suspensions this season, the Seahawks are in much better position than they would have been if they had lost to Chicago and dropped to 6-6. There will be no desperation this week, just talk of taking care of business at home.
Furthermore, the way the Seahawks won — with Wilson carrying them and making all the plays late in a breakthrough performance on the road — could have lasting ramifications for the young Seahawks.
It was an ideal victory at an ideal time.
The Seahawks showed a lot of will to win a poorly-officiated game in which many of the calls went against them. For the most part, they were a tough-minded football team Sunday.