The Seahawks defense did its best to keep giving its offense opportunities to score, but on this night, nothing was working for Seattle on that side of the ball.
Turned out the Seahawks didn’t need the offense to carry a rebuilding and injury-riddled defense.
But what they couldn’t overcome was the offense burying the defense.
Despite featuring a bunch of players forced into starting roles that even hard-core fans might have had a hard time naming, the defense kept the Seahawks in a game that seemed for much of the night to fit the black-and-blue legacy of the home team, the Chicago Bears.
“I thought the defense played really, really well,” said quarterback Russell Wilson. “Tough as nails.”
But the Seahawks couldn’t make up for an offense that managed just 80 yards through three quarters and made one final, fatal mistake — a Wilson pass intended for running back Rashaad Penny that was instead picked off and returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Chicago cornerback Prince Amukamara that gave the Bears the breathing room they needed to beat Seattle 24-17.
“The guy just put his foot in the ground, made a good play,” Wilson said.
The pick six was only the second of Wilson’s career in the regular season, the other coming in what was the fifth game of his career on Oct. 7, 2012 at Carolina by Captain Munnerlyn.
“Had a running back out there and he (Amukamara) hung for it, and really he just took a shot at it, and he was right and he made a great play,” Carroll said. “Made a perfect play. You can’t even remember the last time Russ did that where he threw the ball and the guy stole it like that. It just happened.”
The interception gave the Bears a 24-10 lead with 6:37 remaining and Wilson followed with a fumble on the ensuing possession and that was that as Seattle fell to 0-2 and into a precarious state as one of just seven NFL teams to start the season by losing its first two games.
Of the 91 NFL teams to start out 0-2 since 2007, just 10 made the playoffs.
“Very difficult to take,” Carroll said. “Because we ain’t used to this. We want to win some football games and get rolling.”
One of the recent teams to overcome an 0-2 start to get to the playoffs was the 2015 Seahawks. But this team hardly seems primed to make the kind of run the 2015 team — which had just played in two straight Super Bowls — was able to pull off.
This team, in fact, could almost never run when it wanted or needed Monday night, nor could it really pass as Seattle was forced to punt on seven of its first eight drives before using a no-huddle offense to finally get going in the fourth quarter, when it gained 196 yards.
“We just have to play with more confidence and attitude (early in games),” said left tackle Duane Brown.
The Seahawks certainly had none of either through the first 45 minutes. Seattle had just 79 yards in the first half and allowed five sacks, then had just 1 yard on six plays in the third quarter, all passes.
The play selection seemed odd given Seattle’s stated goal to run more this season, one that Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer reiterated this week.
But the Seahawks again had a lopsided run-pass ratio, with just 22 rushes in 64 plays.
Carroll took the blame for the strange third quarter.
“I got (Schottenheimer) to take a couple of shots and look at a couple of things and it got him out of rhythm a little bit,” Carroll said. “… My fault. I got him trying a little bit too hard to take a couple of shots and see if we could bounce something back and get back into the game quickly and I shouldn’t have done that.”
The Seahawks came to life to start the fourth quarter, going to a no-huddle offense and moving 75 yards for a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Wilson to Tyler Lockett to make it 17-10 and, somewhat amazingly, give Seattle hope that it could still win.
But then came the interception by Amukamara, and the fumble recovery that allowed the Bears to run a bit more time off the clock. Seattle added one final TD on a 99-yard drive that ended in a 2-yard Wilson to Will Dissly pass with 14 seconds left.
Until the pick-six, a gutty defense and some inconsistent play by second-year Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky helped keep Seattle in the game despite the offensive ineptitude.
Shaquill Griffin picked off Trubisky twice in the second quarter on back-to-back possessions.
On the first, Trubisky underthrew a pass in tight man coverage to Allen Robinson with Griffin making a leaping grab near the sideline.
On the second, Bradley McDougald tipped a pass and Griffin dove and just got his hands under the ball.
Each came in situations when it appeared the Bears were ready to take control of the game.
“We really gave ourselves a chance with a couple of turnovers and we weren’t able to capitalize on those,” Carroll said. “But still they stopped them, and got their offense off the field a couple of times that were huge.”
Chicago could hardly have asked for a better start when the Bears stopped the Seahawks on their first possession, then drove 96 yards for a touchdown.
The Seahawks helped jumpstart the drive with penalties on the first two plays — offsides on Quinton Jefferson and a face-mask on Griffin — and the Bears scored on a 3-yard shuttle pass from Trubisky to Trey Burton.. On the scoring, first-time starting middle linebacker Austin Calitro, playing in place of injured Bobby Wagner, appeared to move out of position on a run fake, which left a wide space for Burton to score.
But from there, the defense stiffened — the Bears ran for just 42 yards on 14 plays in the first half and had no gain of any sort longer than 18.
But Seattle’s offense could do nothing throughout the first half other than a last-gasp 37 yard drive — again when the Seahawks went no-huddle, the only thing that seemed to consistently work — on its final possession to set up a 56-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski as time ran out.
On some of Wilson’s sacks it appeared he had time to throw but either could find no one to throw to or was reluctant to pull the trigger.
“I think they made some plays,” Wilson said of the sacks. “That’s what I think. They are a good defense. We’ll watch the film and figure out how to continue to get better. That’s the only assessment we really need right now.”
It was the first time since Wilson’s rookie season that he was playing without Doug Baldwin — who missed the game with a sprained MCL suffered last week against Denver and could be sidelined for another few games. The receiving corps sorely missed his presence.
Veteran Brandon Marshall — making a return to one of his former homes — was the only receiver whom Wilson seemed to feel was open in the first half, catching four of Wilson’s seven completions for 44 yards.
Lockett, who became the primary slot receiver in place of Baldwin, had just one catch for 8 yards on two targets in the first half, and free agent signee Jaron Brown had just one catch for 10 yards. Lockett, though, finally got going in the second half, particularly in the no-huddle, to finish with 60 yards on five receptions.
As they had pledged to do all week, the Seahawks seemed intent on getting the running game going early, with Chris Carson getting the ball on the first three plays and gaining 9, 2 and 2 yards.
But from there, the running game basically disappeared as Carson had just three carries the rest of the half for 11 yards, while first-round pick Penny had 2 yards on two carries.
Carson never got another carry as the Seahawks went to Penny in the fourth quarter when Seattle went mostly up-tempo, with Carroll saying one reason was that Carson was “gassed” from also having to play on special teams.
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But just when the Seattle defense gave the offense another chance to maybe pull off an improbable win, Wilson’s interception turned it into a desultory loss and lots of questions about where the season is headed.
“We are still a work in progress,” Carroll said. “You can see how hard our guys play, how they fought throughout all the way to the last seconds on the clock. That is going to help us win games. And we need to get going. We need to get our wins going.”