The Chicago Bears had numerous chances to pick up their ninth win of the season this afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks. Yet the team squandered nearly all of those opportunities, losing in overtime 23-17. The Bears now sit at 9-4 and drop out of the lead in the NFC North – the Green Bay Packers (9-4) have the tiebreaker. Chicago still has possession of a wild card spot.
The Bears will head on the road next week to face the Minnesota Vikings, before returning home to face the Packers. Despite today's home defeat, if Chicago can win their remaining three division games, they will win the NFC North and could clinch a first-round bye. So while this loss hurts, the season is far from over.
For the second week in a row, the Bears ended the game battered and bruised. S Chris Conte left in the first half with the flu. WR Earl Bennett was knocked out of the game in the first half with a concussion. CB Tim Jennings left the game in overtime with a shoulder injury. Also at the end of the game, LB Brian Urlacher went down with a knee injury.
Notes from Week 13
-This game came down to two plays for Chicago, both of which could have won them the game. The first came early in the second quarter. With the team driving and in Seattle's red zone, the offense came up short on a 3rd and 2 play. Instead of kicking a field goal, the Bears chose to go for it. The short-yardage run by RB Michael Bush was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a turnover. Had the Bears just taken the three points, they would have won the game.
The second play also came in the second quarter. On a 2nd and 10, QB Jay Cutler dropped back to pass. He was forced out of the pocket by the pass rush, which allowed Bennett to get a step on the defense. Cutler lobbed a deep pass to the wide-open Bennett, who dropped the sure touchdown. If the Bears capitalize on both of these plays, the game wouldn't have been close.
-On offense, the Bears once again stayed committed to the ground game. Yet, as has been the case the past two weeks, the results were mediocre. Matt Forte and Michael Bush carried a combined 28 times for 105 yards. Their 3.7 yards per carry is the third straight week Chicago's running backs have failed to top 4.0 yards per rush. Chicago has continued to pound the rock, despite the middling results, yet a committed run game is far less effective when you keep running your ball carriers into a wall.
-Despite the poor run blocking, the front five was once again stellar in pass protection. The offensive line gave up just one sack, giving them two sacks allowed the past two weeks combined. Considering the issues the Bears have had in pass protection the past few years, two sacks in two games is stellar. The club is using new starters at both guard spots, as well as at right guard, which appears to be a combination with which the passing game can have success going forward.
-Speaking of the passing game, Jay Cutler was on point. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 233 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 119.6 passer rating was his third highest of the season. It was only the third time this year Cutler has gone an entire contest without a turnover. Typically, that is good enough for a Bears win.
-As usual, Brandon Marshall led all Chicago players in catches (10) and receiving yards (165). His 14 targets were more than four times the second-most targeted Bears players – Bennett and Forte both had three targets. Marshall's biggest catch came on 1st down late in the fourth quarter with the Bears trailing 17-14 with less than a minute to play. Cutler bought time with his legs and heaved a pass to Marshall down the field. Marshall shielded the defender with his body and made the catch, putting the Bears into field goal range. Two plays later, K Robbie Gould sent the game into overtime by converting a 46-yard field goal.
-Bennett's only contribution in this game came on a 12-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, in which he was flipped 360 degrees in the air before landing in the end zone. Forte caught the other touchdown on a slant pattern after he motioned to the left flanker position.
-On defense, the Bears gave up 459 yards to the Seahawks' offense, the most yards they have given up in a single game all season. Against the 31st ranked pass offense, Chicago allowed 293 yards through the air, and another 176 yards on the ground. It was, by far, the team's worst defensive performance all season.
-The Bears nearly allowed a pair of receivers to catch 100 yards. Seattle's Sidney Rice had 99 yards on six catches, while Golden Tate had 96 yards on five catches. The Seahawks did a great job of spreading around the ball, with eight players catching at least one pass.
-Yet it was on the ground where the defense was hurt the most. Marshawn Lynch, who came into the game with third most rushing yards in the league, picked up 87 yards on 19 carries (4.6 average) and one touchdown. Yet it was quarterback Russell Wilson that did the most damage, rushing nine times for 79 yards. Chicago's inability to keep Wilson in the pocket killed them at the end of the game, with Seattle's rookie quarterback repeatedly finding open space in which to make plays.
-Seattle ran a number of zone-option plays late in the game, alternating Wilson and Lynch on the ground. The Bears did not have an answer for the play calling, repeatedly getting gashed for big chunks of yardage.
-The pass rush, for the third week in a row, was again less than stellar. The team picked up two sacks, one each by DE Julius Peppers and DT Stephen Paea. Yet those were the only two times anyone got a hand on Wilson. Other than that, he had plenty of time to throw, or at least was able to beat the pass rush by scrambling. The inability of Chicago's front seven to contain Wilson was its death knell.
-The Bears tried using DE Shea McClellin as a spy during Seattle's final drive of the fourth quarter. For the most part, that kept Wilson from carving up Chicago's defense with his legs. Yet on the overtime drive, when the Seahawks drove 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown, the Bears chose not to spy Wilson and he made them pay.
-Third downs were what finished off Chicago in this game. Seattle ended the game 8-15 on third downs (53 percent). In their final drive of regulation, they converted a 4th and 3 at midfield that would have sealed the game for the Bears. In overtime, the Seahawks converted three 3rd downs on their game-winning drive.
-Bears fans can only hope that today's defensive performance was only an anomaly and not a harbinger of things to come.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.