By Chris Cluff
Russell Wilson rallied the Seahawks to victory in regulation — and then he did it again in overtime after the defense blew it once more.
Wilson threw two late touchdown passes, including one in overtime, to lead Pete Carroll’s Seahawks to their third win in four visits to Chicago over the last three seasons. Wilson’s 13-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice in overtime finished an 80-yard drive and beat the Bears 23-17. It was just the second road win of the season by the Hawks, who have lost five others each by a touchdown or less.
This was Wilson’s third comeback win of the season and bumped the Seahawks to 7-5 after a disappointing loss in Miami last week in which the defense gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter.
The defense nearly cost the Hawks this one as well. After Wilson drove the offense 97 yards, capping it with a 14-yard scoring play to Golden Tate with 24 seconds left, the defense gave up a 56-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall that set up the Bears for a tying 46-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. It was the third time in the last five games that the Seattle defense had given up the winning or tying points in the final 20 seconds of regulation, but Wilson saved the D this time, taking the Hawks 80 yards on the only drive of overtime.
With San Francisco (8-3-1) losing to St. Louis in overtime, Seattle climbed back to a game and a half behind the 49ers in the NFC West. It probably would take a perfect finish, but the Hawks have a chance to catch the 49ers for the division title. Of course, their defense needs to get better in a hurry if that is going to happen.
Wilson struggled in the first half to find receivers at times, but he was spectacular when he needed to be in the second half and overtime. He completed 23-of-37 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. It was the fourth straight game in which Wilson had at least two TD passes, no interceptions and a passer rating over 100. Wilson also ran for a season-high 71 yards — 67 of it in the second half as the Hawks continued to use more and more zone read option.
Wilson had some trouble finding receivers in the first half, especially in the series that ended the second quarter. He missed an uncovered Zach Miller in the end zone on first down from the 14-yard line and then failed to see Miller open on the same route on the next play. Wilson’s apparent third-down TD pass to Braylon Edwards then was overturned, leaving the Hawks with just a field goal. That series of miscues nearly ended up costing the Hawks at the end, but Wilson made up for it with two beautiful drives.
After struggling to run the ball in Miami, where they gained just 96 yards on 27 attempts, the Hawks ran for 176 on 32 carries in Chicago. And they didn’t even run Marshawn Lynch as much as they should have — he had 87 yards on just 19 carries.
Rice and Tate were both great, each having nearly 100 receiving yards and scoring huge touchdowns late in the game. Not a bad day for Rice, especially, since he was questionable with a calf injury coming into the game.
Wilson and the passing game have improved by leaps and bounds since the first month, and this was their best road performance of the season. Grade: A-
The defense did not have a good day. It gave up 132 rushing yards and 6-of-12 third downs while failing to get much pressure on Cutler (one sack). The 56-yard pass from Cutler to Marshall, who caught the ball in front of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, was the worst play as the defense gave up the winning or tying points in the final 20 seconds of regulation for the third time in five games.
The Hawks gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter in Miami last week, losing on the last play. In Detroit five weeks ago, Matthew Stafford drove the Lions to a last-minute win.
In Chicago, Seattle’s 20-game streak without allowing 100-yard receiver was broken as Marshall shredded Sherman and Brandon Browner for 165 yards on 10 catches.
The defense has failed the Hawks for most of the last five games and is going to have to do much better if the Hawks are going to make the playoffs. Grade: D
Nothing special to report here. Jon Ryan averaged 39.6 yards on five punts and Leon Washington got little action in the return game, with just two punt runbacks for a yard. Jeremy Lane continued to show well, catching one of Ryan’s punts at the Chicago 5-yard line. The Hawks were victimized by the officials in the second quarter when Heath Farwell was called for a low block on a punt when in fact his facemask had been pulled, causing him to fall down. Bad call. Grade: C
Coaching is always a key component of close games. Good coaches figure out ways to win them. Head coach Pete Carroll and his staff had failed on the road for most of the season, but they managed to pull this one out.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell did not have his best game. With the Hawks running the ball extremely well in the first quarter, he inexplicably went away from it for a couple of series. When he finally started giving the ball to Lynch again, the Seahawks drove 94 yards for a touchdown. Then, in overtime, when the Hawks should have been mixing it up, Bevell was super conservative. He ran the ball on nine of the 12 plays in the winning 80-yard touchdown drive.
Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley still have not solved the pass rush problem. The Hawks got almost no pressure on Cutler, and when they did he often found Marshall for big gains. They have just 13 sacks in seven road games (1.9 per game) vs. 17 in five home games (3.4 per game). Carroll and Bradley are as much to blame for the defensive collapses over the last five games as the players are.
After seeming to have fixed their penalty problems, the Hawks also committed eight penalties for 55 yards. Four were on the defense, including a hands-to-the-face call on Bruce Irvin on third down that sustained a drive; the Bears scored on it. Carroll needs to reinforce his earlier message about penalties. Grade: C-
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.