MMQB: Bears Maul Seahawks in Chicago

MMQB: Bears Maul Seahawks in Chicago

This game shared striking resemblances with the Washington Redskin game in week four of last season. Like last year, the Seahawks took on a 3-0 opponent. Like last year, the opponent was a team with a strong defense and an unheralded offense. Like last year, Seattle couldn't stop the opposing offense from converting 3rd and long.

Like last year, SS Michael Boulware was the victim of an unfortunate referee mistake. Like last year, Seattle's next game is a crucial game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.

Chicago Bears 37, Seattle Seahawks 6
Sunday, October 1st, 2006
Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

Play Of The Day: 5:13 remaining in the 2nd quarter, facing 3rd-and-15, QB Matt Hasselbeck threw his second interception of the day to CB Ricky Manning Jr.,. Even more important than losing the possession and giving the ball to Chicago with good field position, it was a backbreaker for the team. Without Shaun Alexander, Hasselbeck placed the entire team on his shoulders and tried to do too much. Hasselbeck dropped back and immediately was engulfed by the Adewale Ogunleye. However, Hasselbeck broke free of Ogunleye's grasp, and rolled out left. As he neared the sideline, Hasselbeck threw the ball into quadruple coverage, instead of simply throwing it away. Ricky Manning Jr., was the first one to get to the ball, tipping it to himself before running down the opposite sideline for a touchdown (which would be called back due to penalties).

Bringing Their "A" Game: This is going to be an extremely short section. Russell Davis, for his first Seahawk sack... Lofa Tatupu, 11 tackles and, more importantly, excellent penetration of running plays... Michael Boulware, until he left due to an injury, for 5 tackles (in less than half the game) and a touchdown-saving, bone-jarring hit on TE John Gilmore. That's it, folks. When you lose by 31 points, not many players had good days.

The Bad and The Ugly: The gameplanning was terrible. Kelly Herndon, easily the slowest Seahawks cornerback, spent much of the game lined up against Bernard Berrian, easily the fastest of the Bear's wideouts. Predictably, Berrian had 3 receptions for 108 yards (that's a 36.0 YPC average, if you're keeping track) and a touchdown. Mike Holmgren abandoned the run early - Seattle ran the ball only 19 times the entire game, and that is counting Matt Hasselbeck's 19 yard scramble... Marcus Trufant was simply schooled by WR Muhsin Muhammad, who caught five passes for five passes for 45 yards and a score... Seattle's front seven produced very little pressure on QB Brett Favre Rex Grossman, who picked the Seattle defense apart... WR Darrell Jackson, despite an otherwise O.K. game, dropped two passes - one of them being what could've been a long touchdown pass... Matt Hasselbeck, who just had a putrid first half, throwing two interceptions while being unable to score given 1st-and-goal on the six... Worst of all, this entire team gave up. Now, there was no hope of a comeback, but after Thomas Jones ripped a long 29 yard run with 13:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the defense looked sluggish and uninterested.

Offense: Seattle knew that the Chicago Bears would be a challenge on defense - they won 11 games last year with Kyle Orton as their quarterback - but nobody predicted a performance void of touchdowns. This game is a great example of what RB Shaun Alexander means to this offense. Not having to account for Alexander meant that the Bears defense could focus on stopping the pass. Without Alexander, Holmgren was even quicker than usual to take the ball out of the hands of starting RB Maurice Morris and instead focus on the passing game, which sputtered. The silver lining to Alexander's injury was the expected production of Morris in the passing game. That "new edge" to the offense resulted in one completion for two yards.

Simply inexcusable was Holmgren's early abandonment of the running game. Despite having a small amount of success grinding out the ball, the offense functioned much better when Chicago was forced to respect the run. However, after Chicago jumped to an early lead in the second quarter, Holmgren did his best impersonation of Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid, throwing in all situations without much success. Nothing highlighted Holmgren's pass-happy nature more than, when presented with 1st-and-goal on the 6, Holmgren called three straight pass plays (all incompletions). By not running on 1st or 2nd down, even for a few yards, Holmgren forced himself into calling a third down pass.

Matt Hasselbeck didn't look comfortable or natural out there. His first interception was not a bad read, though it obviously was not a good read. But on a short slant pattern like that, the Quarterback has one second to make sure no defensive linesmen are dropping into coverage. After that, the QB has to get rid of the ball otherwise the corner will usually recover and move inside. He did what the play required him to do, but Ricky Manning Jr. was everywhere against Seattle and jumped the route perfectly. Hasselbeck's second interception was a different manner. He was flushed out of the pocket but had plenty of opportunity to throw the ball away, instead Hasselbeck chucked the ball blindly, where Ricky Manning Jr. was waiting for it. But, excluding the interceptions, Hasselbeck didn't look comfortable. He missed wide open receivers multiple times due to simple things like poor mechanics. He also rushed several throws early in the game, expecting pressure that didn't come until the 2nd half.

And boy, did that pressure ever come in the 2nd half. Aside from an early sack by DT Tommie Harris, the Seahawk's offensive line - coupled with Hasselbeck's tendency to throw the ball away at the slightest mention of pressure - kept Hasselbeck upright in the 1st half. However, in the second half Seattle stopped running the ball - which allowed the Bears' defensive line to focus solely on the pass rush. It became ugly then. LT Walter Jones now has three sacks to his name - and it's arguable that none were his fault. In the two he was responsible for today, the inside pass rush forced Hasselbeck to run backwards, right into players that Jones would have otherwise blocked out of the play. LG Chris Spencer, after giving up an early sack to DT Tommie Harris, had an otherwise solid performance in pass protection, while again excelling as a run-blocker. RG Chris Gray looked old and injured, allowing a sack to Harris as well as being beaten off the snap on several plays. RT Sean Locklear had a tough matchup in the speedy Ogunleye, but overall provided fairly solid protection. C Robbie Tobeck continued to spend the majority of his time helping Gray on the right side, while leaving the inexperienced Spencer on and island.

Defense: While the offense was laying an egg, the defense wasn't doing much better. Brett Favre Rex Grossman was dared to beat Seattle threw the air - and he did just that. The most infuriating aspect of the defense was the propensity to give up 3rd-and-long pass plays. Early in the game, WR Muhsin Muhammad and TE Desmond Clark did an excellent job of getting open next to the 1st down market, and the Seahawks did a poor job covering them. Especially boggling was the usage of OLB Julian Peterson against Clark, or lack thereof. It was obvious early on that LB LeRoy Hill simply could not cover Clark (Clark had 2 receptions against Hill early, and had Hill beat on two other plays, but Favre Grossman threw low on one and Clark dropped a touchdown pass), yet Peterson covered Clark very little.

Early on in the game, Seattle's run defense looked like its normal self. The defense seemed to have a plan for Chicago that resembled:

1st down - Run for minimal gain.
2nd down and 9 - run for no gain.
3rd and 9 - ten yard completion.

Part of the run defense's effectiveness was due to the defense's willingness to put eight men in the box and force Grossman to make plays in the passing game. It wasn't until much later in the game that Chicago was able to run the ball consistently, though at that point the lead was comfortable enough that Chicago only needed to run out the clock. Hill, Peterson, and Tatupu all recorded at least 9 tackles. though many of those came once the Bears started grinding out the clock.

Something that needs to be addressed before the St. Louis game is the inability of the front four to generate a pass rush. While DE Darryl Tapp has done a great job as a pass-rusher, the rest of the line hasn't had much success and has forced the team to rely on the linebackers to get to the quarterback. Given that the Seahawks' secondary looks very vulnerable, the defensive line needs to step up and take some pressure off the cornerbacks and safeties. The scouting report on Brett Favre Rex Grossman was that if the defense got in his face, he'd make poor throws. However, Seattle never even got near Grossman, with the exception of Russell Davis' sack.

That secondary is looking like an easy target right now. The league finally seems to have picked Marcus Trufant as someone who can be picked on - WR Muhsin Muhammad had little trouble with Trufant early on, as Muhammad caught several 3rd down conversions as well as a touchdown pass. While Trufant is still excellent against the run and he doesn't get burned deep often, it's become obvious that Trufant isn't going to evolve into the proverbial shutdown corner. More concerning than Trufant is defensive coordinator John Marshall's lack of creativity involving his cornerbacks. WR Bernard Berrian was able to streak past CB Kelly Herndon several times. It's obvious that Herndon cannot run with the fastest wideouts in the league, and when he tries he continues to give up long receptions.

Referee Report Card: There was one awful play. On the play that injured SS Michael Boulware, TE John Gilmore took a hit as he was trying to catch the football, and the football popped loose, where Herndon recovered it. However, the officials blew the play dead before ruling it an incomplete pass. The officials didn't really do anything wrong calling the pass incomplete - instant replay wasn't conclusive either way - but by blowing the play dead they gave Seattle no chance at challenging. Other than that, the game seemed pretty well officiated. B+

Special Teams: For once, this was the team's best unit. Unfortunately, being the best unit Sunday required only a mediocre performance. Chicago PR Devin Hester - one of the most electrifying return men to come out of college in years - was held to a single long return and overall wasn't a major factor. Seattle KR Willie Ponder had another solid game, though I bet he misses solid blocking schemes. P Ryan Plackemeier had a decent day punting, and K Josh Brown didn't have any of his kicks blocked. PR Jimmy Williams, sometimes a hilarious play for his boneheaded mistakes, called fair-catch for a punt he ended up falling over backwards to catch.

Summary: Every Seahawk fan knows that this team isn't as bad as they showed against Chicago. While beating Chicago, in their house, without Shaun Alexander, would be an impressive win, it is only one loss. What matters most is how Seattle prepares for the Rams, especially on defense. The defensive unit is very young, and if they take this loss too harshly they'll have trouble beating an emotional Rams team. However, if the team uses the defeat as motivation, the young players could learn a lesson or two from the game.


Kyle Rota is our fine MMQB writer and is also known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.

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