Reports out of Chicago about dozens of mysterious bird casualties at Soldier Field started appearing online Sunday (Jan. 16) morning and the “news” went viral right up through the end of the season for the Seattle Seahawks.
The 35-24 Bears playoff victory means Seattle had one of the last three National Conference teams standing on the way to the Super Bowl. But there was little mystery about how and why the Hawks succumbed. Chicago beat the visitors in every phase of the game, jumping in front early and leading 28-0 before the Hawks made a field goal late in the third quarter.
Many would question taking three when you’re down by four touchdowns with 17 minutes left. To their credit, though, at least the Hawks never punted on third down. Jon Ryan did, however, punt nine times on fourth down and, in this way, may have been his team’s most valuable player.
Hawk offense coordinator Jeremy Bates couldn’t have come up with a less imaginative game plan had he traded his plastic play sheet for a Denny’s menu. When it was obvious that Marshawn Lynch wasn’t going to be channeling Jim Brown in the ground game, the Hawks turned to four others who, with Lynch, amassed 34 rushing yards, nine fewer than Bears quarterback Jay Cutler alone. Seattle’s 34 yards came on 12 carries. The Bears had 176 in 45 tries, which helps account for the home-town team keeping possession for 37 minutes.
Those who only see the final score might be deluded into believing the game was a fair match. But Seattle’s three touchdowns came during the proverbial garbage time of a game the Bears led 35-10 with four minutes left.
Even at that point, coach Pete Carroll would later say, “we thought something crazy was gonna happen toward the end and we’d win the game.”
But the Hawks bungled an onside kick even with several players close to the loose ball. Earlier they dropped critical passes and didn’t pick off Cutler’s throws when they had chances.
“Today was the Bears’ day and they did a great job,” Carroll conceded about a foe that will face Green Bay at home next Sunday for a shot at the Super Bowl.
He reported that key players John Carlson and Marcus Trufant apparently sustained concussions and would stay hospitalized in Chicago Sunday night.
Carroll said the extended season for a team that won its division at 7-9 and beat reigning Super Bowl champ New Orleans represents a “statement about where the team is headed.”
One “statement” fans might ponder is about the apparent lack of intensity the team exhibited, especially knowing that Green Bay’s victory the night before in Atlanta meant a Hawks win in Chicago would mean hosting the Packers for a shot at the Super Bowl.
Questions about the team also linger, especially pertaining to the future of the key position player. Matt Hasselbeck played gamely again Sunday, completing 26 of 46 for 258 yards. But he isn’t widely considered the quarterback of destiny at age 35, even though the long-time starter is expected to be on the roster next season. Charlie Whitehurst was the hero of the Hawks 16th game against St. Louis but also goes into next season suspect as a starter.
Pressure will persist for the franchise to pick a QB in the April draft. A better bet might be to shop around and maybe get lucky with a cast-off or back-up from another NFL team.
In the meantime, the Seahawks have one distinction that no one can challenge. They may be dead birds as far as the season is concerned but they’re also the best —and the only — 8-10 team in league history.