The perfect preseason test for the Bears quickly turned into the perfect nightmare. And for the first-string units on both sides of the ball — not to mention the continuing difficulties on special teams — any dreams of a Super Bowl this season were quickly punched backwards by the team that has the ring in a 34-6 loss at CenturyLink Field.
The bad started from the opening kickoff, when Percy Harvin's 47-yard return set the Seahawks up at their own 39. Seven plays and 61 yards later, the champions' march to points on every first-half possession began. The final kick in the gut came when Steven Hauschka booted a 59-yard field goal to close the first half with a 31-0 lead.
Seattle is still the best team in the NFL, but the disparity that remains after all the exciting offseason moves is shocking for fans and probably quite humbling now, on the flight home and at Halas Hall this week. And while there were plays made by the offense in the first half, there were others that weren't executed by the stars on that side — Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery — against the vaunted defense. Cutler (12-for-20, 157 yards) had happy feet and a few great throws but also a few bad throws and bad decisions to negate the positives. The worst of the latter was forcing a pass along the sidelines toward the end zone for Josh Morgan into double-coverage. Sure enough, it was picked off by Jeremy Lane, who danced close enough to midfield to set up Hauschka's mammoth field goal.
That play followed a sequence highlighted by a marvelous throw to and catch by the previously invisible Martellus Bennett to the 1/2-yard line. But after Shaun Draughn was stuffed for a loss of one, Marshall was whistled for offensive interference on Richard Sherman on the ensuing touchdown pass to Dante Rosario. Marshall dropped a couple of balls he should (and gets paid to) catch. Jeffery had Byron Maxwell beat on a third-down bomb for a touchdown, but the ball went through his hands.
In between the Harvin game-opening kickoff and Hauschka's 59-yarder, Russell Wilson directed four touchdown drives on as many possessions, going 7-of-7 in third-down situations in what was a haunting flashback of the 2013 defense that was utilizing second- and third-stringers. This top Mel Tucker unit (minus Jared Allen and Kyle Fuller, who were held out) allowed 250 yards and 31 points on 37 plays. The scoring drives that followed the first: 14 plays for 89 yards, 11 plays for 83 yards, and three plays for 16 yards. That last one didn't sound too bad, but it came after Pete Carroll's Pro Bowl safety turned experimental punt returner — Earl Thomas — was denied a touchdown after a 60-yard return only by a Patrick O'Donnell tackle.
As for the Bears' kick-return candidates? Neither newcomer Darius Reynaud nor Michael Spurlock distinguished themselves, with Spurlock taking a knee in the end zone on one kickoff return. Reynaud could be lauded only for hanging on to the ball after a monstrous helmet-to-helmet hit on the team's first punt-return attempt in the fourth quarter. Chris Williams' hamstring kept him sidelined, and Senorise Perry had a decent 27-yard return. So no real clarity there. Robbie Gould had a 47-yard field goal attempt miss wide right.
Morgan (three receptions, 48 yards) made a couple of tough catches that kept him ahead of Santonio Holmes (one catch for seven yards) in the third wideout derby.
Jimmy Clausen (6-of-9, 36 yards) appeared to be the better of the backup quarterbacks, albeit against a deeper portion of the Seattle depth chart, and seems to have won the No. 2 job. He led the team to its only points and seemed more poised and got his teammates in order amid the pre-snap chaos. He had a gutsy first-down run inside the 5-yard line denied by the last of several ill-timed penalties throughout the night, ending with the Bears settling for a second field goal. Jordan Palmer (a ho-hum 7-of-10 for 48 yards) was responsible for two delay-of-game flags on his second series, the first coming out of a timeout.
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Matt Forte had himself an 11-yard run, plus six more on two other carries. Ka'Deem Carey had some pass-protection issues while carrying four times and catching four passes. He might not have set himself apart from Draughn, but he's a fourth-round pick.
The defense actually was getting decent quarterback pressure the first couple of drives, but except for a Willie Young sack, Wilson's escapability and impressive execution easily overcame that. The baby steps forward from Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin last week were followed by steps back. Lance Briggs — one play after Young's sack — had a bad penalty for a veteran with a late hit on Wilson that kept the 89-yard march alive. Wilson, by the way, accumulated a 140 passer rating on 15-of-20 passes.
Chris Conte made his season debut, made two good first-half tackles and broke up a touchdown pass, then badly missed a tackle in the second half before missing the rest of the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Fellow safety Ryan Mundy departed in the second quarter when he suffered a cut on his head. Fullback Tony Fiammetta injured his hamstring.
Two Bears defensive backs played well in relief, but neither Sherrick McManis nor C.J. Wilson (interception for the second straight week) are players who'll determine whether this team can beat out Green Bay in the division.
But even worse than those physical injuries have to be the ones sustained by this team's psyche after this third-game thrashing. They didn't get answers to any of the remaining questions (save for Clausen) and instead seemed to raise several more about exactly how much better this team will be.
They have one more game to figure it out. It might be worth allowing the "first-stringers" to get some decent playing time next Thursday in Cleveland, though that doesn't follow Marc Trestman's usual M.O. Usually that's a game where they play little, if at all. But there are still too many unanswered questions, and they definitely need a better taste in their mouths heading into the regular-season opener after the way they were exposed on multiple levels Friday night.