We used to be in there, now we’re out here
The temptation is to blame Seattle’s 25-19 loss to Chicago on kicker Olindo Mare, but let’s be very clear: There was plenty of blame to go around.
Yes, Olindo Mare missed two makeable field goals. But should he really have had to kick six field goals? The way it worked out, he would have needed to hit all six just for a chance to hit a seventh to win it or at least have the game go to overtime. That’s a lot to ask of any kicker.
Mare made kicks from 46, 37, 39 and 46 yards. He missed from 43 and 34. Yes, those were both makeable kicks, but for coach Jim Mora to blame this loss on his kicker is ridiculous.
“If you’re a kicker in the National Football League, you should make those kicks – bottom line,” Mora told reporters after the game. “You’ve gotta makes those kicks, especially in a game like this, where you’re kicking and fighting and scratching your tail off. And [if] you miss those kicks, it’s not acceptable. Not acceptable. Absolutely not acceptable. We’re not going to fight our ass off and have a field goal kicker go out there and miss two field goals and lose a game. It’s not going to happen.”
That’s frustration talking — the disappointment of knowing your team had a chance to win even though the odds were totally against it. Someone needs to remind Mora that you don’t win games with just field goals. You have to score touchdowns. He can change kickers if he wants, but if his offense doesn’t get in the end zone more than once a game, he’ll be lucky to end up with four wins again.
In fact, Mare was only part of the equation that added up to a loss on a day the Seahawks were surprisingly competitive with seven very good starters out.
The biggest problem was that the offense – missing four starters – just could not finish drives.
Playing behind a banged-up line that sometimes had trouble keeping the Bears out of the backfield, Seneca Wallace was on the move all day. He did well to escape much of the time, but too often he or his receivers couldn’t finish plays.
Other than a fluke touchdown pass to Julius Jones on a third-and-19 screen play in the first drive, Wallace could not get the Hawks into the end zone. Instead, he and the offense put all the pressure on Mare to hit six field goals. (If Mare had made both, the Hawks would have been in position to win with a 46-yarder at the end of the game. But only six players in the history of the NFL have made seven field goals in a game.)
Wallace didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers. He had at least four passes dropped, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was almost nonexistent for three quarters. He dropped a pass early on and then fumbled early in the third quarter, resulting in a Chicago touchdown.
Wallace also made his own mistakes. The biggest was a bad interception on a ball he was trying to get rid of from his own end zone while being chased. His underhanded toss was picked off by Lance Briggs, leading to a field goal that put Chicago up 17-13 in the third quarter.
Wallace could have had several other passes picked off. Nate Burleson, who had a great day, prevented one pick in the end zone by tearing the ball out of Zach Bowman’s hands.
Overall, this game illustrated the difference between Wallace and Matt Hasselbeck. The difference is veteran savvy and accuracy.
Wallace missed seeing some open guys, couldn’t hit tight end John Carlson enough (only three of 10 attempts) and often threw too high or long. It just shows the drop-off that happens when Wallace plays for Hasselbeck, who knows where to go with the ball and usually is able to lead a couple of touchdown drives a game.
Wallace wasn’t always quick enough with his decisions and had to use his feet to buy more time to find someone. He was inaccurate on his deep ball, overthrowing Houshmandzadeh and Burleson in the first quarter and missing Carlson all day.
In his defense, Wallace didn’t always have time. He was sacked three times, hit three more and repeatedly chased out of the pocket. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re down to your third-string left tackle, when your starting center is playing his first game of the season, when you have a rookie right guard and when the left tackle and left guard both get hurt in the game.
The Bears had their own injury issues on defense, but the Seahawks had more on offense, and the backups just were unable to do enough to win the game.
Mora can blame it on the kicker, but that’s just covering up the fact that Wallace and company didn’t get it done.
BACKUP ‘BACKERS SHINE
After a forgettable game in San Francisco last week, the young trio of David Hawthorne, Aaron Curry and Will Herring played extremely well against Chicago.
Hawthorne might have turned in one of the best defensive performances the Seahawks have had in a losing effort in some time. He was all over the field, making tackles sideline to sideline and sometimes 15-20 yards downfield.
Hawthorne finished with 16 tackles (one for loss), an interception and a pass defensed. The pick came in the red zone in the first quarter, preventing the Bears from scoring.
Curry played a much better game after a stinker in Week 2. He had seven tackles (two for loss), hit Cutler on a third-down pass that fell incomplete in the second quarter and forced a fumble on a fourth-quarter sack of Cutler.
Herring also had seven tackles.
OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTES
Patrick Kerney had his most productive game of the season: four tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one QB hit and a forced fumble.
Brandon Mebane returned, but Red Bryant played a lot and made his presence known. Both had three tackles – two of them behind the line for Bryant and one for loss by Mebane.
What the heck was Deon Grant doing when he blasted teammate Travis Fisher and completely whiffed on Devin Hester on the go-ahead TD with 1:52 left?
Nate Burleson continues to play lights out this season. He led the Hawks with nine catches for 109 yards. Five went for first downs.
There was a Deion Branch sighting. The oft-injured receiver caught two passes for 13 yards in his first action. Not bad work for $5 million, if you can get it.
Maybe Housh should hush. He has been talking a lot ever since he signed with the Seahawks, basically complaining about not getting any respect – whether it was from the Madden video game or, this week, the Bears’ GM. Karma kicked him in the teeth this week as he had a forgettable game, with the drop and the fumble.
So much for the idea of trying to hit rookie Deon Butler deep. He caught one pass for eight yards.
Julius Jones must have been inspired by the play of Justin Forsett last week, or maybe by the talk that Forsett should be playing this week. Either way, Jones had a nice game running the ball, with 98 yards on 19 carries. He also broke two tackles on that 39-yard screen-pass touchdown on the first series.
With left guard Rob Sims suffering a pulled oblique in the fourth quarter and No. 3 left tackle Brandon Frye finishing the game with a pulled a groin muscle, the Seahawks are now in dire straits along the O-line.
They will probably get back left tackle Walter Jones next week, and Sims likely will be replaced by Mansfield Wrotto again. So that would leave the line with two starters who just came back from injuries (Jones and Chris Spencer), one backup guard (Wrotto), one rookie guard (Max Unger) and a backup right tackle (Ray Willis). And the one – count him, one — healthy backup would be Steve Vallos. Now injured are OT Sean Locklear, Sims and Frye.
Think it might be time to bring in a couple more linemen?
REFFING THE PASSER
Mike Carey is one of the best referees in the business. His brother needs to take some lessons, because the officiating by Don Carey’s crew was pretty shaky.
It started right away, as Mare was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty while making the tackle on the opening kickoff. The problem? He didn’t touch Johnny Knox’s facemask.
Then, early in the second quarter, Carey’s crew couldn’t figure out whether two fouls on a punt were offsetting. Mora had to call Carey over and tell him he wanted to accept the holding penalty against his team and decline the ineligible-downfield foul on the Bears, whose punt had traveled just 11 yards. The Seahawks still would get the ball in Chicago territory.
This is the applicable rule: “If the kickers foul during a kickoff, punt, safety kick, or field-goal attempt before possession changes, the receivers will have the option of replaying the down at the previous spot (offsetting fouls), or keeping the ball after enforcement for its fouls.”
Late in the second quarter, as Chicago’s Matt Forte was tackled near Seattle’s end zone, Hawthorne stripped the ball and recovered at the 1-yard line. Even though there did not seem to be conclusive proof that Forte was down before he lost the ball, Carey said he was down and awarded the ball back to the Bears, who had challenged. The Bears scored two plays later on fourth-and-goal. It looked like the Seahawks got robbed on that one.
The last big gaffe by Carey’s crew was a bogus roughing call against Kerney after he hit Cutler on the Bears’ go-ahead touchdown pass. Kerney hit Cutler just after he released the pass. The 15-yard penalty was assessed on the kickoff, so the Hawks didn’t have a chance to advance the ball past the 20.
It’s so official. Jay Cutler is the league’s biggest crybaby. On his 1-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen late in the second quarter, Grant hit Cutler just as he threw. Cutler landed hard, but Grant eased up and avoided landing hard on him as he could have done. Still, Baby Jay immediately threw a tantrum to Carey, trying to get a roughing call. Perhaps that’s why the ref called roughing against Kerney at the end of the game. Cutler is such a crybaby, and we can’t stand him.
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