CHICAGO — Only a week after the Seahawks piled up 41 points to shock the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a shootout, Seattle’s offense looked to be in real danger of being shut out.
And while the Seahawks did manage 24 second-half points to make the score respectable, that late scoring binge did little to hide the fact that it was a rough day for an offense that appeared to be clicking on all cylinders eight days earlier.
Seattle’s offense struggled in part because it couldn’t run the ball at all after showing progress in that area over the previous six quarter, and in part because receivers kept dropping passes, a particularly fatal flaw when the offense has become one-dimensional.
The Seahawks probably would have struggled to run the ball against Chicago even at full strength — the Bears ranked second in the league in rush defense during the regular season — but it became almost an impossible task when they had to play the bulk of the game without a healthy tight end.
In a scary scene early in the game, tight end John Carlson landed on his head on a 14-yard reception. He was carted off the field with a concussion, and when Cameron Morrah, the only other active tight end, suffered a toe injury, Seattle found itself scrambling.
“We have a big, giant call sheet,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “That took it down to a corner of it.”
No tight ends — or one gimpy one — does a lot more than just limit the passing attack, though it’s worth noting that Carlson caught two touchdowns the previous week, and likely was a big part of the game plan again this week. Tight ends also are used to pass block, particularly to help against a dominant defensive end like Chicago’s Julius Peppers, and the Seahawks frequently use two-tight-end sets to aid in the run game. In other words, the Seahawks were seriously hamstrung once Carlson and Morrah left the game.
“We ran into difficulties when we lost both tight ends in the first half,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We were scrambling and we didn’t get to run the football like we’d like to. It got us out of sync and we didn’t respond very well.”
In part because of the lack of tight ends, and in part because the Bears are just a good defense, the Seahawks were held to just 34 rushing yards on 12 attempts. The rushing total was the team’s second lowest of the year ahead of only the 20-yard effort against Kansas City. Marshawn Lynch, who literally shook the earth with a 67-yard score last week, had just four carries for two yards.
“Obviously in our run game, short yardage, goal line, all those situations, we no longer had any of those,” Hasselbeck said.
For his part Hasselbeck was very good in what could have been his final game as a Seahawk. Hasselbeck, who turned 35 this season, becomes a free agent this offseason, and while he and Carroll have both said they’d like him to stay a Seahawk, nothing is done as of now. And if Hasselbeck was playing his last game for Seattle, he went out in style, throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on his final completion of the day. Hasselbeck finished with 258 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers, and those numbers would have been better if not for several drops by receivers.
While the lack of a run game was somewhat excusable given the situation at tight end, the inability of players to catch the ball was not.
“I don’t think we caught the ball very well today,” Carroll said. “… We didn’t come up with the ball as much as we would have liked. Not knowing what the film looked like, it looked like we didn’t catch the balls today that we could have.”
No receivers were left in the locker room to discuss their struggles by the time media arrived from Carroll’s press conference, though wide receiver Mike Williams was critical of his play on Twitter, describing his play with a word not suitable for print in a family publication.
Thanks to some late scores after the game was out of hand, some of the final numbers weren’t as bad as they probably should have been — the Seahawks finished with 276 total yards and had 24 points. But the Seahawks punted on their first eight possessions, and through three quarters had just seven first downs and 111 total yards.
“We started off slow,” Hasselbeck said. “Not good enough.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog