CHICAGO — Sometimes, there’s no point even trying to downplay the significance of a single game.
The standard cliche in football, after both crushing defeats and uplifting victories, is to say that it was just one game out of 16, no more important than the next one, nor no less.
On Sunday, however, the Seahawks didn’t bother trying to deny just how much it meant to beat the Chicago Bears 23-20 at Soldier Field.
No really, you read the dateline right. It does say Chicago in all caps. The Seahawks really did win on the road. Not only that, they beat a good team on the road, and did it in a game that kicked off at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.
“We’re trying to win them all, but I’d be lying if I said this one isn’t special, because it is the early game on the road, which we’ve been terrible at,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.
The win was significant not just because it improved Seattle’s record to 3-2, good for a share of first place in the NFC West, but because it showed that, on this day at least, the Seahawks found a winning formula away from Qwest Field. Prior to Sunday’s game, Seattle was 3-15 on the road going back to the start of the 2008 season, and hadn’t won a road game outside of its division.
“It was a really big day for us today,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We wanted to get going on the road and we have been talking about this for a number of weeks. It was really a big day. … This was a big deal to us. We will build on it. The guys know how we did it and they understand what it took to get this done.”
The Seahawks won Sunday not because they caught a lucky break, but by simply out-playing a team that came into the game with a 4-1 record.
The defense stuffed the run, as it has done all year, and treated Jay Cutler like a human pinata, sacking the Bears quarterback six times.
The offense, which came into the game having not scored an offensive touchdown in six quarters, found the rhythm it has lacked for most of this season, producing three touchdowns, two of which came on drives of 80 and 92 yards. Hasselbeck, who had struggled on the road this season, had his best game since the season opener, completing 25 of 40 passes for 242 yards and a score. More importantly, he avoided throwing an interception for the first time in nine games.
So significant was this win that Carroll even joked that he isn’t ready to go back to Qwest Field nest Sunday, where the Seahawks will host Arizona in a battle for first place.
“Unfortunately we don’t go back on the road next week to work on this again,” he said. “We’re going to have to go back to Qwest.”
The start of the game, however, gave no indication that the Seahawks were three hours away from a breakout victory. The Bears, aided by a debatable 58-yard pass interference call against cornerback Roy Lewis, jumped to a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Considering that Seattle hadn’t scored in the first quarter yet this season, that start could have been the beginning of another lopsided road loss, but instead the Seahawks answered with a six-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deon Butler. The drive also featured a pair of catches for 40 yards by Mike Williams, who finished the game with 10 catches for 123 yards, both career highs.
“It was important for us to answer right there,” said Hasselbeck, who completed all four passes on that drive. “We wanted to run the ball, and had we not answered and made it 7-7 right away, it would have been tougher to do that. That’s happened to us some in the past on the road, you get down 14-nothing or 17-nothing, then you’ve got to scrap your whole game plan, so the answer touchdown was real big for us.”
Following that score, Seattle’s defense forced three straight three-and-outs, leading to a short field for the offense late in the first quarter. Running back Justin Forsett, who lost his starting job to the newly acquired Marshawn Lynch, capped a 37-yard scoring drive with a 9-yard run, giving Seattle its first rushing touchdown by a running back since the 11th game last season.
The Bears made the game close with a pair of second-quarter field goals, then Seattle extended its lead to three points with a safety in the third quarter when safety Jordan Babineaux sacked Cutler, causing a fumble that the Bears recovered in the end zone.
The Seahawks eventually gave themselves some breathing room, putting together a 92-yard drive that ended with Lynch scoring on a 1-yard run, his first touchdown as a Seahawk. And it turned out the Seahawks needed that insurance touchdown, because Devin Hester, one of the game’s most dangerous returners, scored on an 89-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter to make it a three-point game.
The Bears’ comeback hopes died when Seattle tight end John Carlson recovered the ensuing onside kick, allowing Hasselbeck to take a knee three times to run out the clock, a play the Seahawks have seldom used on the road in recent years.
“This is exactly what we needed,” said cornerback and special teams captain Lewis. “Now we know what we’re capable of, and I think this is going to be contagious. This is going to give us momentum. This is exactly what we need to get the ship rolling the right way.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog