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Sunday, October 17, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 23, Bears 20

By Mike Sando

Here are some thoughts on Seattle's 23-20 victory over the Chicago Bears:

What it means: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks' offense showed it could function efficiently on the road, even on the ground against a tough run defense. And the Seattle defense showed it could generate a pass rush on third down without the benefit of crowd noise from Qwest Field. This was by far the Seahawks' most impressive performance on the road this season. We knew Seattle had a good shot at going 6-2 or 7-1 at home this season. Winning at Chicago makes it much easier to get into that 8-8 range, which could be good enough to win the division.

Hindsight: What were the Seahawks thinking when they punted to Devin Hester while protecting a 23-13 lead with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter? Sure, Hester hasn't been as impressive in recent seasons, but he had a touchdown return against Green Bay and 11 return touchdowns previously in his career. Hester's 89-yard touchdown was his ninth on a punt return. It made Seattle sweat out a victory unnecessarily and it could have ruined its season.

Big Revelation: The Seahawks' blitz packages and overall pass rush on third down showed up like never before this season. Coach Pete Carroll had said all offseason that he hoped the Qwest Field crowd would help Seattle generate a pass rush at home. Left unsaid, of course, was that he didn't see much hope for generating one on the road. This game showed Seattle could do that, particularly against a team with a weak offensive line and an offensive scheme predicated on deep quarterback drops. The Bears failed to convert on any their 12 third-down opportunities, a level of dominance that would have seemed unimaginable before Sunday.

Injuries of note: Seattle played most of the game without starting right cornerback Kelly Jennings, who suffered a hamstring injury. The Bears had more success downfield after Jennings left the game, but Seattle got enough third-down pressure to overcome any drop-off in most critical situations. Punter Jon Ryan absorbed a devastating hit from Earl Bennett during Hester's return. He was down for an extended period.

Tomorrow's Talker: Why can't the Seahawks win the NFC West? Should they be favored? They're taking a 3-2 record into a home game against the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals. Arizona will be playing a rookie quarterback at Qwest Field, a tough proposition. A victory by Seattle would leave the Seahawks alone atop the NFC West with a 4-2 record.

What I liked: The Seattle coaching staff had the upper hand following a bye week. The Seahawks effectively mixed Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett in their backfield on offense. Lynch was limited to conventional personnel groupings seen most frequently on early downs. Forsett played in some of those, too, while handling the duties in three-receiver sets. Lynch's stats were not impressive overall, but he turned a couple big losses into rushes for no gain by breaking tackles. He also had a 1-yard scoring run to cap a 92-yard drive. Seattle's willingness to run Forsett from pass-oriented looks after establishing Forsett as the back on passing downs helped keep the Bears off-balance. On defense, those third-down blitz packages gave the Bears problems.

What I didn't like: Rookie Golden Tate had some issues in the punt-return game, nearly losing a fumble deep in Seattle territory. Even so, Seattle's special teams helped create favorable field position at times, including during a critical sequence in the fourth quarter. Also, right guard Stacy Andrews continued to suffer from penalty problems and tight end John Carlson dropped a pass for what should have been a drive-sustaining big gain in the second half. At least Carlson caught the Bears' onside kick with 1:54 remaining. That was a critical play for Seattle.

What's next: The Seahawks return home to face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7.