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

By Michael C. Wright

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears' 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday isn’t what one would consider devastating to the club’s playoff hopes.

But it certainly raises questions about a variety of issues on the team. Let’s get to some of them right now:

What it means: Other than opening the door for more questions about the shoddy pass protection (six sacks allowed), and questionable play calling from offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the loss isn’t a significant blow to the Bears' standing atop the NFC North mainly because they built some breathing room by beating two divisional foes (Detroit and Green Bay) en route to starting 4-2.

Smashing: Devin Hester kept allowing punters to make touchdown-saving stops on his returns. So receiver Earl Bennett eliminated the problem. In providing Chicago one of its few highlights of the day, Bennett delivered the most punishing hit of the day by crushing Seattle punter Jon Ryan on a Hester 89-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:54 remaining.

Hester tied Brian Mitchell’s all-time record for kick return touchdowns (nine punt return TDs and four kickoffs) with the TD that pulled the Bears to within 23-20.

Although it’s unofficial, it’s safe to say Bennett’s block was the club’s nastiest of the season up to this point.

Third-down inefficiency: It’s been described as high octane, but Martz’s offense couldn’t even earn the moniker of “average” Sunday against the Seahawks.

Bogged down by poor pass protection and Jay Cutler’s penchant for holding on to the ball too long, the Bears failed to convert a single third down through the first three quarters (0-for-8). Perhaps it’s time for Martz and the rest of the offensive staff to take a long look at what’s working and what’s not, and make the appropriate adjustments.

Martz claims the seven-step pass drop constitutes just a small part of what the Bears do offensively. Maybe it’s time to eliminate it from the playbook, because clearly it’s leading to more sacks than home-run balls.

With 12:02 left to play, Cutler had completed less than 50 percent of his passes (11-of-26).

Williams move inside a dud: Perhaps the Bears can now stop using the name Chris Williams and “stout” in the same sentence because it’s clear the two don’t jibe.

Filling in at left guard for Roberto Garza, who recently underwent an arthroscopic knee procedure, Williams made his first start since Week 2 after missing the past three games because of a hamstring injury. But the club didn’t see any improvement in the rushing (the club actually regressed after grinding out 218 yards last week) or protection departments.

By halftime, the Seahawks had already sacked Cutler twice while running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor finished the first two quarters with a combined 15 yards on eight attempts.

Seattle strong safety Jordan Babineaux notched the third sack of Cutler on Chicago’s opening drive of the second half, resulting in a safety and a 16-13 Seahawks lead. Seattle sacked Cutler six times on the day, including three sacks from defensive backs.

Williams wasn’t at fault for all of the sacks, including the three Cutler suffered in the third quarter alone. But Williams certainly proved he’s not the upgrade inside the club expected.

The Bears believed that Williams, who entered the season as the starting left tackle, could firm up the pocket inside for Cutler while adding push to the rushing attack by moving to guard. It’s probably safe to call the experiment a monstrous dud.

Field-position roulette: Chicago made the mistake of giving Seattle not one, but two possessions -- back to back, in fact -- from the Bears' 37-yard line. Bad move when dealing with a veteran quarterback such as Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck.

After punting on their first possession from the 37 in the first quarter, the Seahawks used seven plays and 2 minutes and 41 seconds to score on their second opportunity from that field position. Justin Forsett’s 9-yard run off right guard gave the Seahawks a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Aromashodu sighting: Devin Aromashodu, aka Mr. Inactive, registered his first catch since Week 1 on Sunday when he hauled in a 34-yard pass for Cutler’s second completion of the day.

After catching five passes for 71 yards in the opener against Detroit, Aromashodu fell out of favor with Martz because of missed blocks and dropped passes. But it was nice to see the club give Aromashodu another shot to contribute.

Given Aromashodu’s size and athleticism, he’s too talented for the Bears to totally lock out of the offense. Look for Aromashodu’s contributions to gradually increase as the season progresses.

Big-play Knox: Coming off back to back one-catch outings, Bears receiver Johnny Knox bounced back in a major way against the Seahawks. Knox took a short pass in the second quarter from Cutler up the visitors’ sideline for a 67-yard gain, and followed that on the net play with a 12-yard reception.

Knox’s two receptions helped set up Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal, which pulled the Bears to within 14-13 with 1:10 remaining before intermission. Knox leads the team with seven receptions of 20 yards or more, and there’s a good chance he’ll become the Bears’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker (2002).

What’s next: The Bears host the Redskins (3-2) next Sunday before entering the much-needed bye week, which seems to come at the appropriate time considering the club’s offensive woes and the fact that several players are nursing nagging injuries.