Countdown to kickoff
CHICAGO – Greetings from Soldier Field, where the Seahawks will once again try to get it right on the road on this unseasonably warm afternoon in the Windy City when they take on the NFC North-leading Bears.
The Seahawks have beaten the Bears here in each of the past two regular seasons, but these Bears will be the second-best opponent the Seahawks will face on the road this season. The top spot goes to the 49ers, who beat the Seahawks 13-6 in San Francisco in Week 7 – and make that the NFC West-leading 49ers who also blew out the Bears 32-7 at Candlestick Park two weeks ago.
Anyone who has been paying even marginal attention is well aware that the Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this season, and 6-16 away from home in three seasons under coach Pete Carroll. So what makes these Seahawks any different from those other can’t-seem-to-win-on-the-road Seahawks?
As M.C. Hammer would put it – and Carroll touched on this week – these Seahawks are too legit to quit.
Yes, these Seahawks have lost five road games – including forehead-slapping setbacks to the Cardinals in Arizona, the Rams in St. Louis, the Lions in Detroit and the Dolphins in Miami. But their five road losses have come by a combined 24 points.
In Carroll’s first season, those Seahawks lost by 30 points to the Raiders in Oakland, 23 points to the Buccaneers in Tampa, 19 points to the 49ers in San Francisco, 18 points to the Cardinals in Arizona, 17 points to the pre-Peyton Manning Broncos in Denver and the Rams in St. Louis and 15 points to the Saints in New Orleans.
Baby steps, perhaps, but steps in the right direction nonetheless.
“We’re better,” Carroll said on Friday. “We’re better than we’ve been. We’ve had a chance to win every game we’ve played, and a legitimate chance to win every single one of them. It’s frustrating to us, in particular on the road. We’ve found our ways at home. But we’re so much closer to really being a legit team and a team to contend with.
“I’m hoping that as we grow, and the experiences we’ve gained, the will and resolve that it takes to make those decisions and those plays at the end, are coming. I feel like we’re really close.”
To win today, the Seahawks cannot play like they did last week against the Dolphins. In fact, ever their best might not be good enough against the 8-3 Bears, who are 5-1 at home.
“It’s a very tough matchup,” Carroll said. “We could play really well and still get beat by these guys. That’s how good they are.”
Priority One today is avoiding turnovers. But that’s much easier said than done against the Bears, who lead the NFL with 33 takeaways and have the league leaders in interceptions (Tim Jennings with eight) and forced fumbles (Charles Tillman with seven).
All eight of Russell Wilson’s interceptions have come on the road this season, but he did not throw one in Miami. In fact, he has gone where no other rookie QB in league history has with three consecutive games with a passer rating of 125-plus and his string of 16 consecutive completions last week.
And Wilson will have to make some plays against a Bears’ ball-hawking defense that will be stacked to try and remove Marshawn Lynch from the equation. The Bears held Lynch to 42 yards last season and 44 in 2010, in his first game as a Seahawk after being acquired in a trade with the Bills.
The flipside will involve a Seahawks defense that has allowed an average of 155 rushing yards the past five games begin able to contain Matt Forte, so it can get the opportunity to pressure gunslinger QB Jay Cutler into mistakes.
Then there’s Brandon Marshall, who leads the Bears in receptions (81) and targets (124). So even when Cutler has nowhere else to go, there’s always the throw-it-up-to-Marshall option.
It is against this backdrop – and these odds – that the Seahawks will attempt to get right on the road.
Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 10 a.m. PT. You can watch on Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) or listen on 710 ESPN or KIRO Radio 97.3.
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