In all, 120 plays were run during the Chicago Bears’ 34-6 loss in Seattle on Friday night. And without doing a hard snap-by-snap review, it’s safe to say the Bears came out on the wrong end of most.
Call that an educated guess after a game in which Marc Trestman’s team was dominated across all three phases. The errors were many – mental and physical, big and small. And they led to a sobering film review for a team with playoff hopes that suddenly faces a barrage of outside questioning as to whether their aspirations for 2014 are in any way realistic.
Sure, it was only an exhibition game at the end of August, hardly a fail-proof barometer of what’s ahead in the coming four months. But if a team suffers that many breakdowns in a road environment against a strong opponent this late in the preseason, just how ready for the regular season can they really be?
On Monday at Halas Hall, with the Bears returning to a short practice week before Thursday’s preseason finale in Cleveland, the in-house consensus was that the mistakes in Seattle can all be fixed quickly. Easy to diagnose, coaches and players said. Easy to correct.
But to highlight how a game like Friday’s goes so haywire so quickly, we decided to key in on just one mistake from all three phases as evidence of the types of blunders that contribute to such a dispiriting defeat.
The error: Unnecessary roughness penalty.
The culprit: Twelve-year linebacker Lance Briggs.
What happened: At the tail end of a four-yard Russell Wilson run, Briggs couldn’t pull up in time as Wilson went into his feet-first slide. A second after the Seahawks quarterback hit the ground, Briggs dove across his right hip.
Zoom out review: It was interesting Monday to hear coordinator Mel Tucker single out penalties as a major reason for the defensive struggles in Seattle. After all, Tucker’s unit only committed two fouls for 20 total yards, hardly a troublesome figure when viewed in isolation on the stat sheet.
But Tucker’s concern is justified because of the circumstances of each penalty and the end result of the drive they came on.
The Bears' first penalty came on the Seahawks’ second possession, on a third-and-4 from the Seattle 37 with defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff called for encroachment. Rather than having an opportunity to get off the field on third down, the Bears instead gifted the Seahawks a free first down.
Two snaps later, Willie Young sacked Wilson for a loss of nine, pushing Seattle back into a second-and-19 situation. But after Wilson broke contain on that next play and gained four yards, Briggs offered up another free first down with his personal foul misstep.
It was hardly a vicious hit and not even all that late, but foolish nonetheless. Instead of the Seahawks facing third-and-15 at the Bears 47, they had first-and-10 on the 32, on their way to another TD.
Said Briggs: “He went to slide. I was running full speed. I tried to avoid him. I thought I avoided him enough, but the referee didn’t think so."
Added Trestman: “When you have those kinds of penalties, they’re going to lead to touchdowns.”
The error: Earl Thomas’ 59-yard punt return late in the second quarter.
The culprit: The Bears' coverage unit, which on that particular punt consisted of Craig Steltz, Danny McCray, Trevor Scott, Shea McClellin, Shaun Draughn, Jon Bostic, Brandon Hartson, Tony Fiammetta, Jerry Franklin and Sherrick McManis.
What happened: On a 44-yard Pat O’Donnell punt, Thomas caught the ball near the right hash at the Seahawks 25, found a lane to his left and weaved all the way to the Bears 16 before being tripped up from behind by O’Donnell.