Hawks failed to show up against beatable Bears

Jan 16, 2011, 5:54 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

Tate

By Mike Salk

There will plenty of time to be positive, plenty of time to add perspective. There will be plenty of time to celebrate what the Seahawks accomplished this year, and especially the last few weeks.

Right now though, I’m just angry about what we all saw at Soldier Field.

I’m angry that the Seahawks failed to show up. I’m irritated that the Hawks couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities they were given. I’m ticked off that they were beaten by a beatable team because they failed to play their best.

I don’t know why the Hawks played the way they did. Maybe they were bothered by the early start. Maybe the weather played a factor. Maybe the poor field condition was an issue. Maybe they were looking ahead to the Packers. Maybe they tightened up once they realized what was at stake. Maybe it would have been different if both of their tight ends hadn’t suffered injuries. Regardless, the Hawks didn’t show up and the Bears did.

It was obvious early.

Early in the game, the Bears dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. When the Hawks had the ball, they ran into Bear defenders in their own backfield. Marshawn Lynch was held to just two yards on four carries. Whereas his power running set them up for success against the Saints, it was non-existant in Chicago. Without the positive gains on early downs, the passing game became more difficult and the play action game disappeared. That was a recipe for disaster.

On the other side of the ball, the Bears offensive line seemed to be constantly establishing a forward push. Even when the first Seahawk defender was able to bring down the running back, it was three or four yards downfield. The Bears were constantly in second-and-5 or third-and-2 situations and that opens up the playbook. Even more specific to this game, the Hawks’ failures on early downs made it difficult to put Jay Cutler into positions to make poor decisions. If they could have forced him to throw from third and long, they may have had even more opportunities to intercept passes and change the game.

Of course, they would have needed to actually catch those interceptions!

When the Hawks beat the Bears in the regular season, they missed nine opportunities to intercept Cutler. Nine. NINE! But they won that game so we quickly forgot about it. Not this time. Jordan Babineaux had the best shot – a ball that hit him directly in the hands at the goal line. If he had caught it, there was nothing in the 100 yards between him and the other end zone except for open field and a few snowflakes. A pick-six there would have made it 7-7 and could have drastically changed the game. Maybe it would have put some doubt in the heads of the Bears. Maybe it could have rallied the team. Maybe it makes Cutler force more throws.

We’ll never know. Instead, the Bears scored seconds later to make it 14-0. It was, in effect, a 14-point swing.

But Babineaux shouldn’t bear the brunt alone.

How many balls did this team drop on Sunday? Between Mike Williams, Brandon Stokley, Golden Tate and Cameron Morrah, the offense sure had its fair share. Morrah’s drop was the most obvious (and perhaps the most costly). Hasselbeck put it right in his hands down the field and a catch there might have given the team some confidence. Earl Thomas had opportunities too. No one capitalized.

If the Hawks didn’t catch well and didn’t block well, what do we say about their tackling?

It was yet another fundamental failure on their part. Twice Babineaux missed tackles on Cutler as he “rumbled” into the end zone. Jay Cutler! This wasn’t some freak of nature with Chris Johnson’s speed or Steven Jackson’s power – this was a quarterback known more for his grumpy mood swings than his running prowess! Thomas missed opportunities to make tackles. So did Will Herring. So did Lofa Tatupu (who was routinely a step slow). So did Lawyer Milloy who was beaten badly on Greg Olsen’s long touchdown. So did virtually everyone. This was a team failure.

The real disappointment isn’t that the Hawks lost, it’s that they lost to a Bears team that was beatable. Hosting the NFC Championship game was in their grasp and they failed to play well enough to earn it.

There will plenty of time to look back and recognize how far this team has come in such a short time. There will be plenty of time to debate who should be their quarterback of the future. There will be plenty of time to consider who should stay, who should go, and who should be drafted.

Right now, I’m just bummed out because this team let a golden opportunity slip from its grasp.

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