Bears don't respond like a playoff team in loss
Even Smith sounds wishy-washy following setback
David Haugh's In the Wake of the News
8:46 p.m. CST, December 2, 2012
As shaken Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice lay flat on his back in the end zone after scoring the winning touchdown Sunday in Seattle's 23-17 overtime victory over the Bears, fans gave him a warped welcome to the southeast corner of Soldier Field.
"Stay down you #$#@#@!" one guy yelled as doctors attended to Rice.
On a day defined by resilience, Rice responded the way the Seahawks did every other time they faced adversity in a hostile environment. He overcame it. He got up.
"Had to go celebrate," Rice said later.
And when Rice finally rose to his feet after safety Major Wright clocked him at the end of his game-winning 13-yard catch, it was the Bears who wobbled away dazed and confused looking like anything but a playoff team.
The Seahawks giveth the Bears first place in the NFC North back in September with a faux victory over the Packers. Sunday, the Seahawks taketh away.
You know the Bears' swagger had become a stagger when their supremely confident leader sounded so wishy-washy.
So, Lovie Smith, take us through the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 behind a patchwork offensive line from the Seahawks' 15-yard line with a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Any regrets, coach?
"I should have taken the field goal in a game like that," Smith surprisingly volunteered. "I feel like we had momentum and wanted to really kind of knock them out. That was the big play of the game."
That was the biggest play. Or maybe was it Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's 12-yard scramble on third-and-5 in overtime? Or tight end Zach Miller's fourth-down catch? Rice's TD reception? I keep changing my mind.
Apparently so did Smith, who is more likely to tell jokes at a postgame news conference than show candor. Yet minutes after wishing aloud that he would have kicked the field goal, Smith must have realized he publicly had agreed with so many critics in Chicago. He contradicted himself.
"Would I do it again?" Smith asked. "Probably so."
Huh? Smith would make the same decision he called the wrong one? Put the Lovie Smith Waffle on the United Club menu. Smith uncharacteristically sending mixed messages only underscored how much this loss rattled the coach and his team.
That is what happens when a tired defense that once was Super Bowl-caliber lets a rookie quarterback orchestrate a fourth-quarter, 12-play, 97-yard go-ahead drive. As old and slow as Wilson made the Bears look defensively, nobody should have been surprised when the Seahawks marched 80 yards in overtime with relative ease.
Pete Carroll wasn't.
"It was just extraordinary, exquisite poise," the Seahawks coach said of Wilson.
It was symbolic when linebacker Brian Urlacher limped off with a hamstring injury before the final play Wilson faked the read option and nimbly kept the game-winning play alive with his feet. The Bears' aging leader could only watch helplessly as his ragged teammates tried in vain to keep up with their younger, quicker opponents — the story of this game summed up in one sideline snippet. The December of the Bears' season indeed.
"You've got to be able to reach down," Smith said.
When the Bears did, they had nothing left. Meanwhile, the Seahawks bounced around like they had an espresso bar on the sideline. This was Seattle's best of 2012.
"I went to the huddle the last (97-yard) drive and just told the guys, 'This is what the season comes down to, right here, right now,'"' Wilson said.
The Bears better hope not. Their third loss in four games stung more than the rest because they deserved to lose this one. They nearly changed the narrative when Jay Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall on a last-ditch, drawn-in-the-sand 56-yard pass play to set up Robbie Gould's 46-yard field goal. But it only prolonged the agony on a day full of it.
Earl Bennett dropped a sure 62-yard TD pass. Wright let a potential clinching interception on the final drive slip through his hands. The defense gave up 176 yards rushing and 8 of 15 third-down conversions. The offense did its best second-half work as a piņata, moving the chains on its only TD drive due to dumb Seattle penalties.
Contrary to Monday's likely lament, the game didn't come down to Smith not trying a second-quarter field goal. Smith would have been better off defending his decision and stressing too much happened in 43 minutes that followed to blame one play. Focusing on Smith's flip-flop only obscures bigger issues suddenly confronting the Bears.
"This is a tough time," Marshall said. "This is a time where it's easy to point fingers ... but we're going to come together."
Like playoff teams do in December. Like the Seahawks did Sunday.