By Chris Cluff, Examiner.com
The Seattle defense blew it again, but Russell Wilson and the offense bailed out that unit with an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime to beat Chicago 23-17 on Sunday.
Wilson threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a season-high 71 yards as he overcame a botched series at the end of the first half to rally the Seahawks to just their second road win of the season.
The rookie quarterback had trouble finding receivers at times, but he led the Hawks on a tying 97-yard touchdown drive at the end of regulation. His 14-yard TD pass to Golden Tate with 24 seconds left seemed enough to win it, but the Seattle defense failed to hold the lead.
The Seattle secondary unbelievably allowed Jay Cutler to complete a 56-yard pass to Brandon Marshall that set up Robbie Gould’s 46-yard field goal to tie it with no time left.
The Hawks won the overtime coin toss, and it was obvious they would need a touchdown to win — the way the defense was playing, a field goal likely would have meant a loss.
So, Wilson overcame a prototypically “play not to lose” strategy by coordinator Darrell Bevell to get the winning touchdown.
Bevell, who for some reason abandoned the run at times even though the line was creating some good holes for Marshawn Lynch, went back to the ground game too much in overtime. They ran it on nine of the 12 plays, making it seem like they were OK settling for a field goal.
But coach Pete Carroll told reporters, per The News Tribune, “We wanted to win the game. We were trying to win the football game there. We weren’t thinking about just kicking the field goal.”
Thanks to Wilson, they didn’t have to. He converted three third downs on the drive, running for five on third-and-2, running for 12 on third-and-5 and hitting Doug Baldwin for 12 on third-and-10.
After the latter play, Wilson told reporters they were about to run another zone read, which Wilson had run successfully more in this game than in any game this season. But then Bevell changed to a rollout pass, and Wilson hit Sidney Rice for a 13-yard touchdown.
The finish was a bit anticlimactic as referee Mike Carey spent a few minutes reviewing the touchdown while trainers tended to Rice, who had lost the ball when he was clobbered in the head after he crossed the goal line.
But the play stood, Rice told reporters he was fine, and the Hawks left Chicago with their third win in four games there under Carroll.
The win moved the Hawks to 7-5 and — coupled with San Francisco’s overtime loss to St. Louis — brought them 1.5 games behind the 49ers (8-3-1).
The Seahawks could win the division if they win out, including a victory over the 49ers in Seattle on Dec. 23, and the 49ers lose another game (probably at New England on Dec. 16).
This was just the second road win of the season for the Seahawks, who have lost five by no more than a touchdown each.
“It was a tremendous finish for us,” Carroll told reporters, per The News Tribune. “We’ve been struggling on the road. We’ve been there so many times. This could have happened four times already this year, and now everybody knows that it can in talking to them in the locker room.”
The problem is the defense continued a disturbing trend of screwing up in the fourth quarter. For the third time in five games, the defense gave up the tying or winning points in the final 20 seconds of regulation.
Cutler and Marshall carved them up all day, hooking up 10 times for 165 yards, including that unforgivable 56-yard play with nine seconds left in regulation to help force overtime. Marshall caught the ball in front of Richard Sherman, who simply did not make a good enough effort to knock the ball away.
“It never should have happened,” Carroll said. “But it was a great job by their quarterback. Jay’s a terrific football player. And obviously Brandon is just so talented. And those two guys together, they make it really hard.”
Earl Thomas, who was in coverage as well, said, “The long catch was kind of a fluke play. … I think we just need to be better on our assignments, and bat the ball down.”
Fortunately, Wilson followed up his 97-yard masterpiece (which actually covered 107 yards due to a holding penalty) with an 80-yard drive to win it.
Wilson did not play particularly well in the first half, failing to find open receivers at times. The most glaring mistakes came at the end of the first half, when he overthrew tight end Zach Miller in the end zone on first down from the 14-yard line and then failed to see Miller wide open on the same route on the next play, which ended in an incomplete pass.
On third down, Wilson tossed a pass to Braylon Edwards in the end zone, and Edwards seemed to scoop it for the catch. It was ruled a touchdown, but Carey decided to overturn it, saying the tip of the ball had hit the ground.
It seemed like a classic case of the evidence not being indisputable enough to overturn the call on the field, but maybe the officials have been told not to cut the Hawks any quarter since they got a big break in the Monday night win over Green Bay in Week 3, when replacement officials were in charge.
The Hawks ended up with a field goal to take a 10-7 lead, and those four lost points loomed very large in the fourth quarter, allowing the Bears to tie it with a field goal.
But Wilson made up for his end-of-half gaffe with two huge touchdown drives that provided further evidence that he probably is going to be the Seahawks’ quarterback for the next decade.
**Rice and Tate continue to step up for Wilson. They each finished with 90-plus yards and a touchdown. Rice was questionable for the game with a calf injury, but he caught six passes for 99 yards and the winning touchdown. He has six touchdowns in the last seven games. Tate, who caught five balls for 96 yards, has four scores in the last four games.
**The Hawks seemingly used the zone read running play more in this game than in any game all season, and Wilson definitely relied on his feet more than he had all season. After running once for four yards in the first half, he ran eight times for 67 yards in the second. He is becoming a true double threat.
**Guard James Carpenter, who was bowled over by Julius Peppers on the second play, did not play in the second half because his surgically repaired knee apparently was bothering him. Carroll said X-rays were negative but Carpenter would have an MRI on Monday.