Panic over a preseason game should not exist inside the Chicago Bears' locker room. Games played in August count for nothing, and typically mean little once the real games begin.
Still, the humble pie served up by the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of Friday's third and most important preseason game must give the Bears' starting defense some feeling of doubt as the regular season approaches.
The rebuilt unit took its fair share of bumps and bruises in Seattle's 34-6 win.
Over a 31-point first half, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense embarrassed the Chicago first-team defense. And while "embarrassed" is oftentimes overused in the sports vocabulary, it's the only descriptor that accurately sums up the way Seattle handled the game's first 30 minutes.
|Seattle Seahawks' First-Half Drives vs. Bears|
|38 plays, 265 yards|
The Seahawks scored on all five first-half drives. Wilson completed 13 of 17 passes for 177 yards and two scores, while rushing for another (he played one series in the second half and finished 15-of-20 for 202 yards and three total touchdowns). Seattle was a perfect 7-of-7 on third down in the first half.
Only the game clock saved Chicago from more misery. The Seahawks had to settle for a 59-yard field goal as the first half expired, making the score 31-0 as the two teams retreated back to the locker room. Extend the half another 45 seconds and Wilson might have engineered a fifth touchdown.
The Bears couldn't get off the field against an offense built on a foundation of ruthless efficiency.
Wilson calmly extended the opening drive by converting two 3rd-and-4 opportunities. He hit Jermaine Kearse for 17 yards on the first before finding Percy Harvin for 25 on the second. Marshawn Lynch rumbled into the end zone from seven yards out a play after Harvin's reception to give Seattle an early 7-0 lead.
It was just the beginning of a long night for Chicago in the Pacific Northwest.
After a Bears punt, Wilson led the Seahawks 89 yards on 14 plays, eating up almost half of the first-quarter clock. Three more chances for the Bears defense to get off the field on third down were unsuccessful. Seattle's final conversion saw Wilson scramble into the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from Chicago's 7-yard line.
The Seahawks' third drive also ended when Wilson converted a third down in the red zone. The 11-play, 83-yard march was completed with Wilson's 12-yard touchdown pass to Kearse, which beat nearly perfect coverage from Charles Tillman in the end zone.
The scoreboard lit up again soon after, thanks in large part to the Bears' special teams. Earl Thomas' 59-yard punt return gave Seattle possession at Chicago's 16-yard line, and three plays later, Wilson connected with a wide-open Christine Michael for a 7-yard touchdown.
|Seahawks Offense vs. Bears, First Half|
|Time of Possession||18:18|
|Seattle led 31-0 at half time|
The Bears appeared to strike back before the half. But an iffy offensive pass interference penalty negated a touchdown, and Jay Cutler threw an ugly interception that helped set up Seattle's field-goal attempt as the half expired.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker may want to use Friday's first-half film as a teaching lesson, but he might be better served lighting it on fire and never speaking of it again. Taken out of context of the preseason, the performance could be seen as a demoralizing setback for a unit that is expected to rebound in 2014.
Wilson was dazzling and dynamic. He evaded pressure, dancing in and out of the pocket with awareness and almost clairvoyant sense. Once a play broke down, he improvised and hurt the Bears down the field.
In the first half, Seattle tallied six plays over 15 yards and averaged almost seven yards per play.
The one defensive highlight of the first half came when Lamarr Houston and Willie Young—two of Chicago's big free-agent signings—converged on Wilson and took him down for a sack. But a play later, veteran Lance Briggs put a hit on a scrambling Wilson after he slid down, which drew a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
On this night, the Seahawks needed no help advancing the football.
There's no shame in being outplayed by the defending Super Bowl champions in their house. But to be so efficiently dismantled play after play was certainly alarming.
Overall, the Seahawks managed 265 yards and 31 points in the first half. It was varsity versus the JV for 30 minutes in Seattle.
Yet the Bears won't start mashing the panic button because August is the time of the year to make mistakes. Everything from Friday night's disaster will be forgotten if the Bears can regroup and play better on the defensive side of the ball during the regular season.
That's the real challenge awaiting Tucker and his staff.
And after tonight, there's no doubting the challenge of getting a defense lacking at linebacker and safety to play better when the real games begin.
The Bears were outclassed in every way in Seattle, but real panic should be reserved for the regular season. If the Buffalo Bills come to Chicago and light up the Bears defense on Sept. 7, then it might become necessary to flash the warning lights.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.
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