The temptation is to blame Seattle’s 25-19 loss to Chicago on kicker Olindo Mare, but let’s be very clear: There was plenty of blame to go around.
Yes, Olindo Mare missed two makeable field goals. But should he really have had to kick six field goals? The way it worked out, he would have needed to hit all six just for a chance to hit a seventh to win it or at least have the game go to overtime. That’s a lot to ask of any kicker.
Mare made kicks from 46, 37, 39, and 46 yards. He missed from 43 and 34. Yes, those were both makeable kicks, but for coach Jim Mora to blame this loss on his kicker is ridiculous.
“If you’re a kicker in the National Football League, you should make those kicks – bottom line,” Mora told reporters after the game. “You’ve gotta make those kicks, especially in a game like this, where you’re kicking and fighting and scratching your tail off. And [if] you miss those kicks, it’s not acceptable. Not acceptable. Absolutely not acceptable. We’re not going to fight our ass off and have a field goal kicker go out there and miss two field goals and lose a game. It’s not going to happen.”
That’s frustration talking—the disappointment of knowing your team had a chance to win even though the odds were totally against it. Someone needs to remind Mora that you don’t win games with just field goals. You have to score touchdowns. He can change kickers if he wants, but if his offense doesn’t get in the endzone more than once a game, he’ll be lucky to end up with four wins again.
In fact, Mare was only part of the equation that added up to a loss on a day the Seahawks were surprisingly competitive with seven very good starters out.
The biggest problem was that the offense—missing four starters—just could not finish drives.
Playing behind a banged-up line that sometimes had trouble keeping the Bears out of the backfield, Seneca Wallace was on the move all day. He did well to escape much of the time, but too often he or his receivers couldn’t finish plays.
Other than a fluke touchdown pass to Julius Jones on a third-and-19 screen play in the first drive, Wallace could not get the Hawks into the end zone. Instead, he and the offense put all the pressure on Mare to hit six field goals. (If Mare had made both, the Hawks would have been in position to win with a 46-yarder at the end of the game. But only six players in the history of the NFL have made seven field goals in a game.)
Wallace didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers. He had at least four passes dropped, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was almost nonexistent for three quarters. He dropped a pass early on and then fumbled early in the third quarter, resulting in a Chicago touchdown.
Wallace also made his own mistakes. The biggest was a bad interception on a ball he was trying to get rid of from his own end zone while being chased. His underhanded toss was picked off by Lance Briggs, leading to a field goal that put Chicago up 17-13 in the third quarter.
Wallace could have had several other passes picked off. Nate Burleson, who had a great day, prevented one pick in the end zone by tearing the ball out of Zach Bowman’s hands.
Overall, this game illustrated the difference between Wallace and Matt Hasselbeck. The difference is veteran savvy and accuracy.
Wallace missed seeing some open guys, couldn’t hit tight end John Carlson enough (only three of 10 attempts) and often threw too high or long. It just shows the drop-off that happens when Wallace plays for Hasselbeck, who knows where to go with the ball and usually is able to lead a couple of touchdown drives a game.
Wallace wasn’t always quick enough with his decisions and had to use his feet to buy more time to find someone. He was inaccurate on his deep ball, overthrowing Houshmandzadeh and Burleson in the first quarter and missing Carlson all day.
In his defense, Wallace didn’t always have time. He was sacked three times, hit three more and repeatedly chased out of the pocket. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re down to your third-string left tackle, when your starting center is playing his first game of the season, when you have a rookie right guard and when the left tackle and left guard both get hurt in the game.
The Bears had their own injury issues on defense, but the Seahawks had more on offense, and the backups just were unable to do enough to win the game.
Mora can blame it on the kicker, but that’s just covering up the fact that Wallace and company didn’t get it done.
For more on the game, go Outside The Press Box ...