Russell Wilson was nothing short of legendary today, but I am now ready to concede for the first time this season that Seattle's defense needs a kick in the ass, from its starters right on up to its defensive coordinator. It's pretty bizarre that we started the season with Wilson being unworthy of our defense and then flip-flopped, but that's where we are.
It's true that Seattle allowed only 17 points and held up at crucial moments, but the cracks in the foundation were far more visible today than they've been all season. I could give you a list of individual breakdowns as long as...well, something really long. Earl Thomas whiffing on a tackle of a QB. Kam dropping a pick and slipping on another tackle of a QB. Alan Branch hitting a downed QB and generally being a totally ineffective pass rusher (been saying it all season). Richard Sherman losing his head and trying to pick off a hail mary instead of downing it (the exact same mistake that cost Green Bay in the Goldengate game). Dumb penalties. Brandon Browner proving utterly useless against a #1 receiver (though credit the Bears for getting Brandon Marshall good matchups). Bruce Irvin, still on a milk carton, though his acquisition did win us a crucial game in Carolina. A couple of moments where our defensive line just flat-out gave up on plays. That was all WITHOUT Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant hanging around.
And the constant soft zone defense during three-man rushes against five offensive linemen...if you dislike Marshall owning our secondary, THAT play-calling is the reason. I was being driven absolutely insane watching Jay Cutler stand in the pocket untouched with five seconds to throw all day long. That is exactly how to let him win. Give him credit for his accuracy and his chemistry with Marshall; it's a top-flight combination and should be expected to pull out some tough stick throws. But when Seattle cannot muster even the slightest pass rush against an O-line so beat up that they're relying on depth players underneath Chris Spencer, something is wrong. Either Bradley knows we don't have the LB's to blitz, or he's just scared to do it. (It could well be the first.) As for Jason Jones, he now falls under my newly minted Josh Wilson Rule - "If there is debate over whether a player is good, he probably isn't."
The good: Amazingly, Seattle held the Bears to only two completions of over twenty yards, their per-game average this season. That is the pride of this defense, and it was good to see them get back to it after giving up six to Ryan friggin' Tannehill. Also, the run defense returned dramatically. Seattle got some crucial stops. Malcolm Smith played well in relief of Leroy Hill (possible starter, just as I'd hoped?). Bobby Wagner still looks like a solid player in any venue.
But those two Bears scoring drives where Cutler strung together devastating intermediate passes - not unsustainable dink and dunk, but damaging zone throws - and the fact that he managed a 9.0 YPA is just bad. Today was a much worse performance than our other defensive gaffes. It looked like 2009 again. Additionally, Cutler missed on some deep throws to wide-open Bears receivers that had beaten the secondary, and Chicago suffered from two second-half drives that ended in give-up draw plays on 3rd-and-long that looked almost Holmgren-esque. Exact same kind of conservative play-calling that doomed Seattle last week. I'd love to say that Seattle did just enough defense to win like they always do, but this time, it felt different. The Seahawks were committing mistakes at the worst possible times against the worst possible opponent; the Bears just left a lot of points on the field.
Seattle's defense is looking tired and undisciplined. The mistakes are bizarre and unworthy of the talent level. I've been wondering lately if the unit is just breaking down late in the season after being asked to carry so many early games while Russell Wilson developed. They have a get-well game next week against Arizona, but will lose its two starting cornerbacks. Wilson managed to bail them out against the league's #1 defense and a refereeing crew that they'd obviously bribed, but he and Marshawn Lynch need to stay healthy if they have any hope of a playoff run.
It is time for this D to get over its "hard-hitting, physical" reputation and start playing sound football again. There have been too many fundamental breakdowns by guys try to make highlight reel plays. We know this defense can play well. Now it's time to get back there.