SEATTLE – One overlooked reality of the Bears’ 2015 schedule is that they could have played reasonably well and still opened 0-2 or, after Sunday’s meeting with the Seattle Seahawks, presumably 0-3. Games against three straight playoff teams can do that.
And while expectations of the new offense were generally positive if only because of veteran talent at skill positions, both coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio alluded to at least some sort of learning curve due to the change to a 3-4 scheme on defense.
But the “curve” has been steeper than anticipated, and may not look any better against the Seattle Seahawks, the 2014 NFC Super Bowl representatives who are determined to put the brakes on their own 0-2 start. Indeed, the Seahawks rightfully are anything but in crisis mode, given a pair of Super Bowl appearances in the past two seasons.
“This is not a world-is-coming-to-an-end moment for us,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “We’ve been here before. We know how to fight out of these predicaments. We’ve lost two games in a row before. It’s no different. We’re the same confident bunch. We keep it one game at a time. We don’t let anything that happens in the past dictate or future.”
Sunday’s game against the Seahawks isn’t exactly a world-at-an-end moment for the Bears, either. But for an organization and new coaching staff seeking to eradicate the losing culture that grew over recent seasons, the Bears need a positive, and soon.
Problem is, the Bears don’t have quite the successful experience of extricating themselves from dire situations. Fox, Fangio and some others on the staffs and in the locker room may individually, but the events of the past four seasons, beginning with the 2011 collapse after Jay Cutler fractured his thumb, leave gaping questions about the resiliency within one of the NFL’s charter franchises.
And bad coincidence perhaps, the chance to establish resiliency as part of the new Fox-era Bears character could not encounter a more difficult hurdle than the Seattle Seahawks.
For a team (offense, defense and special teams, all three areas) reeling from giving up 79 points in two games, the Seahawks may be the most difficult of the first three early season opponents.
In the loudest and toughest-to-win-in venues in the NFL, the offense is faced with a starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and not having Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) for him to throw to. The Bears have outgained each of their first two opponents but failed to take control of either game against Green Bay or Arizona.
But the sense of need for impact arguably hangs heaviest over the defense, which has zero sacks through two games and allows nearly 58 percent conversions on third downs. Now that phase is tasked now with coping with running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson. History against Wilson is not promising.
The current downward spiral for the Bears that has not ever been successfully reversed arguably began against the Seahawks and specifically because of Wilson. The 2012 Bears missed the postseason and cost Lovie Smith his job when they could not contain Wilson in a 23-17 loss in 2012. That followed regular-season losses to the Seahawks in 2010 and 2011, interrupted by a divisional-playoff Bears win in 2010.
That 2012 game, however, was part of a dramatic coming-out season for Wilson, who as a third-round rookie took the starting job away from Matt Flynn after the Seahawks had wasted major contract money on the former Green Bay backup.
“He’s a magician,” Fangio said. “He’s extremely fast, extremely quick, extremely instinctive. And very confident with the ball, sees the field, has a feel for what’s around him. He doesn’t get hit very hard even when he carries the ball as much as he does.
“He’s a good passer. This guy was 15th in the NFL in rushing yards and that’s with all the running backs mixed in there. He’s a dual threat obviously. They do a good job with him, their scheme has been tailored to him and it’s become a good offense.”
Chances of getting to Wilson with any impact appear minimal. Albeit that most have only played the Seahawks once if at all, only one current Bear has ever sacked a quarterback, that being Lamarr Houston as an Oakland Raider. But the matter may turn as much on the Bears’ mental state as anything specific to Seattle.
“Right now all of our focus and energy is directed at the Seattle Seahawks,” Fox said. “I don’t want them thinking about 0-2.”