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Pete Carroll: Victory over Bears in 2012 a watershed moment for Russell Wilson

PHOENIX — As a rookie in 2012, Russell Wilson had already beaten Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and had the Seahawks in contention for a playoff spot. But it was a December game against the 8-3 Bears at Soldier Field that showed Seahawks coach Pete Carroll that Wilson could be the “centerpiece” of something great.

Facing a Lovie Smith Bears team that ranked second in points allowed and third in total defense, Wilson engineered scoring drives of 97 and 80 yards in the final 3:40 of regulation and overtime to lead the Seahawks to a 23-17 victory. The Seahawks, who were 6-5 heading into the game, are 36-8 since then, including 6-1 in the playoffs with one Super Bowl championship — and counting.

“I think the Chicago game might have been the one … that we discovered that Russell could be a centerpiece in those kinds of situations,” Carroll said when asked if a playoff loss to the Falcons that season opened his eyes to Wilson’s difference making ability. “[That’s when] that really happened significantly. That [Falcons loss] was a great moment for us to really make a statement that we could do it again in a playoff situation … and we let one get away from us. But I think it goes all the way back to Chicago.”

It was a turning point for the Bears as well, as their proud defense was riddled in crunch time, with a gimpy Brian Urlacher struggling noticeably while chasing the elusive Wilson.

The Seahawks trailed 14-10 and were at their 3-yard line with 3:40 to play. But Wilson engineered a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 14-yard pass to Golden Tate that gave Seattle a 17-14 lead with 24 seconds left.

The Bears miraculously tied the game, parlaying a 56-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall into Robbie Gould’s 46-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. But the Seahawks won the toss and Wilson drove them 80 yards on 12 plays to win the game on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.

Wilson who was a mediocre 14-of-25 for 178 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions (a 78.4 passer rating) with four minutes left, was 9-of-12 for 118 yards and two touchdowns (a 145.1 rating) on the final two drives. He also rushed five times for 47 yards, twice converting third downs on the winning drive.

But as Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung, pointed out, that was a moment not only for Wilson but for the Seahawks. Coming off a loss to the Dolphins the previous week, the Seahawks won their final five games to finish 11-5. They were 13-3 and won the Super Bowl in 2013 and went 12-4 and are back in the Super Bowl this season.

“Russell’s very talented, but I would say that game [against the Bears] is more of a testament to who we are as a team,” Okung said. “Defense played well; Golden Tate made a really good play as well and so did Sidney Rice. Obviously Russell is a phenomenal quarterback. He makes a lot of things happen. But they’re all team wins.”

It was a bit of a turning point for the Bears as well. It was the final game of Urlacher’s otherwise stellar NFL career. The Bears, who were 7-1 three weeks prior to that game, finished 10-6 and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Smith was fired, Marc Trestman was hired and the rest is history. They are 15-21 since that Seahawks game.