SEATTLE — In the history of their franchise, the Bears had never allowed more than one kickoff return touchdown in a season. Sunday, they gave up their second in as many weeks.
It was eerily familiar: again, a rookie set the franchise record for longest score. Tyler Lockett’s 105–yarder started the second half Sunday; in Week 2, David Johnson’s 108-yarder began the game.
Special teams was not the reason the winless Bears lost to the Seahawks, 26-0, at CenturyLink Field, nor the reason they were shut out for the first time since the Buccaneers beat them, 15-0, on Dec. 29, 2002.
It was indicative of a larger problem — being outplayed by a younger, faster, better team after a deceptively competitive first half. The Bears’ offense was bound to struggle without quarterback Jay Cutler or wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Their defense, before Sunday, was the worst in the NFL.
Their margin for error is the width of a silver dollar without special teams ineptitude.
“We have to evaluate what we’re doing,” coach John Fox said, “and who we’re doing it with.”
Fox said having punter Pat O’Donnell kick off might be a solution.
If they were outrun on the kickoff return, they were outfoxed in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-four at the Bears’ 41, O’Donnell punted left, as was the plan. Lockett, the deep man, ran in the opposite direction, toward his left, as though he was fielding the punt. His blockers ran that way, too.
With everyone watching Lockett, Richard Sherman caught the punt exactly where O’Donnell had kicked it — toward the Bears’ left — and scampered untouched until being tackled by Lamin Barrow 64 yards later.
Share Events on The Cube“I didn’t even know he was running the ball until I heard the crowd,” said Bears receiver Josh Bellamy, who was double-teamed as a coverage man. “I’m looking up, like, ‘What’s going on?’ I’ve never seen nothing like that.’ “
The Seahawks had; the Rams used a similar trick against them last year. Former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub tried it in 2011, though a Johnny Knox score was brought back by a holding penalty.
“It changed everything,” linebacker John Timu said. “In the first half they had a big return on the punt, but defense was playing lights-out.
“In the second half when they had that kickoff and it goes for a touchdown, it changes the whole game.
“The defense didn’t even have to go out there, and we’re giving up points.”
With quarterback Jimmy Clausen overmatched — he completed 9-of-17 passes for 63 yards — the Bears’ best scoring chance, too, was on special teams.
In the second quarter, they believed O’Donnell’s punt hit the leg of Seattle’s Luke Willson. Fox threw the replay flag, believing that Sherrick McManis’ downing of the kick entitled the Bears to the ball at the Seattle 13.
They were so convinced the call would be overturned that they sent their offense on the field during the review.
But it was not overturned. Seattle got the ball. The Bears’ offense never got that close to the end zone again.
“We can’t keep giving up big plays every week,” running back Jacquizz Rodgers said.
Said Bellamy: “Stuff like that’s not supposed to happen.”
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