Road goats no more, unfriendly visitors at last, the Seahawks put on a traveling show Sunday worthy of coach Pete Carroll’s pet adverb.
“Beautifully,” Carroll said again and again, describing how well his team played in a 23-20 victory over Chicago. He used the word six times during his postgame remarks, sprinkling his sunshine on everything from Mike Williams’ 10 receptions to Justin Forsett’s running to the importance of last week’s bye. If the Seahawks had done anything else beautifully, Carroll would’ve forced the masses to overdose on positivity.
When a franchise loses 17 of its last 20 road games, such is the reaction. It’s beautifully appropriate.
“This is a big deal for us,” said Carroll, the first-year coach who won for the first time in three tries away from Qwest Field.
How big? Well, you know you’ve got some fierce road demons when you control the game for 58 of 60 minutes, only to watch your punter mistakenly kick to the most dangerous returner in the NFL, get eviscerated on a block and roll on the ground in pain as Devin Hester scores on an 89-yard touchdown return, leaving the Bears an onside kick away from possibly breaking your heart. But that onside kick landed safely in John Carlson’s hands. Sigh. And celebrate.
The monkey has been evicted from the Seahawks’ backs, for now.
But here’s the most beautifully crafted statement they made with this victory: The Seahawks gave a complete, competent performance in the house of a playoff-caliber team and didn’t need smoke and mirrors, pixie dust or black magic to do so.
“They just played better than us,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “We just got our butts kicked.”
The Seahawks did it with running back Marshawn Lynch, in his first game since Seattle traded for him, reviving a dormant rushing attack with his physical style. His numbers — 17 carries for a measly 44 yards — didn’t portray his impact. Lynch was a factor early. He made the Bears respect the running game. As a result, the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 111 yards against a potent run defense, and Lynch created opportunities for backup tailback Justin Forsett (67 yards on 10 carries) and the passing game. The Seahawks also had control of the ball for nearly 60 percent of the game.
The offense’s effectiveness was a nice complement to its rugged defense. The Bears ran for just 61 yards, and Matt Forte, coming off a 166-yard performance, finished with just 11 in this game. With the ground game neutralized, the Seahawks could tee off on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. They sacked Cutler six times with a mix of exotic blitzes and held the Bears without a third-down conversion (0 for 12). Everyone contributed in their specialized roles. Six players had at least a half-sack, led by Jordan Babineaux, who finished with 1.5 sacks and forced a safety.
Said strong safety Lawyer Milloy: “On third-and-long situations, we brought the kitchen sink.”
Said middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu: “We’ve got dogs on our defense. You call any of our numbers, and we’re coming full speed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my number called. I was in coverage. But I saw what was happening.”
It was beautifully violent.
This was a glimpse of the kind of style Carroll wants to play. The formula isn’t complicated, but it can be unstoppable. Power running game. Efficient quarterback play. Dogged defense. Solid special teams. Infectious energy and spirit.
With just a few exceptions, the Seahawks were that team. And if they play this way, they can compete with anyone, anywhere. It’ll be a while before the team is consistent, and clearly the Bears, despite a 4-2 record, have some problems. But you should know by now that Seattle road victories are too rare to dismiss.
“It’s the first complete win we’ve had so far,” Tatupu said of the 3-2 Seahawks. “Against San Francisco, the defense dominated. Against San Diego, the special teams dominated. This game, the offense dominated, and we all supported them. The addition of Marshawn Lynch is incredible for us.”
Carroll says “you can feel” where the Seahawks are headed. For the first time, he’s not preaching to a largely cynical congregation. He’s turning more and more pessimists into optimists with each breakthrough.
The Seahawks are improving — rapidly. They’re still prone to setbacks, but they are improving.
“That’s probably the most emotion and energy we’ve brought to an away game,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.
And so, after 13 straight road losses to non-divisional foes, the Seahawks didn’t forget to pack their competitiveness this time. They’re truly a new team.
Beautifully done, fellas.