The Seattle Seahawks’ unexpected playoff push came to a chilly end today. The Chicago Bears struck early and often, scoring three first-half touchdowns, and a late Seahawks flurry of points came after the issue was long decided as the Bears cruised to a 35-24 victory in their NFC divisional playoff game at cold, snowy Soldier Field.
Quarterback Jay Cutler passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more for the Bears, who will play host to the Green Bay Packers next Sunday in the NFC championship game.
The Seahawks’ season ends after winning the NFC West championship – with a 7-9 record – by beating the St. Louis Rams on the final Sunday of the regular season, then upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the wild-card playoff round a week ago at Qwest Field.
After scoring 41 points against the Saints, the Seahawks could get nothing going until it was far too late against a vaunted Bears defense in far-from-ideal weather conditions.
Game-time temperature was 25 degrees, with snow falling. The Seahawks punted on all seven of their first-half possessions – and again on their first two possessions of the second half.
Trailing 28-0, the Seahawks finally got on the board with a field goal late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, they added two short Matt Hasselbeck-to-Mike Williams touchdown passes, and other scoring toss from Hasselbeck to Brandon Stokley with 2:16 to play.
But the Bears had long since taken the suspense out of this one.
On their third offensive play, Cutler hit tight end Greg Olsen with a 58-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes into the game, and the Bears used another Cutler-Olsen connection to set up a second first-quarter TD.
The Bears added a third touchdown early in the second quarter, and took a 21-0 lead into halftime, as the Seahawks struggled to move the ball.
The Bears had no such struggles. They gained 238 total yards to 96 for the Seahawks in the first half, and had 11 first downs to Seattle’s six. Neither team turned the ball over.
Chicago put the game away by putting together a long third-quarter touchdown drive, taking nearly eight minutes to move 70 yards in 14 plays. Cutler covered the final nine yards for a 28-0 lead with 4:18 to play in the third period.
The Seahawks, finally, showed some life. Leon Washington’s 62-yard kickoff return set them up at the Bears’ 30-yard line. But on fourth-and-nine from the Chicago 12 – despite trailing by four touchdowns – the Seahawks opted for a 30-yard Olindo Mare field goal to make it 28-3.
The first of Hasselbeck’s three fourth-quarter touchdown passes made it 28-10. But the Bears answered with Cutler’s 39-yard scoring pass to Kellen Davis, and it was 35-10 with only 4:47 left in the game.
The Seahawks squeezed in two more scores before the finish, but the Bears had put the game away much earlier.
The Cutler-Olsen touchdown bomb gave them a great start. The second Chicago score, a one-yard run by Chester Taylor, capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive with 1:19 left in the first quarter. Devin Hester’s 26-yard punt return set the Bears up at midfield.
The Bears’ third touchdown, a six-yard scramble by Cutler on a third-down play, completed a nine-play, 63-yard drive with 10:01 left in the first half.
Seahawks tight end John Carlson was injured during the Seahawks’ second possession after catching a 14-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck, and was removed from the field on a stretcher.
In the third quarter, Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant was hurt making a tackle, and also was taken off on a stretcher.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game that both Carlons and Trufant both sustained concussions, but that both were responding to treatment and would be OK.