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CHICAGO – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
If Pete Carroll has said that once since he was hired as coach of the Seahawks 23 months ago, he’s said it 23,000 times. And Sunday, the Seahawks put their coach’s repetitive words into repetitive action in a 38-14 victory of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The Seahawks outscored the Bears 31-0 in the second half, which allowed them a win for the fifth time in six games in the second half of the season.
“The thing that really at hand for hand for us right now is about finishing,” Carroll said. “Since the halfway point, we made a big declaration that we’re to step ahead and start playing better football. And these guys have done that.
“I’m proud of the way they’re going right now.”
The victory stretched the Seahawks’ winning streak to three games, their longest since a five-game run in 2007. It also even their record at 7-7, the first time they’ve been .500 since Week 13 last season, and kept their playoff hopes alive as they prepare to host the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on Christmas Eve.
The victory did cost the Seahawks receiver Mike Williams, who broke an ankle and will miss the final two games.
The Seahawks didn’t just wreck the Bears’ hopes of ending a three-game losing streak, they did it in record fashion.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 42 extremely-difficult-to-gain yards, making him the Seahawks’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2005. Lynch also scored twice, running his streak of games with touchdowns to 10, which broke the record that Alexander set in ’05 and Lynch tied Monday night’s win over the St. Louis Rams.
Brandon Browner intercepted a pass – his fifth in the past four games – and returned it 42 yards for a TD, breaking the club single-season record for return yards off interceptions. It also was Browner’s second pick-six this season.
Red Bryant – 330-pound defensive end Red Bryant – also had a pick-six, returning his third-quarter interception 20 yards for a touchdown.
Free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman also had interceptions, while rookie linebacker K.J. Wright had the hit on Bears QB Calib Hanie that led to Bryant’s big play. In all, the Seahawks forced five turnovers in keeping their playoff hopes flickering after starting the season 2-6.
At 7-7, the Seahawks are tied with the Bears and New York Giants on the cusp, behind the Green Packers, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, who already are in; and the Dallas Cowboys (8-6), Atlanta Falcons (9-5) and Detroit Lions, who also have better records. And the Seahawks have beaten both the Giants and the Bears – on the road.
But none that would have meant anything without the Seahawks’ overpowering performance in the second half against the Bears.
“The focus at halftime was we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Bryant, who now has two interceptions to go with his four blocked kicks this season. “So guys were paying attention to executing and making sure we were doing our job.”
The defense did its job the entire game, limiting the Bears to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hanie to Kahlil Bell in the second quarter. Their other TD came when QB Tarvaris Jackson lost the ball in the end zone and Bears defensive end Israel Idonije recovered it.
But Jackson was another example of that finishing-strong credo. After completing 4 of 12 passes in the first half, Jackson was 15 of 19 in the second half. He threw a 2-yard TD pass to fullback Michael Robinson, but more importantly did not throw an interception.
“It was just different opportunities,” Jackson said after passing for 227 yards and spreading his 19 completions to 10 receivers. “We opened it up a little bit more, and it helped us finish better.”
And, as everyone on this surging team knows, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“What a really cool day for our football team,” Carroll said. “It’s just exciting to see these guys latch onto the ability to play late in the season and late in games and finish football games.”