CHICAGO—The Seahawks defense got off to a rather inauspicious start the first time it took the field Monday night, committing penalties on consecutive plays to help the Bears, who opened the drive backed up to their 4-yard line, quickly advance to the 27.
Ten plays and one more defensive penalty later, the Bears were in the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead, and it looked like a short-handed Seahawks defense could be in for a long night.
But instead of letting that first Bears possession be a sign of things to come, Seattle’s defense managed to be a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing night for the Seahawks, who lost 24-17 to fall to 0-2.
“Once we got over the penalty situation with the defense, the guys played really good,” Carroll said. “It’s remarkable to note how Austin Calitro played, Mychal (Kendricks) coming in on a couple of days’ time, Akeem King starting and playing for the first time ever.”
As Carroll notes, the Seahawks had a number of players filling in because of injuries to Week 1 starters Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Tre Flowers. Kendricks, who started for Wright, only signed with Seattle on Friday, while King opened the season on the practice squad before being added to the 53-man roster earlier this month.
“Those guys did a nice job, because we played a good game on defense and really gave ourselves a chance with a couple of turnovers, and we weren’t able to capitalize on those, but still they stopped them and got their offense off the field a couple of times that were huge,” Carroll said. “So we’re still a work in progress. You can see how hard our guys play, you can see how they fought throughout all the way until the last seconds on the clock. That’s going to help us win games, and we need to get going, we need to get our wins going.”
Players on both sides of the ball noticed the efforts of the defense, which limited the Bears to 271 yards and had two takeaways. Following their opening touchdown, the Bears had four punts, two interceptions, one touchdown and a field goal the rest of the night.
“The one thing tonight, I'll say our defense played really, really well in terms of being able to play without some guys and to step up like that and play just tough as nails,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Disappointing we weren't able to pull it out. But I think that was one of the exciting parts for sure.”
Calitro, making his first start at middle linebacker, matched Bradley McDougald for the team high in tackles with eight, while Kendricks added three tackles, a sack and a pass defensed in his Seahawks debut.
“It's hard to play without those guys and we did, and Austin did a great job and Mychal Kendricks did a great job to jump in for K.J., fantastic job and made a sack and made some good tackles. I think Calitro might have had eight or nine tackles, something like that probably,” Carroll said. “It was a huge night for him. He came through in a great fashion for us.”
“The defense played great," Carroll added. "I thought they played a fantastic game throughout and they were determined to run the ball and they got 80 yards or something like that. The one drive in the second half was a really well schooled-up drive for them. They mixed pretty well and got the ball down the field by dinking and dunking and running it but other than that the guys played great.”
Despite missing several key players, McDougald said the newness on defense wasn’t a big issue.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that bad,” said McDougald, who on top of his eight tackles also deflected pass that set up one of Shaquill Griffin’s two interceptions. “We just communicated. We talked about that at the beginning of the week, we were going to focus on communication—over communicating. When you’ve got new guys like that in key spots, you’ve got to communicate, you’ve got to make sure everybody’s on the same page. We didn’t have room for errors, we didn’t have room for ‘my bads,’ or guys not communicating right.”
Another way the Seahawks helped mitigate the loss of two starting linebackers was to frequently replace a linebacker with a third safety, bringing Tedric Thompson into the game in place of Kendricks, leaving Calitro as the only linebacker on the field, instead of playing nickel with five defensive backs and two linebackers. It’s a look that Carroll said the Seahawks could try more of in the future.
“We are trying to keep the linebackers from having too much of a game plan, too much burden on them, particularly Mychal to learn too much,” Carroll said. “It's such a short time. I thought Bradley played a fantastic game and again the safeties did a really good job. They had to be on it, and to position Bradley and move him around like that, and get T2 on the field, that's a nice substitution for us. I'm anxious to see us grow with that.”
In the end, the Seahawks flew home disappointed for the second straight week, but thanks to a promising performance by a short-handed defense, not to mention the fourth-quarter fight shown by the offense, players remain confident that they’ll get on the right track soon.
“Obviously guys are upset, we’ve been grinding for a long time, we definitely expected a better start that this, but it is what it is,” McDougald said. “We can’t dwell on it too long. We’ve got another big game on Sunday coming up, so we’re going to review it, get over it and get back to work, that’s the only thing we can do.
“I definitely feel like we’re close. It doesn’t feel good to be close, but we’re close. It’s something here or there, a play here, a pay there, a turnover, we’ve just got to stick to the game plan, stick to our fundamentals and just keep playing our ball, and things will turn our way.”
Fan photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears.