The Seahawks started the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead over Bears, and they led by 7 points midway through the fourth quarter when they drove as far as the Bears 8-yard line, only to see the drive end on a missed field goal after a 13-yard sack on third down.
After the Seahawks defense got a stop, the offense got as far as the Chicago 28-yard line with a chance to put the game away, but they again came up empty. That was followed by a short punt, an 80-yard touchdown drive by the Bears that took only six plays, and a 2-point conversion that gave Chicago a 1-point lead with just over a minute to play.
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The Seahawks had one more chance to take the lead with 1:01 left, but penalties doomed that drive, and Seattle suffered a 25-24 home defeat to the Bears, a team that had come into the game with a 4-9 record having lost eight of its last nine contests.
Add it all up—the blown lead, the inability to score to extend the lead or retake it, the fact that Chicago was on its third option at quarterback, and most notably, the fact that this loss officially eliminated the Seahawks from postseason contention—and it might have been the toughest loss to stomach in a season full of close, heartbreaking losses.
"That was about as disappointing of a loss as we've had," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We were in control in so many ways in that game to go win it and put it away, and we just never did. We let them stay alive, and they found the way to make their plays. We had to do some stuff to give them that opportunity, and they took advantage of it. Give them credit, they've been struggling all year too, and it's a big win for those guys."
Added quarterback Russell Wilson, "We felt like we should have won that game for sure… We should have definitely had this one."
This will be just the third time in 12 seasons under Carroll and general manager John Schneider's leadership that the Seahawks will miss the postseason, along with 2011 and 2017, and this is Seattle's first losing season since 2011, with 10 losses representing a new high in the Carroll/Schneider era. And while there are plenty of different factors in play when it comes to explaining this difficult season, Carroll said it starts with him when it comes to getting it right.
"I feel like I have to do more," Carroll said. "At a time like this, I feel like I've got to find ways to help our guys more so that we don't get in a situation where we even give them a chance. That's what I'm doing—I'm going to try to figure out how I can help get us cleaner down the stretch and win the football game and not give something up, the penalty we get, all that kind of stuff, we've got things that we can do better. We've got to better. And I'm asking them to do the same thing."
A big reason why this Seahawks season has been so frustrating is not just that they're losing a lot more often than they're winning, but also that they continue to lose so many close games, the types of games they've grown accustomed to winning more often than not over the years. With Sunday's loss, the Seahawks dropped to 2-5 in one-score games this season, a total that doesn't include 9 and 10-point losses to the Rams in which the Seahawks had a chance to tie or take the lead late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks are also 0-5 this year in games decided by 3 or fewer points, including two overtime losses.
"I think that's the toughest part about this season," Wilson said. "I think about all the great seasons, all the great moments we've had. This season in particular it feels like we have the lead or whatever it may be, and we can finish better. We have to be able to finish better in my opinion on offense. We can execute better. We can do little things better… In the fourth quarter we had two tremendous opportunities to try to find points—touchdowns or at least field goals, and unfortunately, it didn't work the way we wanted it to. And when you are up like that, we've got to be able to finish."
And just as Wilson and the offense wish they would have scored once or twice more in the fourth quarter to put the game away, a defense that hadn't allowed more than 23 points since Week 5 wasn't happy that it allowed the Bears to score 18 second-half points to get the comeback win.
"It hurts," said linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who had 10 tackles to make it seven straight games with double-digit tackles. "This is a game we're not supposed to lose. We were up by 10 or something, but we came up short, so it hurts. We just have to keep moving forward."
While players will say it's their job to execute and make the plays needed to win games, particularly close ones like this, Carroll says it's ultimately on him to help put players in the best position to succeed.
"I need to do better," Carroll said. "I'm not calling out players for not responding; I have to respond better. I've got to do more for them, and help them more so. Maybe that's a coach's ego or whatever, but I don't mind holding that myself to that kind of accountability. I've just got to find a way, and then we're expecting our other coaches and the players to do the same thing where everybody gives us everything they have to give us every shot to be as good as we can possibly be. And starts with me."
But while Carroll will always maintain it starts with him, players know they too need to step up for the Seahawks to finish the season strong.
"We all have to better," Wilson said. "We all want to be better… We all want to get better. Every player in that locker room, every coach. The only way to get better is to stay focused on what's right ahead of us."
And to that point, while the playoffs are no longer possible, players have no intention of coasting through these final two weeks before beginning their offseason.
"We get up tomorrow morning and we give everything we have," Wilson said. "We get back to work, watch the film—I'm going to watch it tonight—and see where we can get better, where I can get better and continue to learn as much as I can. Nothing ever changes in that sense. To me, that's how you win, that's the process of winning. Every day, no matter the things and lows in life, no matter what's going on around us, no matter what's being said, you have to be consistent in your approach every day. And I'm not going to waver in that sense, I'm not going to waver in how I'm going to approach the game… That's the only thing I know. I don't know anything else."
Said defensive end Carlos Dunlap II, who had two sacks, giving him five the last two games, "We're still focused, committed. We're too invested to quit now, we're going to finish the season strong. As you've seen, all season all these games are coming down to the wire, and here we are, probably with no chance to [reach] the playoffs, and we're still in dogfights every time. You've got to respect that, it just speaks to the character in the locker room right there."
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Chicago Bears at Lumen field for Week 16 of the 2021 season. This album will be updated throughout the game. Game Action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.