Tyler Clutts of the Chicago Bears warms up before their game against the Seattle Seahawks at Sodler Field in Chicago, IL on Sunday December 18, 2011 | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2012 8:15AM
The fan exodus for the exits started early in the fourth quarter, when Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons sacked Caleb Hanie on the Bears’ third consecutive three-and-out series.
The exodus continued as Leon Washington gained 36 yards on a punt return on a drive that ended with an easy two-yard touchdown catch by fullback Michael Robinson.
By the time Josh McCown replaced Hanie — who threw his second pick-six moments earlier — there appeared to be fewer than 10,000 fans left from an announced crowd of 61,542 at Soldier Field.
“Tough week for us. No way around that,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “But I can see the frustration on the fans’ part. We won’t have a lot of days like this. We’ll bounce back.”
The Bears (7-7) surrendered 31 consecutive points in the second half in a 38-14 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday. Their fourth straight defeat put their playoff hopes on life support.
“It was just crazy, man, the turn of events,” Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. “We were up, then we weren’t. Just like that.”
The Seahawks were sluggish in the first half, perhaps feeling the effects of playing on Monday night, then traveling two time zones to play what equated to a morning game for them.
Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was a pedestrian 4-for-12 for 51 yards in the first half. But he completed three consecutive passes to open the second half for 77 yards to set up Marshawn Lynch’s one-yard touchdown run.
The Seahawks (7-7) marched 80 yards in five plays and 118 seconds.
“They went right down the field and scored on us,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said, “and it was all downhill from there.”
Although he was intercepted once in the first half, Hanie was 7-for-15 for 92 yards. In the second half, though, he was 3-for-8 for 19 yards with two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
“We felt like the offense they were able to generate in the first half, we felt we gave it to them,” said Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, who had one of the touchdown returns. “Every man made up in his mind what it was that we wanted to go get, and we went out there and we took it.”
The day didn’t get off to a great start when receiver Johnny Knox suffered a back injury in the first quarter and required a flat board and ambulance ride to a nearby hospital. Knox is scheduled to undergo surgery today, and he’s projected to return next season, according to a source close to the situation.
The Bears could be heading to Green Bay without arguably their top three offensive players. Jay Cutler (thumb) and Matt Forte (knee) are long shots to return from injuries.
But the Packers are no longer undefeated, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14, and they’re dealing with a boatload of injuries. If the San Francisco 49ers lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, the Packers will clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC, leaving them little to play for in their final two games against the Bears and Detroit Lions.
The Packers, though, might consider seizing an opportunity to finish off two NFC North opponents.
“We’ll just go out there and play and see what happens if we can get in at 9-7,” Roy Williams said. “Anything can happen.”