The Seattle Seahawks find themselves in a position they haven’t been in four years, but they’re not overreacting after two disappointing losses.
The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, would seem to have plenty of reasons to panic.
Playing in Seattle for the first time, the Seahawks look to win for the 27th time in 29 home games Sunday against Chicago.
Virtually no one expected the Seahawks – a franchise tied for second in the league with 36 wins from 2012-14 – to be in this position. But after defeats at St. Louis and Green Bay, they’re off to their worst start since 2011 and are sitting at the bottom of the NFC West, which they’ve won seven of the last 11 seasons.
"To play at the level that we have played at the last three years, we’ve done a lot of things really well and to play at that level you have to because you’re challenged at every turn," coach Pete Carroll said. "There is a lot of fine-tuning to get that done. There are a lot of teams that almost get on top but it’s very challenging. We’re in the fine-tuning of it and not starting well doesn’t mean we won’t finish well."
Though Carroll was level-headed in his assessment, he couldn’t help but be miffed by his team’s inability to close games out. The Seahawks blew fourth-quarter leads in both losses, giving up 80-plus yard drives in each game that culminated in touchdowns.
"Not finishing. Not finishing when we had the chance to win," Carroll said. "Whatever the circumstances were that led up to the finish, let’s finish the thing and get out of there."
The good news is that Seattle plays three of its next four at CenturyLink Field, where it has lost only twice in the regular season and has gone 4-0 in the playoffs since 2012. The Seahawks also recovered from a lackluster start last year, finishing 12-4 despite splitting their first six games.
But perhaps what’s most encouraging is that one of the league’s best safeties has returned. Kam Chancellor reported Wednesday, ending his nearly eight-week holdout. Coming off his second straight second-team All-Pro selection, Chancellor has deflected 29 passes with eight interceptions in 61 starts since 2011.
The Seattle secondary, which limited opponents to an NFC-low 6.3 yards per attempt and an 80.4 passer rating last year, has given up 9.1 and 116.4 this year.
Chancellor’s return doesn’t bode well for the Bears, who are expected to start Jimmy Clausen after Jay Cutler suffered a strained hamstring in last Sunday’s 48-23 loss to Arizona, and could be sidelined for a few weeks.
Clausen was 14 of 23 for 121 yards with an interception in relief. He’s 1-10 as a starter, and his 60.0 passer rating is the lowest among the 67 quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts since 2010, his rookie year.
"Most backups are not getting all those reps (in practice) regardless of the position," coach John Fox said. "I think at the quarterback position it’s a little tougher because you have to be in tune to everybody else completely. But I think all in all he did OK."
With Clausen at the helm, Chicago figures to lean heavily on Matt Forte, whose 271 yards from scrimmage leads all running backs.
The quarterback situation is just one in a litany of issues for Chicago (0-2). Top receiver Alshon Jeffery is out again after a hamstring sidelined him against Arizona. The Bears have floundered defensively, failing to record a sack in consecutive games for the first time since Week 2 and 3 in 2010. And they’ve also been by hurt by a lack of discipline, getting whistled for 20 penalties for 234 yards, including a franchise record-matching 170 yards against the Cardinals.
Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham figures to be able to take advantage of this matchup. He had just one reception for 11 yards against Green Bay, a letdown after he caught six passes for 51 yards and a score in his Seahawks debut.
"I think he is (frustrated). I think he is a competitor. He wants the ball, he wants to help us win. I don’t think there is any question. I feel that too," Carroll said. "He’s worked hard, he’s great about it. He wants to do everything he can to help us."
Chicago gave up 13 TDs to opposing tight ends in 2014, the second-most in the NFL.
Marshawn Lynch has also been bottled up with 114 yards while failing to find the end zone, and he’s questionable due to a calf injury. Seattle hopes Lynch can play since he’s ran for 28 TDs in his last 25 home games – including the playoffs.
Seattle owns a 10-4 edge in regular-season games in the series, winning four of the last five meetings.