When the Seattle Seahawks play the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL regular season, it’ll be Seattle’s first trip to Soldier Field since December 2nd, 2012. It was on that day that Russell Wilson truly arrived on the scene as a future superstar quarterback. His stat-line reads 23-of-37 for 293 yards, 2 touchdowns, 71 rushing yards, and 0 turnovers against a Bears team that led the NFL with 44 takeaways doesn’t begin to describe how phenomenal he was and how important this game proved to be.
Seahawks fans know what would soon transpire thanks to Wilson’s heroics, this was the starting point for a vastly different story for the Bears.
The way the final standings played out, had Russell Wilson not led consecutive 80-yard touchdown drives against by far the #1 defense in DVOA, the Seahawks would’ve finished out of postseason contention even if they’d won their final four games (which they did). 10-6 was not good enough to guarantee a playoff spot, as the Minnesota Vikings edged out the Bears on a divisional tiebreaker. Chicago entered that Seattle game at 8-3, and three weeks later they’d fallen to 8-6 and unable to win the NFC North. I don’t want to go too deep into predicting the playoffs from there, but it’s hardly a stretch to think that the Bears could’ve done some damage and made a run for the Super Bowl had they qualified.
While Seattle rode this priceless road victory to the first of five consecutive playoff berths, two Super Bowl appearances, and a Super Bowl win, the Bears steadily plunged into irrelevance. After the 2012 regular season ended, Lovie Smith was fired, Brian Urlacher retired, and after a good start to the 2013 season under Marc Trestman, a horribly blown coverage on 4th down on the final day of the regular season cost the Bears the NFC North division title. They’ve not come remotely close to the playoffs since then and are currently on their third different head coach since firing Lovie.
If you look at the regular season win percentages of the two teams since 2013, the Seahawks ranked second behind (obviously) the New England Patriots, while the Bears are 29th, only ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns. Those four teams combined have two playoff appearances for the whole of this decade.
That number one DVOA defense the Bears boasted in 2012? It dropped to 25th in 2013, 28th in 2014, 31st in 2015, rose to 23rd in 2016, and shot up to 14th last year, only one spot behind the Seahawks, perhaps an early sign that things are actually looking up for Chicago once more.
New head coach Matt Nagy will look to develop Mitchell Trubisky into a top-flight franchise quarterback. The Bears offense was going to remain stuck in the stone age under John Fox, so they had to make a change ASAP.
But perhaps none of this ever happens — at a minimum, the mass-rebuild gets delayed — if Wilson didn’t go into hostile territory and save Seattle’s season with masterful drives to end the 4th quarter and overtime. If prevailing opinion is that the Seahawks are on the decline and the Bears are on the rise again, September 17th may prove to be a more intriguing game than you might think, and it could once again come down to the arms and legs of #3.