RENTON – The NFL’s Mad Scientist, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, has had to reel in his aggressive nature of late with the absence of quarterback Jay Cutler, who’s out for at least the last three games of the regular season with a broken right thumb on his throwing hand.
Instead, the Bears have leaned on an improved ground game with backup quarterback Caleb Hanie leading the offense. Still, that offense has failed to muster enough yardage to close out games, losing three straight.
Playing behind a makeshift offensive line and without his top offensive weapon – running back Matt Forte, unavailable because of an MCL sprain – Hanie has predictably struggled.
The Colorado State product has thrown for 502 yards in three games, completing 52 percent of his passes. He has two touchdown passes to go with six interceptions. Hanie has been sacked 15 times in three games, and has a dismal 48.6 passer rating.
The Bears are averaging 11 points a game in their three-game skid headed into Sunday’s matchup with Seattle. But Hanie said he believes he still can run the full complement of the Bears’ offense.
“It’s mostly the same stuff,” the 26-year-old said. “I feel like I’m a good fit in this offense – rhythm passing, getting the ball out in time and playing smart. Nothing has really changed.”
Chicago coach Lovie Smith isn’t looking for an excuse for his offense’s lack of productivity with the Bears’ top two playmakers out.
“This is who we are,” Smith said. “It’s next guy up with us. Injuries are a part of it. Each year we have injuries. Every team in the league has injuries, so you can’t change who you are based on a couple of injuries, and we haven’t.”
For the Seahawks, Hanie is the next in a long line of nondescript quarterbacks they’ve faced of late, including Washington’s Rex Grossman, Philadelphia’s Vince Young, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, Cleveland’s Colt McCoy and a banged up Sam Bradford for St. Louis.
There’s no doubt that Seattle’s pass defense is much improved from last year. The Seahawks have allowed 16 passing touchdowns through 12 games, seventh-best in the league. And Seattle has 17 interceptions, tied for fifth-best in the league.
In 2010, the Seahawks allowed 31 passing touchdowns, tied for third-worst in the NFL, and corralled 12 interceptions.
But part of the reason for Seattle’s success is they Sea-hawks have played against only one of the top five passers in the league – New York Giants signal-caller Eli Manning, who threw for 420 yards, his high this season, in the Seahawks’ 36-25 victory on Oct. 9.
The Seahawks will continue to face some of the lower-tier quarterbacks in the final three weeks of the season. Following the Bears, Seattle faces San Francisco’s Alex Smith, the 18th-ranked passer in the league, in the team’s final home game.
In the season finale. Seattle takes on the 25th-ranked passer, Arizona’s Kevin Kolb, in the Sonoran Desert.
Still, Carroll’s been pleased with his team’s ability to defend the pass.
“We’ve been more aggressive,” Carroll said. “We’re more consistent, for sure. Also, I think on the back end we’ve played much steadier throughout the year in not giving up the big plays that give those numbers up. Earl (Thomas) has had a lot to do with that. He’s really been consistent back there. Of course, Kam (Chancellor) has played very well, too.
“Those guys are big factors in not allowing plays to get out, but also our corner play has been much more aggressive and has been much more effective. I also think that (linebacker) K.J. Wright has been a really good addition pass-drop-wise. He’s a very good pass coverage guy. You see he’s got his hands on balls, he’s in passing lanes a lot and he’s been a factor.”
SEAHAWKS’ ‘ROCKET’ READY FOR TAKEOFF
Ricardo Lockette was all smiles talking to reporters on Wednesday about being elevated from the practice squad to the active roster for the first time in his professional career.
“It’s a dream come true, man” Lockette said. “I’ve been waiting on this since I was 5 or 6, playing little league football and my dad being the head coach.”
The 25-year-old – called “Rocket” by his teammates because of his lightning speed – had made several impressive catches in practice during training camp and in practice the past couple week, resulting in his promotion.
“The Rocket is coming up, and we’re happy to make that move for him,” Carroll said. “He’s been practicing like crazy and working like he’s been part of the roster.”
Lockette said that he’s greatly improved since arriving as a green rookie in July.
Lockette, from Albany, Ga., said he was initially offered a scholarship by Auburn, but his SAT scores weren’t good enough and he instead attended NCAA Division II Fort Valley State in Georgia, where his father played running back and his mother played volleyball.
In track, Lockette won the Division II championship in the 200 meters. His best sanctioned time in the 200 is 20.63 seconds. His personal best in the 100 is 10.28 seconds.
“I just try and translate that to the field and control my routes a bit more,” Lockette said. “And hopefully I get a chance to make some big plays with the Seahawks.”
Lockette also wanted to clear something up – he’s not a track guy playing football, but a football player who ran track. Lockette said he only participated in track for three years during college, but has played football since he was 6 years old.
The Seahawks practiced without pads outside for about 90 minutes Wednesday. Linebacker David Hawthorne (knee), offensive lineman Robert Gallery (hip), defensive end Raheem Brock (calf) and receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle) did not practice. Cornerback Kennard Cox (hamstring), linebacker Leroy Hill (neck), quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) and offensive lineman Jarriel King were full participants. For Chicago, linebacker Lance Briggs (non-injury related), quarterback Jay Cutler (right thumb), running back Matt Forte (knee), defensive tackle Henry Melton (shin) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) did not practice. Offensive guard Edwin Williams (calf) and safety Major Wright (shoulder) were limited. The Seahawks signed cornerback Coye Francies to the practice squad, the spot opened up when Ricardo Lockette was elevated to the active roster. Francies was a sixth-round pick by Cleveland in 2009. He played for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL in 2010, and went to training camp with the Browns this year but was cut on Sept. 3.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks