SEATTLE – Facing the heavily-favored Seahawks without the injured Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery Sunday, the Bears planned to rely on their defense and a ball-control ground game.
The formula worked in the first half as the defense allowed just two field goals and 125 total yards, while Kyle Long rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries, helping the Bears control the clock for 18:01.
But major deficiencies in two key aspects of the game—their passing attack and special-teams play—ruined any chance of the Bears pulling off a stunning upset and led to a 26-0 loss.
With the defeat, the Bears fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2003 and equaled a franchise record set in 1978 and matched in 2002 with their eighth straight loss dating back to last season.
The Bears mustered only 146 total yards and seven first downs Sunday, punting on all 10 of their possessions. They crossed the 50 once all game, reaching the Seattle 45 in the second quarter.
With Cutler unable to play due to a hamstring injury, backup Jimmy Clausen completed just 9 of 17 passes for 63 yards and a 61.6 passer rating. Since Cutler was injured late in the second quarter last week against the Cardinals, Clausen has failed to produce a touchdown on 19 possessions.
An impressive goal-line stand by the Bears defense forced the Seahawks to settle for Steven Hauschka's 21-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, giving Seattle a 6-0 lead.
But the lift that provided was erased when Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett returned the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, widening the margin to 13-0. A week earlier, Cardinals rookie David Johnson returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a score against the Bears.
"You never want a momentum swing like that," said safety Antrel Rolle. "The beginning of the game and coming out in the second half, those are crucial points in the game that you want to shut the opponents down. That's two weeks in a row we've given up seven points on a kickoff. That's not acceptable, so something needs to change and it needs to change ASAP."
The kickoff return touchdown wasn't the only special-teams blunder by the Bears. In the first half, a trick play by the Seahawks resulted in Richard Sherman's 64-yard punt return, which set up Hauschka's first of four field goals without a miss.
The Seahawks return team acted as if Pat O'Donnell's punt was heading toward one sideline when it actually was drifting to Sherman on the other side of the field. It's a play that the Bears first ran under then-special teams coordinator Dave Toub against the Packers in 2011 and it's been copied by the Rams last season and the University of Utah on Saturday.
The Seahawks dominated the second half, outgaining the Bears 246-37. Seattle scored its only offensive touchdown of the game on Russell Wilson's 30-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham late in the third quarter to make it 20-0.
Wilson completed 20 of 30 passes for 235 yards with 1 TD, no interceptions and a 101.4 passer rating. He is now 23-2 as a starter in home games in four seasons with the Seahawks.
Lynch exited in the second half with a hamstring injury after being limited to 14 yards on five carries. Rookie Thomas Rawls more than picked up the slack by gaining 104 yards on 16 attempts.
It was the first time the Bears have been shut out since the 2002 season finale when they lost to the Buccaneers 15-0 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, a span of 195 games.
The Bears will return home next Sunday to host the Raiders (2-1), still looking for their first win of the season.
"You have to keep sawing," Rolle said. "You have to keep going and understand that tough times never last but tough people always do. We're going through a lot of adversity now.
"Nothing's going to be given to us. So we have to go out there and take it. And in order for us to do that, we know that we must stick together and keep pushing each other every day in practice as we have been doing thus far, and just keep rolling."