Bears lose again, blanked in Seattle without Jay Cutler

SEATTLE – The Chicago Bears went back to basics with starting quarterback Jay Cutler out with a strained hamstring. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase repeatedly called running plays to Matt Forte out of multiple tight end sets to offset having to play quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who is now 1-11 lifetime as a starter. The plan worked, at least initially. The Bears trailed by only six points at halftime after controlling the football for 18:01 and 87 rushing yards on 21 attempts. The physical approach kept the game respectable until the Seahawks pulled away to win 26-0.

What it means: The Bears (0-3) have dropped eight consecutive regular-season games and will probably miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years. Chicago kept it relatively close, but Seattle predictably pulled away in the second half. Clausen is a game manager. He’s not a playmaker. Chicago misses Cutler, badly. The good news is the Bears could beat the Raiders (2-1) next week at Soldier Field. That is not a guarantee, but Chicago can run the ball and control the clock. Oakland is not on the same level as Seattle, Arizona or Green Bay. With 13 games left on the schedule, the Bears need to win six or seven to show real progress and appease the fan base.

What were they thinking? The first one is on the officials. At the 8:37 mark of the second quarter, Sherrick McManis downed a punt at the Seattle 13 that appeared to touch a member of the Seahawks. John Fox challenged the ruling on the field, but the call was surprisingly upheld. Also, Brock Vereen covering Jimmy Graham? Not a good idea. Graham smoked the reserve safety for a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Talk about a mismatch.

One reason to get excited: Hey, look … a pass rush! The Bears actually brought some heat on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Led by Jarvis Jenkins (two sacks) and Pernell McPhee (two sacks), Chicago’s defense generated fairly consistent pressure, a major improvement over the first two weeks of the season, when the Bears went without a sack against Green Bay and Arizona.

One reason to panic: Remember when Chicago used to be synonymous with special teams? The third phase is a disaster. The Bears allowed a kickoff return touchdown of 100 yards or longer for the second consecutive week. How does that happen?

Fantasy watch: Fantasy points were going to be tough to come by with Clausen at quarterback. Forte is the only guy who put up numbers, but he failed to score a touchdown or rush for 100 yards.

Ouch: Defensive lineman Will Sutton suffered a left biceps injury and did not return. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod left the game with a concussion and was replaced by Charles Leno.

Duped: The Seahawks pulled a page out of Dave Toub’s old playbook. The former Bears special teams coordinator once invented a punt return in which the primary returner would drift away from the punt and signal for a bogus fair catch while a second return man would sneak in to field the football. The Seahawks ran the trick play to perfection against Jeff Rodgers’ befuddled coverage team in the first quarter. With the Bears suckered into thinking Pat O’Donnell’s punt traveled to their right, Richard Sherman stayed on the left hash and returned the ball 60 yards, setting up Seattle’s first field goal. Think the Bears miss Toub’s brand of special teams?