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UPDATED 12/19/11 5:43 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Bears are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, but barely, after being mowed down by the Seattle Seahawks in the second half at Soldier Field Sunday.
At halftime, the Bears led 14-7. One of their two touchdowns came in an impressive play by Julius Peppers, in which he knocked the ball loose in into the end zone and Israel Idonije recovered the fumble.
But in the second half, the Seahawks had 31 unanswered points, and quarterback Caleb Hanie had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Hanie was hit hard on one third-quarter play by Seattle’s K.J. Wright, who threw the ball right into Red Bryan’s arms as Seattle scored two touchdowns in a 50-second span.
Brandon Browner returned another interception 42 yards for a TD in the final quarter. And thus, the Bears lost their fourth straight.
The game also saw an injury to wide receiver Johnny Knox, who was carted off the field after injuring his back while scrambling for a fumble early in the game.
Knox’s injury was the latest setback for the Bears over the past month. Quarterback Jay Cutler (broken thumb) and running back Matt Forte (sprained knee) have been sidelined and this week receiver/special teams player Sam Hurd was arrested on federal drug charges and subsequently cut by the team.
“When Jay went down, I thought we were missing a key piece on our football team, but when you look back, we had some opportunities. To go on a four-game losing streak, no, that wasn’t a part of my mindset,” coach Lovie Smith said.
“We’re better than that. We’ve lost a lot injury-wise, but every team in the league will talk about injuries and the people they’ve lost.”
Next up for the Bears are the Packers, who should be in a real foul mood after suffering their first loss Sunday.
Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson came out on the first possession of the third quarter and drove the Seahawks 80 yards. He hit a 33-yard pass to Golden Tate, who broke two tackles on the play, and then hooked up on a 43-yarder to Ben Obomanu, setting up Lynch’s 3-yard TD run to tie the game at 14-14.
After Bryant’s return, Seattle got a 33-yard field goal from Steve Hauschka and then iced the game early in the fourth on Jackson’s 2-yard TD pass to Michael Robinson. That score was set up by Leon Washington’s 36-yard punt return.
Hanie kept his feet moving, stepped to the side of the pocket and bought enough time before delivering a 25-yard TD pass to Kahlil Bell with just under two minutes left in the half for a 14-7 lead.
But then he made the mistake by throwing the ball right to Bryant, a play that put the Seahawks up for good.
“The guy got a little more of me than I anticipated and I forced a throw right to the defensive tackle (end),” Hanie said.
Hanie, who was replaced late in the game by Josh McCown, finished 10 of 23 for 111 yards.
Knox grabbed a pass from Hanie four minutes into the game and lost the ball when Kam Chancellor knocked it out of his hands.
As Knox made a diving attempt to retrieve the ball, he was hit hard by Seattle’s Anthony Hargrove during the scramble. Earl Thomas eventually recovered for the Seahawks at the Bears 23.
Knox remained on the ground for several minutes while he was being attended to before he was put on a stretcher and wheeled off the field with what was announced as a mid-back injury. He put his hands to his face and moved his arms while on the stretcher and got an ovation as he was taken off the field.
The Bears said the injury is not career-threatening. He will have surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his lower to mid-back on Monday.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)