When Seattle Needed an Identity, Matt Hasselbeck Found His as Seahawks' Savior

Rob StatonCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2009

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 11:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles against linebacker Daryl Smith #52 of the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 11, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Jaguars 41-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Matt Hasselbeck ran onto the field yesterday waving his hands, punching the air, and demanding everyone else prepare for battle.

With the Seahawks' season hanging by a thread, this was a game that needed to be won.

Hasselbeck knew that...and he was ready.

At times, he was spotted nursing those broken ribs, still not fully healed after a Week Two hammering from Patrick Willis.

He was also seen scrambling around behind a make shift offensive line, consisting of Seattle's fourth string left tackle Kyle Williams.

But when the tough times come you need your franchise guys to set the tone. Hasselbeck's four touchdown performance as Seattle swept past Jacksonville 41-0 proved the Seahawks will only go as far as their quarterback will take them.

After two decidedly disappointing defeats against Chicago and Indianapolis with Seneca Wallace starting, it was no surprise to see the three-time pro-bowler on the field Sunday.

He knows more than anyone the importance of being healthy. Having missed 13 games since Seattle's Super Bowl flirtation and having recently celebrated his 34th birthday, he faces the prospect of meeting his replacement.

With two first round picks in the 2010 draft and a deep class of quarterbacks likely to be available, it's not unfathomable to think the Seahawks might look to the future.

Hasselbeck's contract runs out at the end of the 2010 season. If he has hopes of staying in Seattle beyond then, he has to show he can stay healthy.

That may have been playing on his mind when he ran out to a boisterous reception at Qwest Field yesterday. Any pain from those injured ribs numbed not only by a painkilling injection, but also the need to get on with the job.

Any half-hearted concerns that Hasselbeck is a spent force were swiftly brushed aside with a dominant display.

Chemistry seems to be building between quarterback and new receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Outspoken and embarrassed in his last home appearance, Houshmandzadeh scored his first two touchdowns for the Seahawks in a five catch, 77-yard performance.

Nate Burleson also benefited from Hasselbeck's return, recording 98 receiving yards and also scoring a brace of TD's.

Playing in a more up-tempo no huddle offense, Hasselbeck picked apart the Jaguars' secondary with precision. The first touchdown was a work of art and summed up the afternoon—a wonderful pump fake deceiving Rashean Mathis and creating the perfect separation for Houshmandzadeh to score.

He finished with 18 completions from 30 attempts, most of the incomplete passes being intelligent groundings under pressure.

Take nothing away from a much improved defensive display. Lawrence Jackson continues to enjoy a productive start to his second season, recording his fourth sack. Aaron Curry again showed his limitless potential; whilst fellow rookie Nick Reed will never forget his 79-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

But this one's on Hasselbeck. Without him, the Seahawks are a shadow of the team they can be. That was evident enough in last week's humiliating 34-17 defeat in Indianapolis.

In the aftermath of that game, we were left searching for Seattle's identity. We can stop looking now, because it's Matt Hasselbeck's arm.

In 2007, he carried the team to 10-6, the NFC West title and the playoffs.

He'll need to do it again.

The running game is a mere compliment to what the focus has to be. Seattle's strength is in the air, with Hasselbeck supplying the bullets.

His character on and off the field, his experience and determination to get out there when not even close to 100 percent was just the shot in the arm this team needed.

The game against Jacksonville was playoff football for the Seahawks. Lose and you're season's over.

The 41-0 score was a statement. The task in hand going forward is to take that into another huge encounter on the agenda.

Arizona comes to Seattle next weekend ahead of the Seahawks' bye week. It could be a shoot-out and once again Hasselbeck will need to be on top form to keep up with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and co.

If they can get to 3-3 before the bye, it's very much game on in the NFC West.

But the Seahawks will only go as far as Hasselbeck can take them. He proved that on Sunday.


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