Seattle Seahawks' Rewind: Confidence Builder for Playoff in Arizona?

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Seattle Seahawks' Rewind: Confidence Builder for Playoff in Arizona?
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The answer to the question, “Was that a good win for the Seahawks?”, is self-evident. It was a win, so of course it was good.

Now were they good in winning? Well, in the final three quarters they were.

Whether they felt sorry for the Detroit Lions or just figured they needed to create additional adversity for themselves, the Hawks made it tougher than it should have been. But in the end, putting themselves in a 17-0 hole actually enabled them to prove they have resilience.

If they make the playoffs against all odds, this comeback win – albeit against a young and not very good Detroit team – might turn out to be the turning point in the season. And it might have given them the confidence they need going into a do-or-die game in Arizona in Week 10.

In the first quarter Sunday, it looked a lot like the Seahawks’ last home game, the one in which they spotted Arizona an early 14-0 lead and got blown out 27-3 in a game in which their offense could do nothing.

This time the Hawks turned the ball over on their first two plays, leading to two touchdowns for the Lions. And then Jim Mora made an emotional and very ill-advised decision to go for it on fourth-and-one from his own 38-yard line, a move that backfired and led to a Detroit field goal. Just like that, Seattle was down 17-0 after one quarter.

But this was not Arizona. It was the Detroit Lions, a team quarterbacked by a rookie and therefore ripe for the picking. And that’s what the defense did, pulling in five interceptions to aid an offense that still couldn’t run the ball but moved it quite well after the first quarter to pull off the comeback and win 32-20.

The game really was a tale of two QBs: the accurate, savvy veteran vs. the inconsistent, inexperienced rookie.

Matt Hasselbeck contributed to Seattle’s hole early, throwing an interception on his first pass and setting the Lions up for an easy touchdown from the 7-yard line. And then, on Hasselbeck’s next pass, Justin Griffith fumbled the ball away.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit’s rookie QB, took advantage of both turnovers, throwing touchdown passes. The second was a perfect 29-yarder to Bryant Johnson in the back left corner of the end zone.

In the first quarter, Stafford completed 9 of 13 passes for 93 and two touchdowns. But it was all downhill from there, as he threw wildly all over the field, often to the Seahawks. After the first quarter, he completed 13 of 29 for 110 yards, no scores and five interceptions.

Hasselbeck threw it all over the field, too, but he did it accurately. He completed a team-record 39 passes, breaking the record of 36 he set in the 2002 season finale at San Diego. He completed 78 percent for 329 yards, with one touchdown pass and the one interception.

Hasselbeck did it all despite a shoulder bruise he incurred when he tackled Louis Delmas on his first-play interception.

Hasselbeck fought through the bad shoulder, rebounding from the interception to complete 15 straight passes. He also showed his fight when he wanted to go for it with six seconds left in the first half and the Seahawks on the Detroit 14-yard line. But Mora overruled him.

However, they pretended to go for it on fourth down early in the fourth quarter, and Hasselbeck coaxed the Lions into encroachment, giving Seattle a first down at the Detroit 3. When they lined up for that play, it was not a good idea; a field goal would have given them an eight-point lead. But Hasselbeck never intended to run a play; he just wanted to get the Lions to jump offsides. And with a masterful performance – several hard counts, then backing away, then hurrying back under center – he drew the penalty.

Hasselbeck’s performance – despite the early adversity, despite his broken ribs, despite a self-inflicted shoulder injury – drew raves from Mora.

“I just have so much respect for Matt Hasselbeck and his toughness, both physical and mental,” Mora told reporters. “I think today was about both of those things for him. He had to overcome some things physically. … He showed his true leadership to me. He showed everything that he is.

“I don’t know if I have any more respect for any player that I’ve ever coached than I have for Matt Hasselbeck. He’s a veteran, he’s calm, he’s confident, and he has great command of the game. It was his idea to do the freeze play on fourth down. It wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t Greg’s (Knapp’s) idea; it was Matt’s idea. He just has very good command of the game. … He’s a special kind of man.”

Other observations …

Lofa Tatu-who? David Hawthorne is making everyone forget about the Pro Bowl linebacker. In his first start for Tatupu, against Chicago in Week 3, Hawthorne had 16 tackles and an interception. In his second start, last week, he had two sacks and a forced fumble and led the Hawks with eight tackles. And this time, he picked off two passes and led the Hawks with nine impact tackles. He’s playing so well, he has people wondering how the Hawks are going to keep him on the field next year when Tatupu comes back.

The Seahawks have become a good screen team again. Hasselbeck dumped the ball off to his backs 21 times, completing 17. He hit Julius Jones on a 49-yard screen play in the third quarter that set up a touchdown. Then he hit Jones again at the end of the third for seven yards. The Seahawks might have finally learned that the passing game will have to double as the running game until the offensive line starts to become consistent.

Speaking of the line, Sean Locklear did not play, meaning the Seahawks started the same five guys on the line for the second straight week. It didn’t help the running game, which garnered a measly 55 yards on 18 carries. But the pass protection was fine (the Lions had one sack), thanks partly to Hasselbeck’s quick throws.

It’s nice the Hawks continue to use Seneca Wallace. If Hasselbeck had not gotten hurt earlier this season and if the Hawks were above .500, the Wallace-cat would be getting more attention. But it’s good the Hawks are still working the versatile quarterback into the game. He made a nice play on a reverse pass in the third quarter against Detroit, hitting T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a 15-yard pass for a first down.  

Speaking of Houshmandzadeh, there should be no reason for him to complain this week. Hasselbeck threw nine balls to him, completing six. And they hooked up on the only touchdown. The only negative: The focus on short passes resulted in Housh gaining only 34 yards.

The return games had been pretty bad all season, but Louis Rankin had a couple of big returns in his first game since being signed off the practice squad two weeks ago. Rankin returned three kicks for 82 yards, including a 41-yarder to start the second half. Justin Forsett, who had not done much as a return man, had a 46-yard runback. And it was nice to see Nate Burleson returning punts full time. Even though he gained just 15 yards on his two returns, he just gives the Hawks a dimension that Forsett and Ben Obomanu do not.

Speaking of Forsett, the little guy got a little more time with Edgerrin James now gone. Forsett was a favorite target of Hasselbeck, catching five passes (out of eight targets) for 45 yards.

Best scene from the game was the finger-pointing contest after Hasselbeck got the Lions to jump offsides on that fourth-down play.

 

PLAYOFFS START THIS WEEK

For the Seahawks, the game at Arizona on Sunday is do or die. If they lose, they will drop three games behind the Cardinals – in effect four because the Cardinals also would own the tiebreaker based on a season sweep. And, at 3-6, that would essentially eliminate them from the playoff chase.

However, if the Hawks somehow pull off the upset (they’re nine-point underdogs), they would be 4-5 and a game behind the Cardinals with seven to play.

The surging Cardinals have won four of their last five games, including a 41-21 blowout of the Bears in Chicago on Sunday. The Cards are 4-0 on the road and 1-3 at home, which might give some hope that the Seahawks could beat them.

But considering how much trouble the Seahawks had against the Cardinals in Week 7 and the Lions this week, it doesn’t look good. The Cardinals figure to be focused against a division opponent, knowing they could almost wrap up the division over the next three weeks with wins against the weak trio of Seattle, St. Louis and Tennessee.

So, as much as the Seahawks should be looking at this as a playoff game, the Cardinals are probably viewing it the same way.

"Right now, we know that our backs are against the wall," Hasselbeck said. "All of our goals are still in front of us, but it's right now. If we screw one of these up, it's not going to be there forever. You only get so many chances. ... We've made it hard on ourselves, but we still have a chance. We're just going to have to do it the hard way."

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