By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — After Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on the Seahawks’ first play of 2010, his new head coach, Pete Carroll, didn’t bother talking to the veteran quarterback.
“I was proud of the fact that I said absolutely nothing to him,” Carroll said. “I did a great job of not talking to him. (Offensive coordinator) Jeremy (Bates) had already talked to him and (quarterbacks coach) Jedd (Fisch) had talked to him. And he was OK.”
As it turned out, Hasselbeck was more than OK. From that point on, he completed 18 of his 22 passes, threw two touchdowns and ran for a score. Even with an interception on his first play, Hasselbeck finished the game with a 108.3 passer rating, his highest since Seattle’s win over Jacksonville in Week 5 last season.
It might have been easy for Hasselbeck to get nervous after his interception — after all, he did throw 10 picks in his final four games last season — but instead he settled down and led the Seahawks to a 31-6 victory over San Francisco.
“He didn’t waver one bit,” Carroll said. “He came right back and started hitting stuff and making his third-down wins and all of that. He had a very, very good game for us.”
Hasselbeck said the interception was simply a case of cornerback Nate Clements taking a risk to jump a route. And while that move paid off for San Francisco in that case, Hasselbeck and his receivers were able to capitalize on the aggressiveness of the defensive backs later in the game.
On two of Seattle’s biggest plays — a 35-yard pass to Mike Williams that set up the first touchdown and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler — Hasselbeck was able to prey on eager defenders.
“The one that got us down to the 1-yard line was Mike Williams on a little out and up, the guy jumped it,” Hasselbeck said. “And the one to Deon Butler, same thing, kind of an in and up, the guy jumped it. Basically that’s it. They want to go for the big play, then we’re willing to take the double move and call it, then we’ll make the big play.”
The veteran savvy showed by Hasselbeck Sunday provided a stark contrast to the play of San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith. Smith, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, started the game 9-for-10, but from that point on completed just 17 of 35 passes and threw two game-changing interceptions. With Arizona’s Kurt Warner having retired in the offseason, Seattle is the only team in the NFC West with a proven quarterback, something that, as was evident Sunday, could make Seattle a contender despite its flaws in other areas.
Hasselbeck’s big game was necessary because the Seahawks struggled for most of the day running the ball. With Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and Leon Washington all struggling to find running room, the Seahawks at times abandoned the run game all together and relied on Hasselbeck’s arm. On their first possession of the third quarter, the Seahawks threw the ball eight straight times, the last of which was a 3-yard touchdown to Deion Branch.
But for all of his success throwing the ball, Hasselbeck seemed most pleased with his 1-yard scoring run that gave Seattle its first touchdown. Following the 35-yard completion to Williams, Hasselbeck rolled to his left with the option to run or pass. He appeared to have tight end Cameron Morrah open in the back of the end zone, but instead elected to run. Hasselbeck, who suffered broken ribs attempting to run for the end zone in San Francisco last season, dove for the pylon to score his first rushing touchdown since 2005.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve run one in,” the 34-year-old said. “Deion Butler was teasing me about it this week. He said, ‘You could probably run that in … I think you can get there.’ Maybe it was the confidence he showed in me. Maybe that helped me decide to do what I did.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog