Hasselbeck struggles in pitiful 27-3 loss to Philadelphia
By Scott M. Johnson
SEATTLE — The boo-birds fluttered in sometime in the second quarter. As the Seattle Seahawks ran off the field for halftime, the flock had grown so big that its wrath was deafening.
But not until the third quarter did things get personal.
After Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks offense had struggled to their third consecutive three-and-out to open the second half, the Husky Stadium crowd started a new chant:
Dilfer … Dilfer … Dilfer …
That would be Trent Dilfer, Hassselbeck’s backup. And although it never got to the point where Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren benched his starting quarterback, the message was certainly received.
"That’s not the best feeling in the world. You always count on your fans to support you," Seahawks tight end Itula Mili said after a 27-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the home opener Sunday. "It hurts already on the field, and you get down. Then the fans make it even worse when they start doing what they did out there. It’s rough."
Not that the raspberries weren’t well-deserved. Seattle’s home opener was as ugly as it gets in the NFL.
Hasselbeck completed 9 of 24 passes for a paltry 62 yards. The offensive line gave up seven sacks — the first time that’s happened since Oct. 22, 1995. The Seahawks had just 147 net yards of total offense, only 21 of which came on the team’s 31 passing plays. And, for the second time in as many games this season, Seattle couldn’t score a single touchdown.
"The passing game today hit rock bottom," Holmgren said. "The silver lining is, there’s only one way to go. And we will. We will improve."
As bad as it got, Holmgren said he never considered taking the crowd’s advice. He stuck with his hand-picked successor to Jon Kitna through all the perils of Sunday’s game.
"I will be the only one to ever make that decision, certainly not the crowd," Holmgren said of benching Hasselbeck. "It was a little unfortunate. (Fans) can not like what’s going on out there. But the first home game, I think that’s a little early to make brash judgments."
Philadelphia’s defense harassed Hasselbeck all day long, so much so that the seven-sack total could have been much higher. He admitted that some of his best throws of the day were the ones that he intentionally threw out of bounds amid heavy pressure.
The Eagles combined a solid blitz package with steady defensive line play to frustrate Seattle’s offense all afternoon.
"Everything’s not on Matt," wide receiver Koren Robinson said. "This is a team sport. You can’t put everything on the quarterback. Everybody’s got to play their part."
For the first quarter of Sunday’s game, it looked as if this one might be a replay of the Sept. 9 season opener, when the Seahawks and Browns traded field goals before Seattle eked out a 9-6 win. The Eagles scored the only points of the first 15 minutes on David Akers’ 48-yard field goal.
But Philadelphia’s offense got on track in the second quarter, as two Donovan McNabb touchdown passes to James Thrash sandwiched a Rian Lindell field goal to give the Eagles a 17-3 halftime lead.
As they ran off the field at the half, the Seahawks got showered with boos from the Husky Stadium crowd.
By the third quarter, after three consecutive drives that netted zero yards and as many first downs, the catcalls gave way to desperate pleas for a quarterback change.
"It’s just part of football," Hasselbeck said. "Mike Holmgren’s said it to me many times: ‘The most popular guy is always the backup quarterback. You’re not the backup quarterback anymore.’ I found that out today for real."
Hasselbeck completed 3 of 8 passes on third downs — one of which tight end Christian Fauria fumbled away — and was sacked on three other occasions. His longest completion went for 19 yards, and only one other went for more than 10 yards.
Hasselbeck’s misery certainly had company. He had to fight through poor field position for most of the game (six of the Seahawks’ 13 drives started inside their own 20) and had trouble locating open receivers.
The defense performed admirably, but allowed McNabb to complete 24 of 37 passes for 283 yards — including 10 completions for a career-high 165 yards to Thrash. In the end, the offensive struggles proved too much, as the tired defenders surrendered 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Still, the defensive players weren’t ready to point any fingers.
"It would be great if the offense could score 40 points every week, but you know that’s not going to happen," safety Reggie Tongue said. "I’m not frustrated by it because I know how much better they are than they showed today."
This season has marked the first time since November 1992 that the Seahawks have gone back-to-back games without scoring a touchdown. Although no one is ready to compare this team to the 1992 unit that won just two games, Sunday’s loss looked eerily familiar to last year’s Seahawks.
"I’m not going to lie. When you’re out there and you see it, it reminds you of (last season)," Mili said. "But inside, you know you’re a different team. We’re used to seeing stuff like that. But the way we are this year, we’re going to fight through that. We’re going to bounce back."
To a man, the Seahawks have vowed to bounce back. Although Sunday’s loss may have brought back memories of the 1997 home opener — a 41-3 loss to the New York Jets — no one is panicking.
"I know I’m better than that. I know we’re better than that," Hasselbeck said. "But it doesn’t matter unless we go out and play a lot better."