Throw the ball to number 84.
For the past eight seasons, that was Bobby Engram. Engram is now gone and in his place is another number 84 – TJ Houshmandzadeh.
But that connection between Hasselbeck and number 84 is still there.
Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hasselbeck bobbled a snap from center and snagged it out of the air. Houshmandzadeh read the play and stopped dead in his tracks at the line of scrimmage instead of releasing into the secondary. Hasselbeck then threw a chest pass with two hands to Houshmandzadeh that went for 17 yards and a first down.
“The ball just popped right out like a football follies kind of video and there was T.J.,” Hasselbeck said after the game. “I kind of gave him a little chest pass and he did the rest.”
Houshmandzadeh knew Hasselbeck’s only options were to try and run it himself and take a hit or attempt to get the ball to him to try and make a positive play out of it.
“I saw at the snap that he kind of last control of the ball,” Houshmandzadeh said. “I was supposed to go block and I didn’t go block because I saw that he had lost the ball and he tossed it to me and then you just kind of go from there and improvise a little bit.”
Seahawks head coach Jim Mora was thrilled with Hasselbeck’s decision.
“I was thinking don’t run,” Mora said of Hasselbeck. “That’s fine, just don’t run.”
“That’s a heads up play by Matt. A broken play that he turns into a first down. To me, it just shows he’s an aware player. He’s always looking to make something happen.”
That kind of play is usually reserved for a quarterback and receiver that have played together for years – the kind of play Hasselbeck and Engram used to make to extend drives. Houshmandzadeh has only been with Seattle since March, but the chemistry between the two is developing quickly.
“My observation is that it’s certainly growing,” head coach Jim Mora said of the trust between the two. “Watching it, it looks like he feels pretty good about throwing the ball to him. Especially when he throws the chest pass to him. It seems like they’re doing well.”
Engram and Hasselbeck developed their relationship over many years of working together. Hasselbeck’s ability to read defenses and check off into better plays for the offense. Engram’s uncanny knack to know where to sit down in a zone coverage.
Hasselbeck has only had one offseason to work with his new weapon. But through three preseason games, the duo has combined for 106 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns.
“You can see why he’s caught so many balls,” Mora said. “He’s physical. He runs tremendous routes. He’s got glue hands. He can block. He’s a team player. He’s a physical presence and he was a very good acquisition for this football team.”
The connection between Houshmandzadeh and Hasselbeck may not be as strong as the one he had with his former number 84, but the relationship is off to a good start.
“Obviously it’s going to get better as the weeks progress and as we progress in the season,” Houshmandzadeh said. “I wouldn’t say we’re there yet. We’re trying to get there and it’s going to take time.”