As the offensive unit was introduced prior to kickoff, Hasselbeck was more animated than he had ever been running out of the tunnel – and fullback Owen Schmitt punctuated the importance of this game for a team that had lost three in a row by slamming his helmet to his forehead and opening a gash on the hairline of Mohawked head.
“I was probably a little too excited,” said Hasselbeck, who was playing for the first time since having a rib fractured in the second quarter of a Week 2 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco. “Emotions were running high. I tried to do my best to stay calm.”
Then he got a look at the blood running down Schmitt’s face.
“I was going to say something to the team, and Owen’s face just was blood – and I assumed it was real,” Hasselbeck said. “I had nothing to say. So I said, ‘Owen, why don’t you break us down.’ ”
Before the Seahawks’ bloody-good effort was over:
• The defense had scored once, on Reed’s 79-yard return after a fumble-forcing sack by defensive end Lawrence Jackson; set up another score when defensive end Cory Redding returned a sack-forced fumble by linebacker Aaron Curry for 26 yards; and held a Jaguars team that scored 37 points last week to seven three-and-out possessions and less than 200 yards in total offense (with 95 of that coming on seven passes to old nemesis Torry Holt, the ex-Rams receiver).
• Hasselbeck had thrown four touchdown passes – two each to wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (34 and 13 yards) and Nate Burleson (44 and 5 yards) – before the backups took over and produced one last drive that consumed the final 11 minutes, 53 seconds of the game.
• The special teams had contributed a pair of field goals by Olindo Mare (for the Seahawks’ first six points).
• Backups again stepped up, as Kyle Williams became the fourth option at left tackle after Brandon Frye left the game in the first quarter with a neck and shoulder injury. Williams, who had been signed off the practice squad on Saturday, finished the game despite spraining a knee.
All of that just begged the same question: Who had the most fun during this “laugher”?
The defense? Coordinator Gus Bradley got back to basics during the week, reverting to the fundamentals of the defense he began installing in the spring minicamps and OTA sessions. His players responded, and then some. Five sacks of the Jaguars’ quarterbacks. Six tackles for losses. And, of course, the big fumble-forcing sacks.
“Oh yeah, that was as much fun as it looked,” Tapp said – no chuckled. “We had a blast out there. Coach told us just to go out there and have the mindset we had in OTAs and training camp – have fun, make plays on the quarterback and get there in a bad mood. ”
The offense? The Hasselbeck-led unit scored on three consecutive possessions in the first half and the first two times it had the ball in the second half. Nine players caught passes – including six by Burleson and five by Houshmandzadeh.
“Man, it was fun,” Burleson said. “It was good to get out and fire on all cylinders again. It sounds like a clichéd phrase, but we actually did. I know if we do that every Sunday, we’re a tough team to play with.
“That was the exciting thing about it – that we were playing the way we know we can play. And that’s a good feeling.”
The defensive player who became an offensive play, but still couldn’t shake his roots? That would be Redding, who ran into Jags QB David Garrard on his fumble return – rather than away from him.
“When I saw Garrard, I tried to hit him as hard as I could,” Redding said. “That’s the only thought going through my head – if I’m going to hit somebody; I’m going to hit him. Defensive linemen, we’re wired to hit the quarterback. Regardless of whether the ball is in our hands or not.”
Did someone say “fun”?
“That’s what today was all about,” Redding said. “When you think back and realize why you wanted to play football when you were a little kid, you think about throwing the ball around in the backyard with other kids and just having fun. Just hitting somebody and making big plays, like you see guys on TV do.
“That’s what today was – we had to get back to having fun.”
Then there was Schmitt’s hurts-so-good display before the game ever started.
“Absolutely, who didn’t,” middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said when asked if Schmitt’s helmet-to-forehead gesture got him excited. “Gruesome, but beautiful at the same time.
“I don’t know if that’s possible, but that got us going. Myself and (fellow linebacker) D.D. Lewis were sitting there and we said, ‘That’s a bad man right there.’ ”
Now comes the tough part for the Seahawks. They were able to take the first step in reaching coach Jim Mora’s mandated goal of reaching their bye week at 3-3. The next step comes next Sunday against the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.
“Our job is to go out and validate this thing,” Mora said. “And that’s what we have to set our minds to doing.”