Despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line, he’s hoping to put up solid numbers against an Arizona defense that has struggled against the pass.
With Hasselbeck coming off an outstanding performance, the Seahawks look to build off the momentum of a big win when they host the Cardinals on Sunday.
After a rough start, Seattle (2-3) is hoping it’s turned the corner following a 41-0 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday to snap a three-game skid. Hasselbeck, who had missed the previous two games with two broken ribs, passed for 241 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite playing well, Hasselbeck wasn’t completely healthy as he received painkillers shot directly into the fractures. He also may not have had much of a chance to object – backup Seneca Wallace threw only two touchdowns over the previous two games in which Seattle totaled 36 points.
“What Matt went through last week in preparation … it showed a lot about Matt Hasselbeck and how he is a big-time leader of this team,” offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. “That was one of the guttiest performances I’ve seen from a quarterback.”
Though Hasselbeck returned, seven other starters sat out, including much of the offensive line. Left tackle Brandon Frye was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, two days after suffering a neck injury.
He began the season behind Walter Jones and Sean Locklear on the depth chart, but both are out with injuries as well. Kyle Williams was signed off the practice squad Saturday, but played with a sprained knee. Still, he will likely be making his third career start.
“You’re protecting a valuable asset. You’re protecting a quarterback. … So it’s certainly significant,” Seattle coach Jim Mora said. “But we have a lot of confidence in Kyle. He’s been here two years. He went in and played well on Sunday. He will get more repetitions. He’s confident. He’s played at USC. He’s played in big games. He’s not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere. He’ll do fine.”
The patchwork line does raise concerns about whether Hasselbeck, who was limited to a career-low seven games last season because of back problems, will be able to stay healthy. However, he thinks there’s a renewed toughness to the team, which went 4-12 last season.
“We haven’t played our best football, but I really feel like we’re a hard, physical tough team. That hasn’t necessarily been something we’ve been about here,” Hasselbeck said. “I think we’re a physical team, I think we have that kind of a mentality now.”
A less-than-healthy Hasselbeck may be Arizona’s best chance at getting its pass defense on track.
While the Cardinals (2-2) have the top-ranked rushing defense, holding opponents to 71.0 yards per game, they are allowing a league-worst 303.0 yards through the air, including 371 in a 28-21 victory over Houston on Sunday.
“It can’t be that lopsided,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We’re working hard to be a well-rounded defense. We are much better in the passing game than the statistics show right now, but we’ve got to show that on the field.”
While the defense has been inconsistent, it came up with a big play against the Texans as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned an interception 49 yards for the go-ahead score. The Cardinals led 21-0 at the half, but gave up a game-tying TD with 6:59 remaining in the game.
As inconsistent as the defense has been, the offense may be in even worse shape.
Arizona was tied for the third in the NFL with 26.7 points per game as it went on to play in the Super Bowl. In two losses this season, the Cardinals have been held to a combined 26 points, and has dropped to 14th in scoring with 22.3 points per game.
There’s reason to be optimistic though, as Kurt Warner is coming off one of his best games of the season. The two-time MVP was 26 of 38 for 302 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans after throwing one touchdown and two interceptions in a 31-10 loss to the Colts on Sept. 27.
Warner also had been sacked four times against Indianapolis but once versus Houston.
Warner was key to the Cardinals’ two wins over the Seahawks last season, completing nearly 69 percent of his passes for 658 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hasselbeck missed one of those games and he threw three interceptions in the other.
Arizona’s 26-20 victory at Qwest Field on Nov. 16 snapped a five-game skid in Seattle.