Matt Hasselbeck admits that he fell “into the trap” in the Seahawks’ preseason opener. But the veteran quarterback snapped back nicely last week and will need to be even better Saturday night against the Vikings.
The statistics supported that assessment from the Seahawks’ veteran quarterback, as he completed only four of 10 passes.
In the second preseason game, however, Hasselbeck looked more than the poised passer who led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005 and was voted to the Pro Bowl three times. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, for a passer rating of 120.7 that was more than twice what he was able to fashion against the Titans.
What was the difference?
“There were a lot more snaps. That’s probably one thing,” Hasselbeck said Wednesday after a 2-hour, 10-minute practice in full pads as the team continued to prepare for this week’s third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.
A comparison of Matt Hasselbeck’s statistics from the Seahawks’ first two preseason games:
“And I think just mentally going into it, sometimes you can kind of fall for the trap of not getting excited for a first preseason game. Expecting to play a handful of snaps, you can fall for the trap. I think that’s a lesson that I learned. You’ve got to come ready to play, no matter what the situation, no matter if it’s a practice game or whatever.”
A closer look at his polar-opposite performances is even more revealing.
In the opener, when Hasselbeck played three series, his four completions went to only two receivers – two to Deion Branch for 14 yards on the opening possession and two T.J. Houshmandzadeh for 12 yards on the third possession that ended with a field goal.
Last week, when Hasselbeck played five series, his 11 completions went to six receivers – four to Houshmandzadeh for 57 yards; three toMike Williams for 40 yards; and one each to Branch (11 yards for a touchdown), tight end John Carlson (6), running back Leon Washington(6) and Deon Butler (4). Hasselbeck’s numbers would have been even more impressive, but he had two third-down passes dropped and another third-down completion to Carlson erased by a penalty.
That’s the Seahawks’ offense at its best – when Hasselbeck is in rhythm and distributing the ball to a variety of receivers.
Regardless of the scheme and who’s calling the plays. This is, as it has been well documented, the third offense Hasselbeck has directed in the past three years and Jeremy Bates is the third coordinator.
And in their third preseason game together, Hasselbeck, Bates and a shuffled offensive line will face an aggressive Minnesota defense in the din that will be generated by the crowd at the Metrodome for the Vikings’ first home game this summer – and the return of Brett Favre.
“The Vikings are really really good on defense,” Hasselbeck said. “They’ve probably got the best D-line in the league, in terms of getting sacks. They rush four guys and they’re able to get tremendous pressure.
“But there’s nothing we can do to change that, and so we’ve just to go out and do the best we can against them and just realize, hey, they’re going to win some and just stick to the plan and stay focused.”
Coach Pete Carroll is doing everything he can to prepare his team for the task. Crowd noise has been blaring from speakers during practice the past two days. The schedule this week is following that for a game during the regular season. He is preaching to his starters to prepare for these preseason games the same – whether they’ll see limited action, as they did in the opener; or their longest stint of the preseason, as will be the case Saturday night.
“One of the things Pete has tried to do is try to get you to prepare mentally and prepare physically like they’re all the same,” Hasselbeck said. “So that’s been an exercise, and I think we’ve gotten better at that.”
Hasselbeck has. The proof is in the disparity of his performance from the first preseason game to the second.