Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks’ quarterback also could be the comeback player of the game. After throwing an interception on the first play, Hasselbeck was 17 of 22 for 170 yards. He passed for two touchdowns – 13 yards to Deon Butler and 3 yards to Deion Branch. He ran for a third – his first rushing score since 2005. He spread his completions to eight different receivers.
Hasselbeck was, to capsulate his bounce-back performance, everything the Seahawks needed him to be on this day – and against this opponent, as the 49ers were sitting on the routes of his receivers and he made them pay.
“I thought Matt played very well today,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Hasselbeck was just pleased to get the victory, especially after the way the game started.
“It feels great,” he said. “The first quarter felt bizarre. Terrible performance by the offense to start it. Our crowd and our defense kept us in it.”
Until Hasselbeck was able to rebound to win it.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Hasselbeck’s TD pass to Branch, where the ball caught Branch as much as Branch caught the ball. It was a third-and-goal play. Branch was expecting Hasselbeck to loft the ball over the defender. Instead, Hasselbeck put the ball right on Branch, and put something extra on the ball.
“It was crazy,” Branch said. “I thought he was going to lob it over the top for me. But I’m not 6-5 like Mike (Williams). So I guess he gives the quicker, faster guys that throw. It was a great throw, and a good job (of protection) by the front line.”
Defense: Marcus Trufant returned his third-quarter interception 32 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-6. The Seahawks were in zone coverage on the third play of the second half. Trufant came off his man and circled around 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree to make the pick.
“I was kind of reading the quarterback and I got a good jump on the ball,” Trufant said. “It was catch and six points.”
It also was the first regular-season interception return for a score by Trufant since 2007, and only the second in his eight-season career.
“I’m trying to get more of those,” he added with a smile.
Special teams: Rather than one play, let’s go with the day Seahawks punter Jon Ryan had. It wasn’t his best, but he did outkick the 49ers’ Andy Lee, the NFC Pro Bowl punter last season and in two of the past three seasons. Ryan averaged 41.4 yards on five punts, with a net average of 36.0 and a long of 49 yards. Lee finished with averages of 41.5 and 35.3 on six punts, with a long of 47 yards.
Pregame: It was Seahawks’ Alumni Day, with several former players and coaches being introduced and ex-Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Brown raising the 12th Man flag in the south end zone just before kickoff. But recognition also needs to go to Claire Nordstrom, the granddaughter of former managing partner John Nordstrom who sang the National Anthem.
In-game: There were so many from which to chose, but it had to be Hasselbeck’s bootleg run and dive to the goal line for the TD.
“He had guys in the end zone to throw to, and he just made the choice,” Carroll said. “He looked pretty good.”
Post-game: Hasselbeck presented the game ball from the rare season-opening victory to Carroll. This was only the Seahawks’ 13th opening-day win, against 22 losses. But Carroll is now 4-1 in the NFL in season openers.
“Hopefully it’s the first of many for him,” said Hasselbeck, now 7-3 on opening day as the Seahawks starter. “It’s got that cool NFL Kickoff Weekend logo on it. Maybe he’ll save it.”
Save it? Carroll will savor it.
Guard Mike Gibson, making his first NFL start, got a lower back strain in the third quarter and did not return. He was replaced by Ben Hamilton.
“They thought he could go back in,” Carroll said of Gibson. “But Ben was doing all right, so the better choice was to hold (Gibson) out and not do any further damage to him.”
Strong safety Lawyer Milloy (poked in the eye) and defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle) were injured in the first quarter, as was linebacker David Hawthorne (back) in the third quarter. But they returned.
Linebacker Matt McCoy (thigh) and cornerback Roy Lewis (groin) also were injured.
The Seahawks repaid the 12th Man crowd by turning in the following get-something-for-free efforts:
With Trufant’s scoring return, all fans in attendance win a free haircut from Great Clips.
By scoring more than 21 points the Seahawks also earned the fans in attendance a free short stack of pancakes from IHOP.
7-eleven also is giving away free Oberto jerky and Slurpees for the red zone touchdowns scored by the Seahawks.
The four touchdowns scored in the victory gets all fans in attendance eight toppings on a large $9 cheese pizza at Papa John’s on Tuesday.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It’s such a good stadium to play in. … It’s very much like, you think of a college game, but this was louder. This was crazier than places like that.” – Carroll, on the impact of the 12th Man crowd on the game