Matt Hasselbeck felt disrespected by the way 49ers cornerback Nate Clements was playing his receivers Sunday, so the Seahawks’ QB made him pay.
Pete Carroll was asked Monday about the differences between the pro game and the college game after his return to the NFL following nine seasons at the University of Southern California.
One of the things the Seahawks’ first-year coach pointed to was the players’ ability to remain within the game plan but also adjust on the fly.
“The thing that’s so impressive – and I had forgotten about this – is the ability of the players to not only take to game plans and then be able to carry it out on game day, but also the ability to adjust in major ways,” Carroll said. “It really allows the coaches more access to fitting in and helping in the game.
“That’s different. They understand much more, and you can do much more.”
Carroll could have been talking about Matt Hasselbeck, who learned from the interception he threw on the first play of Sunday’s season opener and used the knowledge to then exploit the way the San Francisco 49ers’ cornerbacks were covering the Seahawks’ receivers.
“It’s kind of liberating seeing the film and just seeing what happened,” Hasselbeck said, after reviewing video of the game in which he passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third.
“They were taking some gambles. They were aggressive.”
That was the case on the first-play pick, when Clements came off his man to jump the route being run by tight end John Carlson.
“Nate fooled Matt on that play,” Carroll said. “He was sinking, just like we had practiced it. And then bang, just as the ball was coming out, he jumped back the other way. He did squat on the route. He did exactly the right thing to do. That’s a player with experience and savvy and all of that.”
But so is Hasselbeck.
“We came to the sideline and we just said, ‘He cannot do that. He’s not allowed to do that. He’s not playing everybody,’ ” Hasselbeck said of the conversation that transpired between himself, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and the receivers.
More importantly, the Seahawks backed those words with actions. Late in the first half, wide receiver Mike Williams used a double move to get open against Clements for a 35-yard gain to the 49ers’ 1-yard line. Hasselbeck scored on the next play to give the Seahawks a 7-6 lead that would only mushroom as the game progressed.
On the Seahawks’ next possession, which was set up by Jordan Babineaux intercepting an Alex Smith pass and returning it 20 yards to the 49ers’ 13, wide receiver Deon Butler used another double move to get behind Clements for a 13-yard touchdown.
“We went after it,” Hasselbeck said. “The next one was to Mike Williams, and we got him to jump. Then the touchdown to Deon Butler, we got him and another guy to jump.
“Really, I think that was the difference in the game. Those were the big plays; those were the touchdowns that we were able to get because of how aggressive they were.”
Before Hasselbeck was done, he had completed 18 of 23 passes for the highest completion percentage (.783) of any quarterback in the league on the opening Sunday. He also was 7 of 7 on third-down passes.
On Hasselbeck’s other TD pass – a 3-yarder to Deion Branch on a third-down play in the third quarter – he caught the 49ers in an all-out blitz and again made them pay by going to the receiver who had single coverage.
“They decided to blitz the house,” Hasselbeck said. “We actually were trying to run a pass play to the other side. They left Deion Branch one-on-one and he made a great catch.”
But it was Hasselbeck, Bates and the receivers catching what Clements was trying to do that really made the difference in the 31-6 victory.
“Absolutely,” Hasselbeck said when asked if there is some pleasure in getting back at a corner like that. “I think it’s a little disrespectful to do that to a receiver and to a quarterback.
“So absolutely there was a lot of satisfaction in that.”