While most of the Seattle Seahawks players exited their final practice of the bye week quickly, filled with anticipation of having several days off, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and newly acquired running back Marshawn Lynch stayed afterward for 20 minutes to work on short passes, toss sweeps and handoffs.
It was a scene right out of fall training camp, with Lynch trying to catch up, and Hasselbeck, knowing Lynch’s importance to a scuffling offense, doing everything he could to help out.
“You really get a boost from getting a guy like that,” Hasselbeck said. “He brings something to our team that we didn’t have; a big, powerful, strong back who loves football, has a good football IQ, and complements Justin (Forsett) and what he does well. So it’s exciting to have him.”
Indeed, the Seahawks have had feature backs (Shaun Alexander) and big, short-yardage backs (T.J. Duckett), but Lynch, at 5-11, 215 pounds, is a feature back with size, speed and a nasty, relentless attitude he calls “Beast Mode.”
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a guy like him,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s a beast. It’s a boost to have that kind of a guy, that kind of a weapon. We’ve been talking about getting the running game going, and this makes it a lot tougher for people to defend us.”
For the first four games this season, it has been relatively easy to defend the Seahawks, who rank near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories: 28th in total offense (277.3 yards a game), 27th in rushing (79.5 yards a game), and 21st overall in passing (197.8 yards a game).
“We clearly need to be better, we know that,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s been made clear, it’s evident. We can be so much better, we really can, but we have to do it.”
Part of the problem has been a lack of an offensive identity. When asked if there were any plays or groups of plays the offense knew it could run and get positive results, Hasselbeck’s answer was blunt and somewhat surprising.
“I don’t think we have, really,” he said. “It’s a group effort, in terms of finding out what we’re best at. When we get people in the roles that we like them in it makes things easier. It’s just a matter of finding those pieces and putting them into this offense.”
Lynch is another piece that needs to be inserted. But the former Cal All-American thinks that will be the easy part.
“Line me up anywhere on the field, I’m gonna get it done,” Lynch said. “And if I don’t, I’m gonna try.”
Hasselbeck has shouldered much of the effort and been the subject of much of the criticism for the offense’s woes. He understands that it’s something that comes with being the starting quarterback.
“I think it’s just part of the deal,” he said. “If you allow it to affect you, you’re not going to play well. If you lose your confidence, even just a little bit, you’re not going to be yourself, you’re not going to look like yourself.
“It’s a real thing, but it’s the difference between guys that make it and don’t make it in this league. Everyone’s watching you when things are tough – your teammates, your coaches, everybody – so it’s important how you handle it.”
Admittedly, Hasselbeck hasn’t been great. He has a 70.7 passer rating, ranking him 24th in the league, and he’s thrown six interceptions in four games – only San Francisco’s Alex Smith and Detroit’s Shaun Hill have thrown more.
It’s why Hasselbeck won’t be lounging around or making any trips on the days off that coach Pete Carroll has given the team. Instead, Hasselbeck intends to study some film on the Seahawks’ opponent next Sunday – the Chicago Bears.
“I’m not going to treat it like I’ve treated other ones in the past,” Hasselbeck said. “I’m going to treat it a little bit different. I’m going to really try to focus on Chicago. This is going to be a really, really tough game for us. We have to go on the road; they have a really good pass rush with four guys. They are a team that’s 3-1 right now and they’ve done a real nice job. So we have to find a way to improve, we have to find a way to show our best this next game.”
And Hasselbeck thinks the extra time will help him.
“I’ve got a laptop, which has all the plays; all their plays, all our plays from the year, similar to everything that I have at my disposal with the quarterback room. So I’m going to spend a good amount of time on that.”
But finding a consistent ground game will be far more beneficial than countless hours of film study.
“I think our run game is close, I really do,” Hasselbeck said. “If you can win first down, if you can win second down, then you’re dealing with third-and-2, third-and-3, third-and-6, instead of third-and-9, third-and-12, third-and-13. That’s critical. It just makes everybody’s job easier; play-caller, offensive line, quarterback, receiver, everybody.”
Will Lynch be able to add that run aspect to the Seahawks’ offense? It may be up to a pieced-together offensive line that might finally be getting healthy and finding some cohesiveness.
“As they go, we go in a sense,” Hasselbeck said. “We really rely on them and we’ve got high hopes for them.”
Still, a healing offensive line and the addition of the tough-running Lynch might not be all that is needed to jump-start the offense.
“We’ve got to come out here with a little more passion, a little more energy, a little more confidence, and just cut it loose,” Hasselbeck said. “You have to play smart, but you also have to cut it loose. You have to have that emotion and you have to be aggressive. You can’t play hesitant; you have to be sure about what you’re doing and do it 100 miles per hour. And we’ve done it before we just need to do it again.”