Seahawks Airing it out

A bright spot in Sunday’s loss to the Saints in New Orleans was Matt Hasselbeck and the passing game continuing to produce big numbers. Now, if they can just start scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.

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Matt Hasselbeck matched Drew Brees almost attempt for attempt, completion for completion and passing yard for passing yard.

The big different between the opposing quarterbacks in Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Saints in The Big Easy was touchdown passes. Brees threw four, Hasselbeck had one.

That disparity underlined the bottom line: Saints 36, Seahawks 19.

“It’s tough when you’re going up against Drew Brees, especially when he’s got,” Hasselbeck said. “He was hot today.

“They had better stuff than we did today.”

While Brees was 29 of 43 for 382 yards and a 106.9 passer rating, Hasselbeck was 32 of 44 for 366 yards and a 104.9 rating. Nearly parallel success, but an uneven outcome.

But the Seahawks’ passing game has shown productive improvement the past two games. With Hasselbeck passing for 333 and 366 yards – his most prolific two-game run since he had 414 against the Dallas Cowboys and 334 against the Minnesota Vikings in 2004 – the offense has generated 490 and 424 yards.

“I think we feel good about the improvement, but we’re definitely not there and we have a lot of work to continue to do,” Hasselbeck said.

Hasselbeck putting the ball up so often, and taking shots down the field, was by design. Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have decided to take the training wheels off the passing game the past two weeks because the line has shown it can protect Hasselbeck, who was playing with a cast on his left wrist after cracking a bone last week against the Cardinals in Arizona; and Hasselbeck has shown he can protect the ball, throwing one interception in his past five starts after serving up six in the first four games this season.

“We’ve come together,” Carroll said. “It took some time for is to kind of get together in our thinking and understanding, and Matt understanding us and us understanding Matt.

“He had to understand how careful he needed to be with the football. We had to almost take a couple steps backwards to get that done. I don’t know if he noticed it that way, but that’s the way I watched it happen. I thought we were very conservative with him for awhile and then he stopped turning the ball over. Protection starting getting better and we just decided it was time to go.”

Ah, the protection factor from the offensive line. It’s an under-construction collection in that unit. Only center Chris Spencer and right tackle Sean Locklear remain from the unit that started the Seahawks’ last playoff game after the 2007 season. Left guard Chester Pitts and right guard Stacy Andrews are in their first season with the Seahawks, but they’re veterans with 160 NFL starts between them. Then there’s rookie left tackle Russell Okung, who was selected with the sixth pick in April’s NFL draft.

“We knew coming in that if we could protect, that Matt would be able to sit back there and dissect them a bit,” Locklear said. “They key is that we’ve got four guys who have played some football, besides the rook. Now, we just need to play together to develop some chemistry and continuity.”

And, find a way to turn red-zone possessions into touchdowns rather than field goals. In the past two weeks, the Seahawks have had the ball inside the Cardinals’ and Saints’ 25-yard line 15 times. They have three touchdowns and nine field goals.

“We’re leaving opportunities of the field against good teams,” Carroll said. “And we can’t. We can’t match these guys with field goals against their touchdowns. It’s still a problem for us.”