This season the Patriots and Eagles have shown us there are two different, equally effective ways to move the football.
The Patriots have done it with dinks and dunks and swing passes.
With long threat Randy Moss long gone, quarterback Tom Brady throws often to his whippet wide receivers, Wes Welker and Deion Branch (remember him?), his pint-size running back, Danny Woodhead, and to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
How effective is Brady? He leads the league in passer rating at 109.9. He has thrown 31 touchdown passes and has been intercepted only four times.
The Eagles have done it with speed.
This newest version of the greatest show on turf or grass or whatever the surface, relies on quarterback Michael Vick’s ability to escape the pass rush and the throw downfield to his fleet-feet receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Vick’s passer rating is 103.6. He has 20 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
The Brady Patriots beat you with body punches. The Vick Eagles win with haymakers.
Which brings us to the Seahawks.
The Seahawks are a poor man’s — a very poor man’s — Patriots. They don’t have the speed at wide receiver to spread the field.
They were at their best earlier this season when they were running a controlled passing game. They’ve gotten themselves into trouble when they’ve tried to go deep. Too often, they’ve tried to play like the Eagles even though they don’t have the personnel of the Eagles.
The result has been a record of 6-8 and four lopsided losses in the past five games. Without the proper weapons, or the proper game plan, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has a quarterback rating of 73.1. He is 29th in the league. Only broken down Brett Favre, Derek Anderson and rookie Jimmy Clausen are worse.
Now that Hawks coach Pete Carroll has chosen to stay with Hasselbeck for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, a huge vote of no confidence for his former starter-in-waiting, Charlie Whitehurst, it is time to give Hasselbeck a game plan that protects him from himself.
Unbelievably, this team still has a pulse. But the offense needs a different plan to keep the season alive.
Yes, Hasselbeck, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes and been intercepted 17 times, has been horrible. His three interceptions in Denver in the season’s second week gave away a game the Hawks never should have lost. He played poorly two weeks later against the green St. Louis Rams.
After the loss to the Rams, he said he had to “take ownership” of the offense. But what is the offense?
If the Hawks want to somehow limp into the postseason, they need an offense that is more Patriots than Eagles. More body punches, because the haymakers are missing.
In Sunday’s first quarter against Atlanta, the Hawks marched 80 efficient, Patriots-like yards on 12 plays and ate up 7 ½ minutes.
Hasselbeck completed short passes to tight end Cameron Morrah. He threw swing passes to Marshawn Lynch and Michael Robinson and a short pass that Mike Williams turned into a 10-yard gain.
Lynch ran for 5, 10 and 14 yards. Justin Forsett gained a change-of-pace 9 yards.
The Seahawks took a 7-0 lead and then offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates started calling plays as if he were coaching the Eagles. The result was three consecutive three-and-outs in the second quarter, before Hasselbeck, trying to do too much, imploded in the third quarter and another game got away.
The only way the Hawks can win the West is to win the takeaway game and play conservatively.
Use tight ends Morrah and John Carlson. Get Leon Washington the ball in space. Maybe even throw in a few wildcat plays for former Penn State quarterback Robinson.
Dink and dunk like New England. Protect Hasselbeck from himself.
Think short. Think safe. Think Patriots.
Keep hope alive.