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Sticking with Hasselbeck
Pete Carroll did what he thought was necessary when he pulled Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks’ first-year coach is following the same logic in sticking with the veteran quarterback for this week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But before making it official, Carroll wanted to review video of the 34-18 loss to the Falcons – when Hasselbeck committed three turnovers that led to 17 points for the Falcons. He also wanted to talk the situation over with his assistant coaches, as well as Hasselbeck.
With all that accomplished Monday, Carroll announced that he’s staying with the passer who has accomplished so much for the Seahawks.
“I talked to Matt, just finishing meeting with him to make sure that he had seen what happened in the game and had a chance to hear from the coaches,” Carroll said during his weekly day-after Q&A session with reporters.
“We’ve all reflected, and we’re going with Matt.”
The Seahawks still have a chance to win the NFC West title, by either sweeping their remaining two games or beating the St. Louis Rams in the Jan. 2 regular-season finale at Qwest – if the San Francisco 49ers lose one of their remaining two games.
Carroll feels Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks the best chance to accomplish what has been a season-long goal: Advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 by winning the division.
“Matt’s been our quarterback,” Carroll said. “He’s the guy that has given us a chance all throughout and gives us our best chance to finish off right. And I’m excited, in that sense, that he’s going to pull this thing together with us.”
That assessment came with the same disclaimer that Carroll has been offering since he was hired last January when asked about Hasselbeck.
“We have to play well around him,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to take care of the quarterback in all ways – protection-wise, we need to run the football, we need to play better on defense – so it’s not (a case) where the focus goes to one guy and people can go ahead and try to point the finger.
“That’s not what’s going on around here.”
What has been going on with Hasselbeck is too many turnovers – eight in the past two games, which have led to 37 points for the opposition in back-to-back losses to the 49ers in San Francisco and the Falcons at Qwest. He also has thrown 10 of his 17 interceptions in the past four games – that after throwing only one in his previous five starts.
After the game Hasselbeck offered his usual astute assessment of his performance.
“Looking back, I seem to do stupid things when we’re losing,” he said. “When we’re down by two touchdowns or more, that’s where I have to be way smarter. That’s where I’ve really failed recently. That’s on me. You have to learn the lesson the hard way, and I just have to be smarter in those kinds of situations.”
That’s what Carroll and Hasselbeck talked about on Monday. One of Carroll’s main mantras is, “It’s all about the ball.” So he had to stress – or re-stress – that point to his quarterback.
“I was very specific with our team and with Matt today about handling it and giving us a chance to stay with the game plan – and giving our defense and special teams and offense, as well, an opportunity to get back in it,” Carroll said. “By not over-trying. By not trying to force the issues. That’s something that we need to do better; I need to do better. I need to help our guys do better in the situation.”
Carroll also pointed out that backup QB Charlie Whitehurst has played progressively better in each of his three stints this season. He started for an injured Hasselbeck in the Week 9 game against the New York Giants at Qwest, but the Seahawks lost 41-7 as Whitehurst completed 12 of 23 passes for 113 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also played in the fourth quarter the following week, during a 36-18 win over the Cardinals in Arizona, and completed 4 of 6 passes for 53 yards. Sunday, Whitehurst capped an 88-yard drive in the fourth quarter by scoring on a 1-yard run. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 83 yards during his quarter-plus stint.
“Charlie did some good things (Sunday), and gives up a chance if we need him to put him in the game and count on him to be able to run the offense and give us a chance to make some progress,” Carroll said. “So that’s good for our football team, it’s good on Charlie’s behalf and I won’t hesitate to play him if we need him.
“That’s what came out of (Sunday).”
What came out of Monday was the decision to stick with Hasselbeck.
“In a natural sense, Matt has done a tremendous amount for this franchise and this organization,” Carroll said. “He’s been here through it all – from starting it up and getting it going, to taking it to the Super Bowl, and four division championships in a row; to now here we go, we’re trying to rekindle it again.
“He’s been through so much here. Every guy that’s been in the situation would like to be treated differently than that was. But he understands, too. He knows. He wants to come back and show you through his play, and he’ll do that.”