Whitehurst too risky to trust in bigger game vs. better foe
Even in victory, its amazing how fast things change.
Unless he does a full Chevy Chase and falls off the roof taking down Christmas lights, Matt Hasselbeck will start at quarterback Saturday against the New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field.
No, Pete Carroll didnt say so Monday. But if that is not his intent, the Seahawks head coach is daffy beyond the cartoon duck.
Charlie Whitehurst had his moment, did his thing, and deserved to be celebrated. But if he starts against the Saints, the Seahawks have no chance.
In the 16-6 triumph Sunday over St. Louis that put a zig-zag smile on the NFLs playoff face, Whitehurst benefited from multiple factors: Home field, best effort of the season by the Seahawks defense, Sam Bradfords rookieness, a mediocre Rams defense, a slimmed-down playbook (see Doug Farrars story: http://tinyurl.com/25vbmmz), adroit scrambles that fresh legs can provide this late in the season, and a fair amount of luck on the games biggest play.
About the only thing for sure that would carry over to Saturday is the home field, and the defending Super Bowl champs arent likely to be intimidated by hoots and heckles.
Whatever chance Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks and the spread at 10 points suggests the bookies believe most people believe its no chance the door to Whitehurst can be opened only by ill health.
While generally complimentary of Whitehursts performance no turnovers, 22-for-36 passing for 192 yards, and eight rushes for 30 yards Carroll Monday offered a telltale remark.
Charlie took off a couple times and missed some opportunities, Carroll said. We were willing to accept that in this game knowing he’ll continue to get better. But he left some opportunities to move the football.
Starting the second game of his obscure five-year career in the NFL, Whitehurst understandably was weak on pocket judgment. It might be the hardest part of the NFL quarterbacks job.
He really got away with one, ironically, on the big play.
The games only touchdown was set up on a 61-yard pass from Whitehurst to wide receiver Ruvell Martin, who was so alone the Coast Guard was alerted for a possible rescue. But Whitehurst, operating in the shotgun, was looking the wrong way. Thanks to great protection, he eventually spotted Martin and flung a ball that was well underthrown, forcing Martin to come back for the catch.
The play’s design was to simulate a screen pass that included Martin blocking on a cornerback, then releasing downfield. The Rams were well fooled, and it should have gone for a touchdown. But Whitehurst misplayed it, and knew it right away.
“There were some plays left out there we didn’t exactly right,” he said after the game. “That might be one of them. That’s probably a touchdown if I throw that out there even farther.”
If the Seahawks are to have a chance, such lapses can’t happen. Take away that play, and Whitehurst’s 21 other completions added up to 131 yards. That’s dink and dunk on a microsopic scale that can’t work against an 11-5 team with championship experience.
On the other hand, Hasselbeck on Nov. 21 in the Superdome had his best statistical game of the season — 32 for 44 for 366 yards, one TD and no picks, for quarterback rating of 104.9. It’s about the same for his more heralded counterpart, the Saints’ Drew Brees. The Saints won that game 34-19 primarily because the Seahawks couldn’t finish, settling for field goals, including two 20-yarders, that ended four good drives.
But at least the Seahawks moved the ball. Carroll gave much credit to Hasselbeck’s experience in dissecting the disguises by New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
So, sore butt muscle willing, Hasselbeck will be in there Saturday. Carroll said Hasselbeck’s recovery was almost complete Friday, and the quarterbacks will split repetitions in practice this week. But that’s for safety, not strategy.
The gridiron miracle of Charlie Whitehurst in a do-or-die game is now fixed in Seahawks lore. But the water in that wishing well is gone.