BY Doug Farrar 03:05PM 01/06/2011

Hasselbeck will need more help against Saints

To pull the upset, Seattle’s offense will have to be diverse.

Matt Hasselbeck will be ready to go in the postseason rematch against the New Orleans Saints (Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest)

It’s official – Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will get a chance to repeat his best performance of the 2010 season. And he hopes to do just a little bit better the second time around. Head coach Pete Carroll announced after Thursday practice that Hasselbeck, who sat In favor of Charlie Whitehurst in the 16-6 season regular-season finale that put the Seahawks in the playoffs by way of an NFC West title, would start when the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints when the two teams take the field at Qwest this Saturday afternoon.

“Matt had a great week for us,” Carroll said. “He made it through the week, and I told him earlier in the week that he was going to start if he could make it through physically. He did all that, and he’ll start the game for us at quarterback. Charlie’s ready to go as well – both of those guys split reps during the week – we can count on them both if we need them, but I’m fired up that Matt’s going to go. He’s known it all week long in prep, but we just really had to insure it after (yesterday’s) practice and seeing the film, and it was clear (then) that it was the way we were going to go.”

Carroll also said that the only thing that would have taken Hasselbeck out of the picture as the starter in this game was the quarterback’s health.

When Hasselbeck faced the New Orleans Saints in a 34-19 loss at the Superdome in Week 11, his offense took five trips to the red zone and came away with four field goals and a touchdown. Was it despite the fact that Hasselbeck completed 32 passes in 44 attempts for 369 yards, or because of it? A Seahawks offensive game plan often seen through the season as unbalanced in favor of the pass may have been so more than most in this case. Marshawn Lynch led the team with 36 yards on seven carries, and the entire team ran for 58 yards – 41 yards fewer than New Orleans undrafted rookie back Chris Ivory did on his own.

With the high-octane New Orleans offense as the counter, Hasselbeck will need to establish the same kind of aerial efficiency. But if the Seahawks want to win, a more consistent dose of “ground and pound” may also be a necessity – especially near the goal line.

“We played pretty well offensively, but we didn’t score touchdowns,” Hasselbeck said of the missed opportunities in that first Saints game. “That will win you a lot of games, but it won’t win you games against the Saints. Those are just the facts. And a similar thing, with the new overtime rules, you don’t necessarily play for a field goal anymore. You play to score touchdowns. And it’s not something that’s a big deal, or something we talk about, but it’s a real factor.”

Receiver Ben Obomanu, who had a bit of a breakout game against the Saints with five catches for 87 yards and Seattle’s only touchdown last time, agreed. “We moved the ball well and got into some good positions, but we missed opportunities to score some points. We already know that the Saints’ offense is a high-scoring machine, and from our side, we want to make sure that our defense has enough confidence to know that we’re going to answer the call. We just have to do better in the red zone – if things get small or tight, if the windows get a little shorter, we have a chance if we put it all together. That’s what we learned from last time.”

Hasselbeck remembered Obomanu’s game, and talked about how the fifth-year player has finally come into his own.

That Seahawks defense was stronger later in the game – the Saints scored touchdowns on their first four trips inside the Seahawks’ 25-yard line, but ended the game with three drives inside Seattle’s 10-yard line that concluded with two interceptions and a missed field goal. As Carroll said on Thursday, that may give defensive confidence against most teams, but not so much against the special challenges the Saints present.

The 7-9 Seahawks go into this game as the biggest home playoff underdogs ever, and if the 10.5-point line isn’t a sign of disrespect, it’s certainly an indicator that the rest of America isn’t tuned in to what happened in New Orleans a couple months ago, and what could happen this time.

“This is something were hoping for, all the way back to March, when we had our first meeting with Pete,” Hasselbeck said. “We were hoping to host home playoff games, and right now, we’re only guaranteed one. It’s a long time – it’s been two years since we’ve been in the playoffs, and it’s important to be back. I’m excited about that. As we saw this year with the amount of turnover we had this year, you never know when your last day could be with this team.”

The Seahawks have several decisions to make at the quarterback position in the upcoming offseason, but with the decision announced today, the in-season might just last another week.


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