To pull the upset, Seattle’s offense will have to be diverse.
Its 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 hell start the game for us at quarterback. Charlies 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 Im fired up that Matts going to go. Hes known it all week long in prep, but we just really had to insure it after (yesterdays) 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 quarterbacks 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 didnt score touchdowns, Hasselbeck said of the missed opportunities in that first Saints game. That will win you a lot of games, but it wont win you games against the Saints. Those are just the facts. And a similar thing, with the new overtime rules, you dont necessarily play for a field goal anymore. You play to score touchdowns. And its not something thats a big deal, or something we talk about, but its a real factor.
Receiver Ben Obomanu, who had a bit of a breakout game against the Saints with five catches for 87 yards and Seattles 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 were 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. Thats what we learned from last time.
Hasselbeck remembered Obomanus 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 Seattles 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 isnt a sign of disrespect, its certainly an indicator that the rest of America isnt 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, were only guaranteed one. Its a long time its been two years since weve been in the playoffs, and its important to be back. Im 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.