BY Art Thiel 09:03PM 01/08/2011

Hasselbeck carries the day

Silencing the critics, he shows the world

Matt Hasselbeck is joined by son Henry as they celebrate the Seahawks' shocker Sunday / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Walking off Qwest Field late Sunday afternoon, son on his shoulders, fans in his thrall, Saints in his wake, sports history on his resume and the NFL at his feet, was a man in full.

Matt Hasselbeck offered a smile of serenity that would make an angel weep.

Not a celebratory whoop, not a sarcastic grin, not a macho sneer, the face of the Seahawks quarterback held the satisfied look of a man who had shown the world.

Damn, did he show the world.

Scorned, injured, aged, relegated and dismissed, Hasselbeck personally, along with his teammates collectively, threw down the defending Super Bowl champions. Not a single witness to the 41-36 shocker over New Orleans would dare say they didn’t deserve it.

Delivering some of the most artful throws of his career, including four touchdown passes, after being absent from scrimmage for a week, well, that’s remarkable. Doesn’t begin to tell the story.

“He was,” said coach Pete Carroll, “ridiculously good.”

Something else, too.

“This week he had a little extra edge to him,” said tight end John Carlson, who caught two of the touchdowns. “In practice he was whipping people into shape, making sure we were on point.”

Still hurting from a sore gluteus that required draining three times this week, Hasselbeck led his team back from deficits of 10-0 and 17-7 to a lead of 31-20, then kept them from collapse against a reviving Saints offense led by premier quarterback Drew Brees.

“We just beat the world champs, and that’s a great feeling,” said Hasselbeck. “We worked hard to do it. It wasn’t like it kind of happened.

“We worked had, we prepared and we believed. We laid it on the line. I’m emotionally drained, I’m physically drained.

“It was just satisfying.”

The moment didn’t compare to the team’s run in 2005 that reached the Super Bowl.

Maybe it’s better.

The 2005 team under a proven pro coach, Mike Holmgren, was loaded with talent. Much was expected. Much was delivered.

The 2010 team came in a vegetable truck that dumped over several times and was reloaded on the run by hand. Two weeks ago, they were left for compost after a 38-15 loss at Tampa Bay.

Now they are one win from the NFC championship game. And they still don’t have a winning record (8-9).

Behind superb protection and supplemented by a respectable running game — including a 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that will be replayed long after Seattle is buried in a pyroclastic mud flow — Hasselbeck completed 22 passes in 35 attempts for 272 yards. He had at least five catchable balls dropped.

Yet what may have been decisive is that Hasselbeck and Carroll are finally together. Took a season, but now, who cares?

“I give Pete a lot of credit,” Hasselbeck said. “We were down 10-0 to the world champs and my third pass was intercepted. You could easily tank it right there. The crowd could have easily tanked it on me too.

“But Pete came up to me and said, ‘Hey, there’s nothing you could have done on that first (interception).’ And they were about to score and he said, ‘Even if they score here, there’s nothing you can do about that.’ He showed me some confidence, and I appreciated that.

“It allowed me to focus on what we needed to do.”

Free of the pressure that often forced him into recklessness this season, Hasselbeck was a master of his world.

In scoring a season high in points while averaging 6.8 yards per rush, they were balanced, patient and efficient for most of the game. Abetted by a defense that forced New Orleans to settle for field goals three times inside the 10-yard line, the transformation from condemned to contender in two weeks was preposterously complete.

Given the season-long injuries, the roster churn and the general chaos around this team, there was a moment when Hasselbeck hoisted his five-year-old son, Henry, upon his shoulders when reporters thought they might have missed a roster addition.

“I remember as as kid always wanted to go down on the field with my dad (New England Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck),” Hasselbeck said. “I don’t know if I ever did.

“I saw my son being carried out by one of our guys. So it was really cool.”

Really cool? It was more than that, Matt, but we in the media are the ones with the words. You’re the one with the deeds.

We’ll be writing about this one for a long time. In what may have been his last game at Qwest Field, it was a ridiculously good exit.


YourThoughts

  • DM

    Fantastic game and one of Art’s best columns in some time. This is great sportswriting.

  • nick

    It was just electric being there. Great game. NO ONE gave them any credit or any chance. Even I was doubtful of Hasselbeck after this season but he sure showed that he still has it in him somewhere. These guys are bringing something to the party. There is something going on here. F’n awesome.

  • Debster

    Fantastic game – and “ridiculously good” column. Bravo to ‘Hawks, to Rudman, Thiel and SportsPress NW.

  • B’ham Fan

    Art, I’m glad you chose to focus on Hasselbeck. He deserves to have roses thrown his way in this town forever now. Before this game he was the greatest QB the Hawks have ever had. Now, he’s a Legend. Wow.

  • Lucky Infidel

    Funny how a week can change an entire perspective. Now I bet there are a whole lot more people who think it would be fine to have Hasselbeck come back for another year while we continue to groom his eventual replacement. The noise at the game today was surreal. The ’84 playoff game against the Raiders in the dome was loud, as was my first AC-DC concert for that matter, but this was something else. And Hasselbeck was the most accomplished player on the field today amidst the pandemonium. A true professional. Looked for a bit there in the fourth quarter like the team was reverting to more typical form as of late, but he seized the reins and, in my opinion, essentially willed the team to victory even though Lynch will be the one remembered.

  • dcrockett17

    [Hand raised]

    “I will never doubt Matt Hasselbeck’s veteran savvy/moxie again. So help me.”

    I was a die-hard “I won’t cry if we go 6-10 because we desperately need an elite talent from the draft” guy. I may yet feel that way again come April. I was also a “Matthew can read the D all day long, but he can’t get the ball where it needs to go” guy.

    Well, since I live in the deep South I prefer my crow battered and deep fried with generous doses of hot sauce. Thank you.

  • bobnbob

    “The 2010 team came in a vegetable truck that dumped over several times and was reloaded on the run by hand” Great stuff Art and great game. GO HAWKS !!

  • kayaker3087

    Terrific column. So much better than Kelley and Brewer at the Times. I don’t know why anyone bothers with that rag anymore.

  • Dave J

    Matt’s truly a great leader. He knows that playoff time is Showtime, and he’s all business, and it showed. The Man is great and can still do great things – I’ve never had any doubts, and have been disgusted that folks have been talking about shelving him.

    Way to go Matt – we’re damn proud of you!!!

    Thanks for the great column, Art.

  • Will Ganschow

    Art,
    For well over twenty years you have singlehandedly kept me connected to a childhood love and obsession with sports. In a world that so insistently disconnects men from just about everything you regularly provide the threads that brings us from this sports world we live in back to our souls. Day in and day out you offer the cheeky metaphors that help get us through another day and when a performance for the ages comes along such as Hasselbeck’s yesterday you always rise to the occasion with a column that “could make an angel weep.” Like George Bailey you deserve to know the impact you have on so many lives every day.Thanks for giving Matt the due he so richly deserves.

  • John Procaccino

    Art,

    After the stunning Seahawk win this morning I went looking for your column on the P.I. website, was led to this fantastic new venture of yours and Steve’s. I’m thrilled. Been gone from Seattle for over four years now but I occasionally take a look at what’s happening in sports. I’m still a Hawk and Mariner fan. I wanted a deeper, more human account of that incredible game and as usual you gave it to me. Best of fortunes with the new page and greetings to Steve. I hope the Hawks have a couple more stunners in them. John P.

    • Art Thiel

      John,

      Thanks for the good words. Your wit, wisdom and thespian skills are missed in Seattle. The light remains on for you.

      Art

  • Chuck

    Excellent piece. I grew up reading Georg N. Myers’ excellent writing in the Times, and I have appreciated the quality journalism that we have in the Northwest. I feel that there is a lack of reporting today, with a glut of low-quality prognostication in its place. It’s great to read something that tells me what happened. Thanks.

  • Alvin Kroon

    The master word-smith strikes again. Thanks, Art.

    Great article on a marvelous person. It’s so refreshing when the truly “good guys” triumph.

  • Scott McBride

    Not only did the angels weep, but the demons of Seattle’s past forays in the postseason have been exorcised.

    And not a few non-believers in the national sports media will be going to confession.

    This was a moment equal to Edgar Martinez’ double in the 11th inning in the ALDS against the Yankees in 1995. But that might not even be an apt comparison. The 1995 Mariners rode on the shoulders not only of Egdar, but of Jay, Ken, Alex and Randy to name a few.

    Speaking of riding on the man’s shoulders, is that little Henry, or is that the face of hope reborn for football in Seattle?