Matt Hasselbeck's first impression could use some work. For the second consecutive year, Seattle's first possession of a new season ended...
Matt Hasselbeck’s first impression could use some work.
For the second consecutive year, Seattle’s first possession of a new season ended with Hasselbeck being intercepted.
This one was worse, and not just because 49ers cornerback Nate Clements jumped in front of tight end John Carlson to set up San Francisco’s first score. It was worse because Hasselbeck, who was intercepted 10 times in the final four games last season, now is playing for Pete Carroll — a coach who values turnovers above everything else — and he was picked off on that first pass.
“Matt had a thought that he really wanted to challenge the team and made sure we had our backs against the wall from the beginning,” Carroll said jokingly. “So he just gave them one right off the bat. Because that’s what it felt like.”
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The coach could joke about it after Hasselbeck led the team to 31 consecutive points in a rousing comeback — not only for Seattle, but for Hasselbeck, who showed why he’s still here at quarterback even as the team is being rebuilt around him.
Not only did Hasselbeck complete 11 of his next 14 passes, it was the way he executed those plays, taking advantage of the exact defensive strategy that led to that first interception by Clements.
See, Clements shouldn’t have been anywhere near that first pass — not if he was defending Deion Branch like he should have been, as Branch ran a post route. Clements disregarded that route, which is why he was in position to pick off the pass for Carlson.
“He made a good play,” Hasselbeck said of Clements. “A risky play, in my opinion, but he made a good play.”
In the second quarter, Hasselbeck made Clements pay on a second-down pass to Mike Williams. Williams ran out, Hasselbeck pump-faked, and Clements charged forward. Williams turned upfield and was wide open for the reception. He turned back inside and nearly scored, getting tackled at the San Francisco 1 for a 35-yard gain.
It was Seattle’s longest gain of the game, and Hasselbeck scored on a 1-yard bootleg the next play, beating linebacker Travis LaBoy to the corner pylon.
“It has been a long time since I’ve run one in,” Hasselbeck said.
Everyone can remember the last time he tried to run one in, though. That was Week 2 last season, when he dived toward the end zone only to have 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis hit him so hard that Hasselbeck suffered two broken ribs.
This was a different season, a different story. A game that began with people wondering how long Hasselbeck would last under center ended with Hasselbeck piloting Seattle to a surprising turnaround.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org