The Seahawks rode their high-powered offense and destroyed the barely-competitive NFC West a season ago. Hasselbeck may have been the man calling plays in the huddle, but it was tailback Shaun Alexander who was named MVP of the league and ultimately became the coverboy for Madden NFL `07. But with Alexander now furthering the myth of the Madden Curse and suffering a cracked bone in his foot, Hasselbeck doesn't know how much of an effect his main weapon's absence will have on the offense.
"I'm not sure," he said. "Probably not a whole lot. There's certain things that he does for our offense, and there's certain things that he doesn't do. He's not even on the field. In some areas it's not a big deal, but in others it is because he's been the guy here. He's gotten every snap, every rep, every carry. The next guy is going to have to step up. Whether that's Mo Morris or Mack Strong or somebody else, that guy just has to be ready to go, and hopefully we do the best we can with it. But it's never easy when you lose a player like that, and I think we just got to find a way to overcome it."
Seattle had the best offense in the NFC a year ago while the Bears featured the best defense, and although the irresistable-force-versus-immovable-object playoff game never materialized, Hasselback was not looking forward to that challenge.
"No way," he said. "Not me. I was not rooting for that matchup. They're a great defense, and why would you want to go to Chicago, or even have them come (to Seattle). That would be a very tough way to go. We don't have the choice this year. We have to go there. We have to play them. So we're going to do the best we can."
Seattle shredded the Giants a week ago through the air using a lot of formations featuring four wide receivers - Hasselbeck threw five touchdown passes - so he was asked if having that personnel on the field gives his offense and advantage.
"I don't know if that's going to be as big of a part of our plan as it was last week," he said. "Certainly, the element of surprise helped us last week. There's no way the Giants could have spent the amount of time necessary preparing for that because they're most likely preparing for what we've always done, and that's to be a pretty balanced, multiple-formation, multiple-personnel group offense. Because of our injury situation last week, I think we tried to surprise them a little bit and take advantage of some things early, and we were able to do that. I don't know that we still have that element of surprise on our side anymore, so I'm not sure if that's going to be as big of a deal as it was last week. But it worked last week for us, and hopefully we can come up with something this week to give us an advantage."
The addition of Deion Branch could have caused quite a stir in the Seattle receiving corps, but according to Hasselbeck, the former Super Bowl MVP's arrival hasn't disturbed the depth chart all that much.
"Really, the only guy it's changed is Nate Burleson. We haven't touched Bobby (Engram). We haven't touched Darrell (Jackson). Nate and Deion are sharing reps from time to time in our four wide receiver package that we were in last week. We just kept Deion at one spot so he could learn that, but now he's much more comfortable, and I think we got the ability to be a little bit more exotic that way. I think those guys have done a great job adjusting."
It would be understandable if Hasselbeck put some additional pressure on his own shoulders since it appears that Alexander may miss a few games, but according to head coach Mike Holmgren, he thinks his QB won't try to do too much.
"I hope not," Holmgren said. "One of the things I talked to the quarterback about that's no different over the years is that you don't have to win the game by yourself. I think when a quarterback goes into the game thinking that, any quarterback, then he doesn't play so well. There are other guys on this team that can play football. I would hope he wouldn't view it that way. I'm certainly going to talk to him about it. Mo Morris is a good football player. Mack Strong is having a good year. We have some receivers that can run some routes and so on. He doesn't have to win the game by himself."
The Soldier Field crowd is bound to be in a frenzy by the time NBC's prime time coverage kicks off on Sunday night, but with last season's Super Bowl experience under his belt, Hasselbeck should be tough to rattle.