Notebook: Seahawks Win, Dodge Injuries

The Seahawks appeared to make it through their game against Green Bay without suffering new injuries of consequence. That should be considered progress given how things have gone this season. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he was "very pleasantly surprised" by how well his right knee responded to its first game action in a month.

Hasselbeck had not played since spraining the knee against Minnesota on Oct. 22. He fractured a finger in his left (non-throwing) hand against the Packers, but the injury was not considered significant. It may, however, affect his ability to handle center exchanges.

Running back Shaun Alexander put to rest any questions about his left foot. The reigning league MVP carried 40 times for 201 yards and his strength appeared to hold up throughout the game. "I used to always crack jokes like I want to get the ball 50 times a game," Alexander said. "I've changed my mind now. Forty is good."

Alexander was making only his second start since doctors discovered a cracked fourth metatarsal in mid-September. He had been rusty and tentative while gaining only 37 yards against the 49ers a week earlier. He had trouble getting into a rhythm that game in part because turnovers allowed the 49ers to dominate time of possession.

Seattle again suffered from turnovers against the Packers, committing four in the first half. But the defense held up its end, and coach Mike Holmgren stuck with the ground game throughout. Alexander worked his way into a rhythm and had success running from spread formations in particular.

The Seahawks still have to prove they can beat good teams. For now, they can take a measure of comfort knowing their offense might be coming to life with Hasselbeck and Alexander back in the lineup.
There were some shaky moments against the Packers, particularly early. Hasselbeck was rusty and couldn't get a break while throwing three first-half interceptions. He also lost a fumble that Green Bay returned for a touchdown. The three-time Pro Bowl passer was fortunate that his defense prevented the Packers from converting those turnovers into an insurmountable lead.

With the game still close at the half, Seattle was able to stick with its ground game and take pressure off Hasselbeck. Receiver D.J. Hackett found mistmatches from three-receiver sets, and Hasselbeck became sharper in his reads. Hackett's 23-yard scoring reception in the third quarter was huge for everyone's confidence.

"Bad stuff is going to happen," Hasselbeck said. "You just have to respond. You have to stay positive, and that is what I tried to do."

The team stayed positive, and also healthy. That gives Seattle as good a chance as most teams in a weak NFC. "It was a great win for us and hopefully we can get hot down the stretch and build on this," Holmgren said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck wore short sleeves throughout the Seahawks' snow-filled victory Monday night. Temperatures were in the 30s and Hasselbeck's passer rating hovered in that range as well. He didn't get the hot hand until the second half.

"If we weren't playing the Packers, I would have worn sleeves," Hasselbeck quipped. "As a backup quarterback there, I felt like that was my role for three years, to wear no sleeves in pregame and try to psyche out the opponent. It's mostly mental, so I went with no sleeves.

"I thought about putting sleeves on in the second half. Next week, I'll definitely have sleeves on (at Denver)."

--The Seahawks improved to 10-1 under coach Mike Holmgren when Tony Corrente serves as referee, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

-- Corrente's crew assessed four more penalties against the Packers (10) than the Seahawks (six). Green Bay was particularly upset with a personal-foul penalty for Cullen Jenkins' hit on Hasselbeck. The roughing penalty turned a third-and-9 incompletion into a 15-yard gain. Seattle scored on the drive to take a 34-24 lead.

"It was a bad call," Packers DT Ryan Pickett said. "He didn't even hit him. You know he pulled off. It was unfortunate. It was a bad call. That's all I can say." Holmgren lost his only replay challenge Monday night when Corrente determined Mack Strong's knee touched the turf short of a first down on a third-and-8 play.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck overcame a horrendous first half to toss three second-half touchdown passes as Seattle rallied to beat Green Bay, 34-24. Hasselbeck fractured a finger on his left hand during the game, but the injury was not considered serious. This was Hasselbeck's first game back from a sprained knee. He was "very pleasantly surprised" with how his knee responded in the game.

--RB Shaun Alexander carried 40 times for 201 yards in his second game back from a foot injury. The foot has clearly recovered to the point that Alexander can play without limitation. He cut effectively and ran tough between the tackles when necessary.

--LG Floyd Womack came out of the game in the second quarter Monday night as Seattle gave some reps to rookie Rob Sims. Sims played well. Womack played better after he returned to the lineup.

--WR Bobby Engram missed another game as he tries to recover from a thyroid condition. Backup D.J. Hackett is playing well in Engram's absence.

--WR Nate Burleson is giving the Seahawks a boost on special teams. He averaged nearly 26 yards per kick return in a role he hadn't filled before Monday night. He also provided good field position in his usual role as punt returner.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS:

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus --
This was a tale of two halves. Hasselbeck tossed three interceptions in the first half. He also lost a fumble on another pass play, a fumble the Packers returned for a touchdown. Seattle's receivers and tight ends also dropped five passes over the course of the game. Despite the struggles, Hasselbeck warmed up to throw three second-half scoring passes to win the game. "What they were doing coverage-wise was difficult to see," Hasselbeck said. "They were playing combination coverages that were difficult to recognize. The best thing to do in that situation is to run the ball, and that is what we did."

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Alexander set a franchise record with 40 carries. He became the fourth player in NFL history to top 200 yards rushing in a Monday night game. FB Mack Strong put some effective blocks on Packers MLB A.J. Hawk. Seattle succeeded in running from spread formations, a tactic the team has used to great effect over the years. One key is having Hasselbeck under center to pose a greater threat in the passing game.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Starting corners Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon had not picked off passes in the regular season in longer than a year. Both picked off Packers QB Brett Favre. Nickel CB Kelly Jennings joined in the fun, picking off a pass for the first time as a pro. The first-round pick from Miami was in perfect position for an ill-advised Favre pass late in the game. Seattle's corners have been playing increasingly well down the stretch. Now they have some interceptions to show for their work. The pass defense would have graded out better had Favre not found WR Donald Driver for a quick 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the third quarter. FS Ken Hamlin appeared to misread the play, allowing Driver to run free.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Favre's status drew the headlines all week, but Packers RB Ahman Green had to be feeling good about the possibilities for a big game after watching the 49ers gash Seattle for 262 yards. Green had to like his chances even better when Seattle's offense turned the ball over four times in the first half. Green managed only 44 yards on 14 carries for two reasons. One, the Seattle defense stiffened against the run. Two, the Seattle offense still managed to hold the ball for more than 36 minutes even without the turnovers. Seattle's defense is small and fast. It plays well in stretches, but not when left on the field time and time again.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Josh Brown made all four field-goal attempts despite very difficult conditions. WR Nate Burleson averaged nearly 26 yards in his first stint as Seattle's kick returner. He also provided some strong punt returns. Seattle enjoyed favorable field position in key moments as a result. P Ryan Plackemeier enjoyed a second consecutive strong game, posting a 40.7-yard net average.

COACHING: A --
Coach Mike Holmgren set a winning tone for his team by staying calm despite a horrendous start. He seemed to sense Seattle's offense would come around, and it did. Hasselbeck struggled early, leading Holmgren to carve out more carries for Alexander. That was the logical move and Holmgren made it. He also made two aggressive fourth-and-1 calls. Both decisions panned out. The defensive staff got another generally strong game from its secondary, which had been a concern earlier in the season. CBs Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings kept their confidence. Both played well in this game. Both decisions worked out. Special-teams coach Bob Casullo continues getting solid production from the kicking and return games.


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