Notebook: Thursday Night Test for Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck was injured and unavailable when the Seahawks suffered a 20-14 defeat at San Francisco last month. His replacement, Seneca Wallace, tossed two early interceptions that led to 10 points for the 49ers. The rematch comes Thursday night at Qwest Field. Hasselbeck will get the start four days after posting a 133.5 passer rating at Arizona.

The Seahawks need another strong performance from their quarterback to help mask a growing list of deficiencies that are dragging down the team.

The short week of practice hurts the Seahawks because they have so many injured players, but the venue should more than offset the hardship. "The nice thing is that it's the same exact challenge for them," Hasselbeck said of the 49ers. "If anything, it's probably tougher on them because they have to come here, they have to travel."

The Seahawks are 5-1 at home this season. That includes 3-0 in games Hasselbeck started and finished. The three-time Pro Bowl passer also has a history of success against the 49ers. That includes 13 touchdown passes with four interceptions in his last six starts against San Francisco, all victories. His passer rating in those games was 102.4.

Hasselbeck has been less consistent this season. He has 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions after throwing 24 and nine, respectively, last season. The Seahawks are also less consistent this season. They are minus-five in turnover differential. They are banged up, too.

Seattle will be without leading receiver Darrell Jackson for the first time this season. The Seahawks will probably start their seventh offensive line combination in 14 games. And the defense remains vulnerable against the run.

"We have to become a more consistent football team," coach Mike Holmgren. "That is the bottom line."

The defense took much of the blame publicly when 49ers running back Frank Gore gashed Seattle for 212 yards rushing last month. Holmgren thought his team came out flat after possibly underestimating the 49ers. As much as anything, however, that game showed how important it is for Seattle's offense to protect the football early in games, particularly on the road.

That's where Hasselbeck comes in. If he plays as well as he did against an improving Cardinals team on the road last week, the Seahawks should be able to handle a slumping 49ers team at home this week.

Gore's performance against Seattle last time got the Seahawks' attention. "While you saw him on film, no one really knew too much about him (last time)," Holmgren said. "If nothing else, you know how damaging he can be. We know that first-hand. You are going into a game with your eyes wide open."

SERIES HISTORY: 16th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 8-7. The Seahawks had won six consecutive games against the 49ers until San Francisco upset Seattle last month. The Seahawks won the 2005 meeting at Qwest Field by a 41-3 margin.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Bobby Engram's return from a thyroid condition is welcome news to the Seahawks. It's also a relief to Engram, whose 10-week absence raised questions about the rest of his career. "I'm feeling good," Engram said. "Just walking around, normal life, I'm great. It's a bit of a challenge in terms of getting my stamina back on the field and being able to go intensely play after play after play.

"But that's coming and I think we've turned the corner." Engram was initially surprised when doctors determined he had a thyroid condition.

"My health is my main concern," Engram said. "I love this game. I love this organization. But I also love my life and my family a lot more. So I just had to take care of myself."

--Matt Hasselbeck was kicking himself after missing receiver D.J. Hackett in the end zone when Seattle was trailing by six points during the final minutes of a 27-21 loss to Arizona on Sunday. Upon further review, Hasselbeck can live with himself a little easier after failing to connect on the second-and-12 pass.

"I probably couldn't have done anything differently," Hasselbeck said. "Maybe if it was a fourth-down situation, last opportunity, maybe you throw a ball that the underneath defender has more of a chance to get his hand on it or intercept, also giving Hackett a better chance to make the catch.

"Sometimes after watching the film, you feel worse about a play, and sometimes you feel better. I guess I feel a little bit better knowing that there's really not much I could've done."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The number of touchdown passes Seattle needs to match its total from the 2005 season. The Seahawks have 24 scoring passes in 13 games. Their rushing touchdowns have all but disappeared, however. Seattle has four this season after finishing 2005 with 29.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's like fighting city hall. You can have an opinion and you might listen to it briefly, but you are the only one. ... And really, you know what drives the car." -- Coach Mike Holmgren on arguing against Thursday night games so late in the season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks finally decided to give up on LB D.D. Lewis returning from a toe injury this season. Placing Lewis on injured reserve ended an eight-game stretch in which Lewis was inactive on game days. The decision to wait that long for Lewis seemed a bit curious given that rookie LB Lance Laury was providing a spark on special teams as the seventh linebacker. Seattle filled Lewis' spot by signing former Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh LB Marquis Cooper to the 53-man roster.

PLAYER NOTES

--C Robbie Tobeck will miss the game Thursday night with a hip injury.

--WR Darrell Jackson will miss the game Thursday night with a toe injury.

--TE Itula Mili will miss the game Thursday night with a concussion.

--WR Bobby Engram declared himself ready to play Thursday night after missing more than two months with a thyroid condition. The Seahawks are listing Engram as questionable, but Engram says he's ready to go.

--DT Rocky Bernard is questionable with a foot injury. Bernard has been able to play without practicing in recent weeks, but the short week could make it harder for him. Seattle is thin at defensive tackle.

--LG Floyd Womack is questionable with a groin injury. He probably will not play Thursday night.

--DE Joe Tafoya is probable with a calf injury. He did not practice Wednesday, but he was able to move around.

GAME PLAN:
Seattle had the right idea in trying to blitz Cardinals QB Matt Leinart last week. The team should take a similar approach against the 49ers, with an emphasis on making sure those blitzes get home. Crowd noise is on the Seahawks' side. Qwest Field is among the NFL's loudest stadiums. Seattle has played much better defense at home, another reason to think the blitzes might be more effective this week. Hasselbeck will remain the key on offense. He's getting into a groove, starting with the final few minutes of the Denver game two weeks ago. This would be a good week for Hasselbeck to work on building his rapport with Deion Branch. Branch surpassed 100 yards receiving when Seneca Wallace was the quarterback against the 49ers last month. With Darrell Jackson out, Branch should get more passes thrown his way.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Seahawks RT Tom Ashworth vs. 49ers LB Brandon Moore.
Locklear struggled last week in his first game back from an ankle injury. Moore has 6.5 sacks. The Seahawks have resisted helping Locklear in pass protection because he hasn't needed it in the past. It's important for Seattle that Locklear make strides in his second game back.

Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu vs. 49ers LG Larry Allen.
Tatupu is not making the kind of impact he made last season. He had only four tackles against the Cardinals last week. The 49ers ran the ball down the Seahawks' throat last time around. Seattle needs Tatupu to regain the form he showed as a rookie in 2005.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks are banged up on both sides of the ball. Their offense should be OK because Matt Hasselbeck is playing and the team has very good depth at receiver, somewhat offsetting the loss of Darrell Jackson. The run defense is a concern because the team is getting low on depth at defensive tackle. Marcus Tubbs and Craig Terrill are out for the season. Rocky Bernard is hurting.


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