Hasselbeck says Seattle is getting better

Last year, he took the Seahawks farther than they'd ever been in the playoffs, but this season has been one of pain and sacrifice for Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck. As the team prepares to face NFC top-seed Chicago in the "Windy City" the nine-year veteran says he is feeling thankful that he and his teammates are still able to play this week.

"It is very exciting to still be playing right now," Hasselbeck told the assembled media on Monday. "I think we all realize how lucky we are to still be alive right now. That game very easily could have gone the other way. We know there are some things that we have to tighten up if we are going to continue to play. This is a huge game against a great opponent.

"The Bears have been the best team in our conference all year long, maybe the best team in the league.

Offensively, the Seahawks will definitely have their work cut out for them. The Bears finished fifth in the league in overall defense, surrendering 294 yards per game, and were ranked third in scoring defense allowing a meager 15.9 points per game.

"For us offensively it's even a greater challenge because their defense has been so dominant," Hasselbeck admitted. "That is the thing that stands out when you look at the film is that they are scoring points on defense and they are scoring points on special teams. They are being offensive when they are playing defense. We definitely felt that when we played them the first time. They dictated to us how the game was going to be played, not the other way another. We have a lot of film to look at and a lot of things we know we need to improve on to even give ourselves a chance."

One reason for Seattle's struggles on offense this year has been the injury status of the whole unit. The only player to start every game this year is LT Walter Jones and he's been battling a myriad of injuries including a badly sprained left ankle. Hasselbeck himself missed four games with a sprained knee ligament and has battled through a hand injury.

"It hasn't been great," said Hasselbeck of his performance since his return to action in week 12. "The stats are terrible. Some of that is injury, some of that is bad weather and some of that is not playing well.

"I guess it is like golf a little bit. You play the same person, the same course. You shoot one score on Saturday and another score on Sunday. The nature of my job is that I have to be really, really good on Sunday. That is my one chance. If I am really, really good then that helps our team's chances of winning. If I am really, really bad then our team has very little chance to win. I understand that I have to play well."

Last week against Dallas, Hasselbeck struggled early in the game to get the team moving, but ended up completing 18 of 36 attempts for 240 yards while throwing for two touchdowns – including a 37-yard game-winning touchdown to TE Jerramy Stevens – and two interceptions.

Stevens finished the game with five receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns. After becoming the most booed Seahawks player midway through the season, he's now become a key for Seattle's offense to get going.

"It is very important for us that (Stevens) plays well," Hasselbeck noted. "He came up with some big plays in that game and it is my feeling that we have to be clicking on all cylinders. Everyone talks about the running game and the passing game, really if you break down the passing game, you have to be able to hit your receivers, you have to be able to hit your check downs and you have to be able to hit your tight end. He came up big for us. There were some opportunities for him to win some one-on-one match-ups and he did."

Like Stevens, Hasselbeck said he feels really good about how the team is playing right now.

"I would say, all in all, I feel pretty good though," Hasselbeck said. "This is probably the best I have felt about our team. This is probably the best I have felt all season."

Another possible cause of Hasselbeck's inconsistency this year could be that he is throwing to some new receivers this year.

"The throws that I throw to Bobby Engram as an example, they were my better throws," Hasselbeck admitted. "I have to believe it is just because of the experience that I have had with him – me trusting him and knowing exactly what he is going to do. It is a comfort level we have had together.

"Deion Branch has been big for us this year. We connected a bunch in the game. Like I said earlier, this is the most comfortable I have felt this year with these guys. I think that is a good thing and hopefully the stats come with that."

He then expanded on his relationship with Branch who didn't play until week three against the New York Giants after the Seahawks acquired him in a trade with the New England Patriots.

"One thing that has been great about Deion is that we have communicated really well and we are always talking about different routes and what he wants to do," Hasselbeck said. "He is a hard worker. He studies a lot of film. He's not just out there running routes. I get into his head a little bit in terms of hearing what he is thinking and he hears what I am thinking. I feel like that process has really been sped up because that is the kind of guy he is."

Hasselbeck and the Seahawks will continue to prepare for their Divisional Playoff game against the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.

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