Hasselbeck Needs to Return to Pro Bowl Form

Matt Hasselbeck is a three-time Pro Bowl passer. Now he has to start playing like one. The Seahawks' playoff existence could depend on him becoming more consistent and careful with the football. "He has way more interceptions than he should, being as bright as he is and understanding our system now the way he understands it," coach Mike Holmgren said.

"I think by his own admission he would say he tries to do too much."

Hasselbeck threw two more interceptions against Dallas in the wild card game Saturday. "There are things in his head," Holmgren said. "The number of substitutions and injuries that we've had, the different combinations, I think that's had an effect on him.

"He's a good player and he had a great season last year. But I think he has a chance to be great. And to be great, you have to find a way -- and I'm not going to coach it out of him, not at this stage -- to deal with those things."

Hasselbeck came through with two second-half touchdown passes against the Cowboys. By his own admission, he's more comfortable throwing to the receivers he has been with the longest. Sometimes he's less decisive throwing to relative newcomers Deion Branch and Nate Burleson. And the pass protection hasn't been as good this season.

Hasselbeck had 15 interceptions during the regular season even though he missed four games. "The stats are terrible," Hasselbeck said. "Some of that is injury, some of that is bad weather and some of that is not playing well.

"It happens. 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."

Holmgren did say that Hasselbeck is a "very good" player with a chance to become "great" if he improves in a few areas. "He's absolutely capable of shooting lights out, and it would be wonderful," Holmgren said. "Now, the other guys have to help him."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck needs to play better against Chicago on Sunday after forcing too many throws this season, coach Mike Holmgren. Hasselbeck sometimes tries to do too much. That could be the case this season given that Seattle has been without so many players.

--RB Shaun Alexander did not play against Chicago when the teams faced off on Oct. 1. He was recovering from a broken foot. Alexander will play in the divisional-round playoff game at Soldier Field on Sunday. He got kicked in the shin late in last weekend's game, but he returned a couple of plays later and should be fine this week.

--FB Mack Strong has been less of a factor as a receiver lately, a good thing for the offense and for Strong, who is getting up there in years. Strong is at his best when serving as a lead blocker who gets a few carries on third down. He has served in that role over the last few weeks and the offense is better off.

--WR Bobby Engram is re-emerging as one of Matt Hasselbeck's favorite targets. That will probably continue with Darrell Jackson and D.J. Hackett fighting through injuries.

--TE Jerramy Stevens is on a roll. He has 16 catches in his last four games, including two touchdown receptions against Dallas in the wild card game. Things get tougher against Chicago because the Bears have MLB Brian Urlacher and friends, but Stevens has stepped up his game down the stretch.

--WR Deion Branch caught a 27-yard pass against the Cowboys, but he and QB Matt Hasselbeck are still figuring out one another. Hasselbeck said he notices a difference on tape when he throws to players who haven't been with the team as long. Hasselbeck is less decisive on these throws. That will change with time.

--WR Darrell Jackson is expected to play against the Bears despite a toe injury. He was not effective against Dallas after missing practice all week. He didn't play much in the second half.

--WR D.J. Hackett rolled his ankle against the Cowboys and might miss the divisional-round playoff game in Chicago. Hackett has become a very good player for Seattle this season. The team has very good depth at the position, however. WR Bobby Engram is healthy again and picking up the slack for Hackett.

--LB Julian Peterson made a strong impact against the Cowboys, consistently getting underneath blockers to make plays against the short passing game.

--DE Bryce Fisher had two sacks against the Cowboys in the wild card game. These were basically coverage sacks. Cowboys RT Marc Columbo generally did a good job against Fisher, but there were times when QB Tony Romo held the ball too long. Fisher is a high-effort player who will get to the QB if given enough time.

--CB Pete Hunter showed the Seahawks he can function as the team's nickel cornerback. The former loan officer played well in his first game with the Seahawks. He's a big corner who tackles well and seems to have a good feel for the position.


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