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Originally published December 20, 2009 at 9:37 PM | Page modified December 21, 2009 at 9:07 PM

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Danny O'Neil

Don't blame Hasselbeck for Sunday's defeat

The truth is that while Matt Hasselbeck did not play well and was careless with the ball, the Seahawks' utter absence of big-play threats was never more evident than Sunday.

Seattle Times NFL reporter

There was something sad about Seattle's final play.

With 13 seconds left, Qwest Field was seven-eighths empty and Seattle was trailing Tampa Bay 24-7. Matt Hasselbeck called for a timeout that ended up doing nothing but giving him a chance to throw one more interception.

This was an offense that just four years ago dragged defenses from one end of the field to the other. This was a stadium where just two years ago the Seahawks went 7-1.

And now Seattle was reduced to calling a timeout with 13 seconds left to try and score a touchdown that would do nothing but affect the final score of a loss at home to one of the worst teams in the NFL. And all that timeout did was give Hasselbeck time to throw up one more ball for Deion Branch, only to have a Tampa Bay Buccaneer — this time, Elbert Mack — come down with it.

"I'm mostly angry," Hasselbeck said afterward. "About the loss, about my performance."

About everything.

Seattle committed five turnovers, its most in any game since Nov. 19, 2006, at San Francisco. Hasselbeck was intercepted four times, his most in any game since Oct. 24, 2004, at Arizona.

"I just feel like I let a lot of people down today," Hasselbeck said. "It's my fault. It's on me and I'll improve."

If only the problem were as simple as accountability or the performance of the quarterback.

The truth is that while Hasselbeck did not play well and was careless with the ball, the team's utter absence of big-play threats was never more evident than Sunday.

Three of Hasselbeck's four interceptions occurred on passes intended for Branch. Branch fell down coming out of his break on the first one, allowing Bucs safety Tanard Jackson to pick off the pass. The next two were on fourth-quarter heaves to Branch.

Think about that for a second. With Seattle trailing one of the NFL's worst teams by double digits at home and its offense high-centered, it was reduced to throwing the ball deep to a 5-foot-9 receiver who hasn't caught a pass longer than 9 yards since Nov. 15 and hasn't caught a pass longer than 23 yards all season.

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Hasselbeck didn't play well, but did he play as bad as his four interceptions implied? His coach didn't seem to think so afterward.

"He'll walk in here in a few minutes and probably take the blame for that game," coach Jim Mora said. "And he shouldn't. The guy is doing an excellent job of leading this football team on the field.

"He's doing all he can do."

Is he doing it hurt? That was the obvious question after a third-quarter series in which Seattle went three-and-out. All three plays resulted in incompletions. None were even close.

But a closer look showed it wasn't the quarterback's accuracy that betrayed him on that series. The first play was a quick out to Branch, the ball was thrown a good 2 feet outside of him.

"If I had thrown that accurately, it probably would have been a pick six the other way," Hasselbeck said.

The second was for Branch, too, only cornerback Ronde Barber was sitting on the route so Hasselbeck threw it away. Then on third down, rookie Deon Butler ran too far downfield on his curl and turned around right about when the ball landed.

"There was a bad set," Hasselbeck said of the series. "There were a few bad sets in there."

Too many to chalk up Sunday's result strictly to the quarterback's play, and in the end there is left a question about the quality of his downfield targets. Because with 13 seconds to go and the game already hopelessly out of hand, Hasselbeck was reduced to calling a timeout so he could heave one more hopeless pass that Tampa Bay picked off.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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About Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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