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Originally published Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks opening up on offense

Coach Mike Holmgren decided before Seattle's victory at San Francisco that he was going to take the training wheels off the offense after the previous two games in which he ended up being sorry he played it so safe.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Seattle's starting quarterback won't be back. Matt Hasselbeck was not cleared to practice Monday and figures to miss at least one more game.

Wide receiver Deion Branch isn't expected to return, either, unable to work out without his heel becoming sore the next day.

A chunk of the Seahawks' menu on offense will return, though, and that has more to do with philosophy than personnel.

Coach Mike Holmgren decided before Seattle's victory at San Francisco that he was going to take the training wheels off the offense after the previous two games in which he ended up being sorry he played it so safe.

"Instead of being so careful about everything and trying to be perfect about every little thing," Holmgren said, "almost calling the game defensively, we're going to kind of let it go a little bit.

"Everyone's getting paid in the room, so you have a responsibility to, so let's play."

Call it the Yuniesky Betancourt way of playing football. Swing away.

Hasselbeck visited a back surgeon in Los Angeles on Monday. He can't pass a test that requires him to walk on his heels, so he's at least another week away from returning.

So the holding pattern continues with Seattle's health, but Holmgren isn't waiting for starters to return before he opens the playbook.

That was a change from the way Holmgren approached Seattle's games against Green Bay and Tampa Bay. He dialed down the risk in his offense and waited for the defense to make the big plays.

"I made a conscious decision," Holmgren said. "I thought our best chance to win the football games the last few weeks, given our situation, was to do this."

The Seahawks finished with fewer than 75 yards net passing in those two games, which ranked as two of the four lowest totals in Holmgren's tenure in Seattle. The Seahawks lost both games, so the Seahawks headed to San Francisco with a new M.O. for the offense.

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"If you're going to go down, go down with your own guns blazing," Holmgren said. "Let's just have some fun doing this."

Sunday's victory constituted at least a step in that direction. The Seahawks finished with 222 yards net passing. Of course, 105 yards came from a pair of touchdown passes to fullback Leonard Weaver, who covered much of that ground with his feet, but Seattle's offense scored as many touchdowns against the 49ers as it had in its previous three games combined.

Now, that was the 49ers, who've allowed 29 or more points during their current five-game losing streak. This week Seattle plays Philadelphia, which has given up more than 26 points only once this season.

The Eagles rank fourth in the NFL in sacks with 23, and figure to bring plenty of pressure with them to Qwest Field on Sunday.

"We have to try and keep the quarterback from getting hit," Holmgren said. "The quarterback really has to have a good week of preparation, and then when we get a chance to make the big play — if one is presented to us — we've got to make it."

And the Seahawks figure to have at least a few chances considering that Holmgren has taken the handcuffs off when it comes to calling plays.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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