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Originally published Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Matt Hasselbeck returns; it might not matter

Matt Hasselbeck is back, so now the Seahawks are in place to go on a seven-game winning streak and be in a position to maintain their four-season...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Arizona @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

Matt Hasselbeck is back, so now the Seahawks are in place to go on a seven-game winning streak and be in a position to maintain their four-season hold on the NFC West.

In a perfect 12th Man world. But this is far from a perfect season for the 2-7 Seahawks, who despite having Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch back today are not widely expected to defeat the current division leaders, the Arizona Cardinals.

Hasselbeck is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback with a 7-3 record in his career against the Cardinals. He threw four touchdown passes against the Cardinals at Qwest Field in Seattle's win last December. But asking him to carry the Seahawks to a winning season, even a break-even season, is hardly fair.

Hasselbeck can't be the difference-maker for a team struggling all season long. He can't be the lone savior of the Seahawks' season. At this point, things are too far gone. But he's game enough to give it his all.

"I think the best way to gain respect is to give it all you've got," Hasselbeck said. "Even if you're not 100 percent, you just give it everything you have and be there for the guy next to you. That's what we've had here for a long time, and I'm not going to change one thing that I did because of our record."

There will be no limiting Hasselbeck physically. He's familiar with the opponent, looked ready to play fast during practice all week and the Seahawks are in a must-win situation.

Coach Mike Holmgren isn't one to label games. He did this week, though.

"It's about time we label one," Holmgren said. "It's pretty important. I've always said that, until mathematically you can't do it anymore, you have hope. So we're getting to that point right now. This is a must-win game."

Hasselbeck is 2-1 in his first game back from injury during his career. In 2004 he came off a bruised thigh, and Seattle lost to Buffalo at home. He missed the second-to-last game of the regular season that year with an elbow injury but started in a win the following week. In 2006, after four weeks out with a strained knee ligament, Hasselbeck helped the Seahawks to a win in the snow over Green Bay at Qwest Field.

It's reasonable to expect a little rust since Hasselbeck hasn't played in more than a month.

"I would hope that he's going to hit the ground running," quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor said.

If something were to happen to Hasselbeck in this season of misfortune, the Seahawks know they have a pair of quarterbacks with game experience. Charlie Frye played one game as the starter after Hasselbeck went out with his back and leg injuries. Then Seneca Wallace, who last started four games in 2006, took over and made four more starts, leading the Seahawks to one win.

Wallace has thrown five touchdown passes and one interception. But he missed his receivers at critical times and was at the helm as the Seahawks' passing offense became one of the least productive in the league.

"I progressed every game," Wallace said. "I felt like I did what I was capable of doing. ... We didn't put up enough points to win some games, but I felt like I played pretty well."

For Wallace, it wasn't about the numbers. His shortcomings, he said, were from not making plays when they were needed. In his last game, last week at Miami, he injured his groin early and it limited him as the Seahawks lost, 21-19.

"I wish he would've been healthy the whole time," Holmgren said. "I think he played better each game, his decisions were better, he threw the ball with more confidence. ... It's a shame we couldn't get the one last week."

Many have lost hope for the Seahawks to make the playoffs this season, but a win over the Cardinals isn't completely out of the question. Arizona's defense is average at best, and Qwest Field has not been kind to the Cardinals over the past five seasons.

"This is a great opportunity right here," Hasselbeck said. "You've got a first-place team. Arizona's playing great, and they're playing with a lot of confidence. ... A win against those guys would be a great start."

Note

The Seahawks moved rookie safety Jamar Adams from the practice squad to the active roster and released TE Jeb Putzier.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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