Third-quarter turnovers doom Seahawks in 34-18 loss to Atlanta
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck throws two interceptions and loses a fumble in the end zone in loss to the Falcons.
Seattle Times staff reporter
73.1 Matt Hasselbeck's QB rating for the season is 29th out of 32 NFL quarterbacks.
The boos did not tell the story of this game.
It was the cheers that welcomed backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst onto the field in the final minute of the third quarter that illustrated the depth of Seattle's 34-18 defeat Sunday against Atlanta. Not only was starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck removed after committing three turnovers in the third quarter, but the Qwest Field crowd was glad to see him go.
"We gave them the football game in the third quarter," coach Pete Carroll said. "We had a shot to come back, but we gave them everything that they needed to win the football game."
Hasselbeck committed three turnovers in the third quarter, which led to 17 Atlanta points, as his mistakes decided a game for the second consecutive week. This time, we'll have to wait and see if it was more than a game that was lost.
Hasselbeck's status might be in jeopardy as Carroll said he did not know who would start at quarterback next weekend.
Two games from the end of their season, the Seahawks are two games below .500, but with a share of first place in their division and facing a question at their most important position.
"There's no decision about the quarterback situation," Carroll said.
The truth is the Seahawks weren't half bad Sunday. They scored on their first possession, tied the game 10-10 in the second quarter and had the ball in the third quarter, trailing the NFC's best team by seven points.
The third quarter, however, was truly awful.
Hasselbeck committed three turnovers in the period. First, he lost a fumble the Falcons recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. That was followed by two interceptions before he was replaced by Whitehurst with 47 seconds left in the period.
"I gave them too much," Hasselbeck said.
It wasn't the first time. Hasselbeck committed five turnovers in San Francisco last week, leading to 20 points for the 49ers. Seattle lost by 19. He committed three turnovers Sunday in a span of 7:09 in the third quarter, which led to 17 points for the Falcons. Seattle lost by 16.
"Looking back, I seem to do stupid things when we're losing," Hasselbeck said. "When we're down by two touchdowns or more, that's where I have to be way smarter. I know better."
The Seahawks held Atlanta to 266 yards, the fewest yards for the Falcons all season. That's in part because Atlanta didn't have all that far to go to score. The Falcons' first scoring drive began at their 49 after a good kickoff return. Hasselbeck's pair of third-quarter interceptions allowed Atlanta to begin two drives in Seattle's half of the field. That's when Carroll removed his starting quarterback.
"He took it like a pro," Carroll said. "He didn't like it, but he was fine about it. He understood."
Hasselbeck has been Seattle's unquestioned starter since 2002, but he has been intercepted 17 times this season, tied for most in any year in his career. He committed nine turnovers in his first nine starts this year, but 13 in the past four games, the result of 10 interceptions and three fumbles.
Hasselbeck watched the fourth quarter Sunday in a parka and baseball cap. Whitehurst appeared in a game for the fourth time this year. He played one series at Oakland on Oct. 31, started the next week's defeat against the New York Giants and played in the third quarter of a victory at Arizona.
"I wasn't feeling sorry for myself or anything like that," Hasselbeck said. "I understand the situation. We were out of the game, and it was a chance for him to go in. I was rooting for him."
Seattle ran three plays and punted on Whitehurst's first possession at quarterback. The second drive produced an 88-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Whitehurst's 1-yard run.
"Charlie did an OK job," Carroll said. "He went in there and handled himself all right."
But at that point, the game already was decided, Hasselbeck's three third-quarter turnovers rendering the outcome as lopsided as many projected.
The final result of the game Sunday won't be known until Carroll decides who is starting at quarterback.
"We're just going to look and see what's going on and figure it out," Carroll said. "Matt's been our starter all the way through. He's put us in position at this time, and it seems to me that that's really important for us to understand that. There's a lot of guys playing football, it isn't one guy out there, the whole team's playing.
"To point it all at one guy isn't the right thing to do. So we'll figure it out next week and we'll let you know."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
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