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Originally published Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Steve Kelley

Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson no match for late-game pressure

These are the moments that define an NFL quarterback. Late game. Down a score. The stadium jittery with nervous anticipation. All of the great...

Seattle Times staff columnist

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These are the moments that define an NFL quarterback. Late game. Down a score. The stadium jittery with nervous anticipation.

All of the great ones are measured by these moments. From Bobby Waterfield to Peyton Manning, Sammy Baugh to Tom Brady, the best quarterbacks find ways to march their offenses through the teeth of angry defenses in the scalding hot pressure of necessary fourth quarters.

They make plays at the times in games that seem most dire. Matt Hasselbeck did it here for a decade.

But it was apparent again in Sunday's swooning 23-17 loss to Washington that Tarvaris Jackson is no Matt Hasselbeck.

In a defining fourth quarter Sunday, after the Seahawks' defense uncharacteristically squandered a 17-7 lead and the team needed a lift, Jackson gave them nothing, not even a first down.

"When we got into going-quick mode at the end, we weren't very efficient getting our stuff done," coach Pete Carroll said. "I would think we would be better than that. T-Jack is doing everything he can, but we need to look at the film and see how he played and his decisions and things like that. But I know he's trying his tail off to get it done."

Carroll continues to defend Jackson, who still is bothered by a sore pectoral muscle. Carroll has no other choice. He has already seen enough of Jackson's backup, Charlie Whitehurst, this season.

In the recent two-game winning streak, the Hawks (4-7) thought they had found an offensive formula. Pound the ball with running back Marshawn Lynch; play-action safe passes to the thin corps of receivers; occasionally go for the home run down the field.

It worked against Baltimore and St. Louis. It blew up against the Redskins.

Jackson's passes have all the velocity of Jamie Moyer's fastballs. He couldn't get the ball to receivers when he had chances to make plays. And, as was true even before the injury, he often held on to the ball too long.

Jackson was a dismal 14 for 30 for 144 yards. He threw a couple of touchdown passes, but in the final four drives, he couldn't muster one first down.

"I know you guys want to try to figure it out and feel really clear about putting your finger on it," Carroll said. "But it's not just the quarterback. It's not just the receivers dropping the ball. We're just not as sharp as we need to be."

The Hawks played with all of the discipline of chain smokers. They continue to commit too many dumb penalties and waste too many precious timeouts.

And against Washington, the receivers couldn't get off the line of scrimmage. They didn't get open. Slot receiver Doug Baldwin, tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Mike Williams all dropped passes.

Whatever happened to Williams? He caught 65 passes last season and has just 14 this year. After dropping Jackson's best pass of the day, a back-shoulder throw on the Hawks' first possession, Williams was invisible for much of the rest of the game. He was targeted three times but had no catches.

"I kind of landed on my shoulder, but I wasn't playing good anyway," Williams said of his disappearance. "So I don't think it matters if I'm healthy or not. The whole year has kind of been not what I've been accustomed to and not what I envisioned for myself from the beginning.

"I've just got to kind of get out of this rut and try to get my rhythm back. Today there were some plays and opportunities for me to have a big day, and it just didn't work out."

Already on life support, the Seahawks' season died on Sunday, unraveling in as ugly a final 12 minutes as Seattle has seen since the Tom Flores era.

"They brought more pressure obviously," Jackson said, "We couldn't pick it up. We had it targeted right, but they had more than we could block sometimes, and (there was) miscommunication as far as routes and stuff go. That's what happens when not everybody is on the same page."

The Hawks are 11 games into the season. They've been reading from the same playbook for more than three months. Everyone should be on the same page.

That fact that they aren't is an indictment of the quarterback situation here two years into this latest rebuilding program.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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