Hasselbeck: Seattle needs to rediscover identity

Dec 18, 2009 - 12:26 AM By TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer

RENTON, Wash.(AP) -- It's doubtful anyone would balk if Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck decided to shut it down for 2009 and start the recovery toward next season.

He broke his ribs in Week 2 and missed only two games. He strained his shoulder a month ago making a tackle after throwing an interception and never missed a beat.

Last week against Houston, playing behind an offensive line that couldn't keep him upright, Hasselbeck took six recorded quarterback hits and was sacked another three times. And now Seattle faces three meaningless games to close the regular season after its already slim playoff hopes were quashed in Houston.

But to Hasselbeck, these games do have a purpose, including trying to rediscover the identity of an offense once considered among the league's elite.

"We're fighting for a lot of things right now. We're playing for a lot of things," Hasselbeck said Thursday. "Obviously we have a game Sunday, but our goals right now are probably bigger than getting a win this Sunday. We're trying to re-establish something that was here. We're trying to re-establish that and we're trying not to let this thing slip away."

Hasselbeck could be talking about any number of areas that Seattle once controlled or where the Seahawks were among the elite. There was the Seahawks' impenetrable home-field that now sees a few empty seats in it on Sundays with the Seahawks' slide and their 5-9 home mark the last two seasons. There is Seattle's offense that was once among the league's elite, but now ranks 23rd in the league entering Sunday's game.

And there is Seattle's control of the NFC West for four straight seasons earlier this decade that has decidedly shifted south to Arizona.

Sitting at 5-8 this season, Hasselbeck disagrees that there seems to be nothing left to play for this year.

"I think that is really important right now, especially since it's a difficult time. We're going through a rough time, a rough patch here, but it's kind of when you find out what people are made of and who you want to stick with and who you want to go into Sundays with," Hasselbeck said.

This Sunday it will be Hasselbeck learning about how his offensive line reacts to harsh criticism. Seattle's line was chided by coach Jim Mora after Sunday's loss, then challenged by the coach again on Wednesday to bring a grittier attitude to their jobs. That included a shift of rookie Max Unger from right guard to center and the combo of Mike Gibson and until-now Seattle center Chris Spencer playing at right guard.

"It's pretty significant, but I think it indicates that we're serious about trying to find out who can help us win football games and find out what we've got," Mora said. "And so that's what we're going to do."

Anything might be better than the protection Seattle's line has provided the last two months. Beginning with Seattle's 27-3 loss to Arizona on Oct. 18, Hasselbeck has been sacked 23 times. With that inability to protect its quarterback has come offensive struggles against quality opponents. Arizona held the Seahawks to three points in their first meeting and Minnesota gave up just nine. Last week, against an average Houston team, Seattle looked completely overmatched in its 34-7 loss.

Helping make sure the sour taste from last Sunday doesn't linger into the final weeks is one of Hasselbeck's tasks.

"I think each guy just has to do their part. we don't make decisions as players but you know who the guys are that you can count on," Hasselbeck said. "... We've got to stick to the stuff that we said were important at the beginning of the season. We can't change our goals just because we're 5-8."

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