When It Comes to Green Bay, Hasselbeck Is Not at a Loss for Words

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 6, 2008

SEATTLE, Jan. 5 -- The Seattle Seahawks uttered thousands of words into microphones Saturday night, after they had roared from a point behind to knock the Washington Redskins out of the playoffs and advance to the conference semifinal. But even as the Seahawks discussed their impressive 35-14 victory, some of the focus had returned to the nine words quarterback Matt Hasselbeck yelled in Wisconsin four years ago.

Those Seahawks had just won the coin toss in overtime of a playoff meeting with the Packers, and Hasselbeck excitedly shouted, "We want the ball, and we're going to score!"

It didn't quite work out. Cornerback Al Harris jumped Hasselbeck's pass to the sideline and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 33-27 win. And now, with the Seahawks headed back to Green Bay for another playoff showdown against the team that drafted Hasselbeck and then traded him, the quarterback approached the podium Saturday night with a smile.

"I want to just say right now that we want the ball, and we're going to score," he said to laughter. "Is that okay?"

So, does he regret those words four years ago?

"I regret the interception," he said to more laughter. "That I regret."

Of course, the team and the quarterback have changed over the past four years. Hasselbeck has a mostly different corps of wide receivers, a different relationship with Coach Mike Holmgren and a more advanced grasp of his offense. He also said he's "probably a little bit smarter" than he was then, but said he still thinks his overtime declaration was funny.

"Matt's always a jokester," said running back Shaun Alexander, who scored three touchdowns but averaged less than three yards a carry in that overtime loss. "He's always going to say the thing that is going to rally up his team. That's why he's such a great leader. I firmly believe that if we go on to win that game, we might go win the Super Bowl, just off of that one statement. That's how Matt is. He is going to push the buttons in all of us to go be better."

When the focus shifts from Hasselbeck's failed pledge, it probably will settle on the return of Holmgren to the city where he led the Packers to two Super Bowls.

"I'll say it today, and I'll probably have to say it any number of times this week: Green Bay is a special place for football fans, for people that like football," Holmgren said. "We had a wonderful time there, and we have fond memories, and now we have to go back and play them. We're very excited about the opportunity. We know the challenges, better than most."

For Seattle, the challenges go beyond the normal problems posed by Lambeau Field. For one thing, these Seahawks went 3-5 on the road, losing their final two road games to sub-.500 teams in Carolina and Atlanta.

"I think any team in the NFL is a better team at home," fullback Leonard Weaver said. "Obviously the past couple games we've been on the road, and we've lost them, but the playing style was a little different; we knew we were in the playoffs. So we're just going to go out and take care of business."

For another thing, the Redskins were the fourth team Seattle has played that finished with a winning record. The Seahawks are now 2-2 in such games, but both wins came at home, in rowdy Qwest Field.

"We expect to win our next game," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "I don't think there's any room for self-doubt in the playoffs. Obviously we want to win. Green Bay's thinking the same thing, but that's what we're shooting for, regardless of who we're facing or their record in the regular season. None of that really matters at this point.

"Before [Saturday's] game, everybody was saying that we couldn't win the must-win games. So obviously it doesn't really matter what people say or what happened previously. You've got to take advantage of the now."

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