“We want the ball,” he said excitedly, “and we’re gonna score.”
Spoiler: They did not. On the third possession of overtime, Al Harris of the Packers intercepted a Hasselbeck pass and sprinted 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Hasselbeck had reason to be confident. On a 20-degree day at Lambeau Field, with a wind chill of 7 degrees, he had passed for 305 yards before the game-losing pick.
“That was my first playoff game as a starter, and it sort of felt like we were playing with house money. We were just happy to sort of be there,” he said in a phone interview. “I was playing against my old team, and the person I was talking trash to at the time was [kicker] Ryan Longwell. ... I was his holder when I was in Green Bay [for two seasons]. We had played there earlier in the year, and [Seahawks coach] Mike Holmgren — all my coaching staff had come from Green Bay. We were all going home.”
His coaches had warned him about being overly emotional, but Hasselbeck kept thinking about his performance in a 35-13 loss in October in Green Bay. He had been cautioned before that game, too.
“They all told me: ‘Hey, listen. You’ve got to control your emotions. You’re playing against your buddies. Control your emotions, blah, blah, blah.’ Well, I did. I played fine when I played them earlier in the year, but I didn’t play inspired,” Hasselbeck said. “It wasn’t exciting and fun. I played like it was a job. ... I sat there [as a backup in Green Bay] and watched Brett Favre play and just cut it loose like he was at recess or like he was in his front yard with his brothers and his friends. And the lesson that I learned was: ‘Have fun. This is a game. You’re playing a fun game against your buddies. Cut it loose.’ ”
That second meeting was a different story. The Seahawks led 20-13 after three quarters and went into overtime with a chance to knock off a favored Green Bay team that had won six of its last seven regular season games.
“No one’s giving us a chance [to win]," Hasselbeck said. “... We’re in the game, we’re playing okay, and we’re actually alive. They have the opportunity to win it in the fourth quarter, and they don’t.”
Indeed, the Seahawks trailed late before driving 67 yards for the game-tying score, a Shaun Alexander one-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds to go.
“We were a new team and happy to be there,” Hasselbeck said. “Some of it was, we were having fun, smiles on our faces. Some of it was, like Mike Holmgren had told us: ‘You’re talented enough. You have enough talent; you just need to believe that you could eventually be in games like this.’ ... When we went back out for the coin toss, all their captains — I think they had six; we had three — they did not all come out. Only Ryan Longwell and I don’t know who else came out, but their best players did not come out. So I knew what that meant. They were embarrassed that we were still in the game — little brother was tied with big brother.
“I was just kind of having fun with my buddy and kind of firing up my own teammates — my new friends. I sort of feel bad that it got picked up by the ref’s microphone, but I don’t regret that I said it. It was super fun and funny. I regret that we didn’t win, and obviously I threw an interception at the end of the game to lose it.”
Looking back, Hasselbeck said of that game and the occasional taunts over his comment, “It’s all good; I’m a grown-up.” What bothers him more is a snowy divisional-round game that followed the 2007 season, again against the Packers. The Seahawks led the heavily favored NFC North champions early, but Green Bay went ahead for good with 21 straight points in less than 10 minutes of the first half.
“That’s the game that haunts me because I felt like we were a much better team and could have gone farther [in the playoffs],” Hasselbeck said of the 42-20 loss. “We were up 14-nothing early, and then the snow came down so hard you could barely see. They came back and beat us. Brett Favre had an underhand pass for a touchdown when we thought we had them, and it was just a crushing, crushing blow.”
On Sunday night in Green Bay, the only Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks left in the playoffs — the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers — will face off, and they share their own wacky history. In the NFC championship game following the 2014 season, Wilson led a frantic Seahawks comeback in a 28-22 overtime win. Visiting Green Bay was up by 12 with barely more than two minutes left, but Seattle scored to draw within five, then scored again after Green Bay couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick. The game wound up in overtime, and Seattle won it on Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on the first possession.
Those Seahawks would lose in the Super Bowl; in fact, after all three of these teams’ recent playoff meetings, the winner lost its next game.
Looking back on the 2004 loss, Hasselbeck reflected that “the hardest thing for me would have been if Green Bay had gone on and won the Super Bowl that year. Then you’d feel like, ‘Aw, we were that close.’ When you get knocked out of the playoffs, you’re miserable until the team that knocked you out of the playoffs gets knocked out of the playoffs.”
The Seahawks are 8-1 on the road this season, including last week’s first-round win in Philadelphia. That only adds to the intrigue Sunday for their matchup with the Packers, the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
“Every time these two teams play each other,” Hasselbeck said, “there’s something wild and wacky that happens.”