*Includes all games minus Week 10, Divisional Round and the second half of Week 3 and the first half of week 1.
The series ends with Morris making a tumbling catch in the endzone for the score.
Let's start with the first play of the drive. Leonard Weaver's in as the lone back. Seattle's in a three wide, single tight formation. Weaver pops into the flat, Beck scrambles for three, but what's interesting here is that after the play ends Beck chews out Weaver seemingly because he ran the wrong formation or was supposed to stay back and block. Flash ahead to the presnap huddle on the seventh play of the drive. The Hawks only have 10 men on the field, and once everyone gets to the line of scrimmage that becomes clear. Someone, possibly Holmgren, calls a timeout from the side line. Beck, again, is visibly agitated. The camera zooms on him approaching Holmgren and I think I see his lips say: something, something "Wide Open".
The following formation is similar, but now instead of three wide and a single back, the Hawks start 3 wide with an I back formation. Presnap Morris motions to the left and you can see Hasselbeck watching as Derrick Brooks shadows out on coverage. It's really almost too obvious. The play starts, Beck looks right briefly and then keys on Morris running a fly pattern. Beck launches a real lofty pass, lots of arch, and Morris nearly loses the ball in flight, but is so wide open that he manages to catch it while crumpling into the endzone. I don't know if this was all planned together, if the ten men in the huddle was an attempt to see the Bucs coverage, or who spotted the obvious mismatch, but this is a great example of strategy conquering talent. Seattle scored that touchdown through sheer guile and almost in spite of Morris' efforts. It wasn't a by Websters trick play in true, but it was an obvious attempt to deceive the Bucs D and it worked to near perfection. Just fun football there.
Hawks ball, 2:07 on the clock, Seattle down by three. Beck scrambles for 11, completes a pair of dinks to Bobby Engram, the second for the first and midfield. Next play, Beck surveys left, turns right, ignores Weaver, stutter steps and then whips the ball into double coverage. Incomplete. Drive alive. Game alive. With 1:21 remaining, Beck drops back and finds Hackett on the edge for 15. The Hawks are at Cleveland's 35 and within Brown's range. One play later, it's 2nd and 6, 54 seconds remain in regulation. Mike Holmgren calls a run, Morris nets 4 hard earned yards, but 22 seconds are run off the clock. Next play, incomplete pass - it's now second and ten, the Hawks are 15 yards from the endzone, but with no timeouts. 18 seconds remain. Draw. Morris picks his way through the scrum, breaks an arm tackle, finds space in the second level, but is corralled at the Browns 4 yard line with time slipping away. Beck quick-spikes it. Brown converts the field goal. Overtime.
On his touchdown pass to Bobby Engram, Beck audibled Will Heller into an H-back position, and Shaun Alexander up and to his right in a wing back position. He did that, presumably, to pick up the Eagles' not at all disguised wide blitz. Funny, though, Alexander slipping up and out (almost) into the flat seemed to freeze Joselio Hanson and allow Engram to split the Eagles' zone. Were Alexander in his original position behind Beck, 5 yards behind the line, Hanson likely disregards Alexander, picks up Engram, and then who knows? Sometimes you make one right read and get another free for the effort.
It's 3rd and 7, following a 7 yard Morris run, following a 4 yard Alexander loss, and the Hawks are set in a 4 receiver 1 back set. After the snap, Beck takes a three step drop, stares down Bobby Engram, pats the ball just so the defensive backs can be sure he's about to throw and whips the ball into double coverage. Had he not stared down the receiver, the pat might not have mattered, had he not patted the ball, Sean Jones may not have been so sure that he could break on the route, but when you stare at one and only one receiver from the get go and then pat the ball just so everyone knows you're about to throw it, anything but a pick is a sign of luck or defensive incompetence.
Just a terrible game for Matt Hasselbeck. Terrible. Since I've been tracking the Hawks, I've never seen a game where Beck was so inaccurate, or worse, so bad about throwing into coverage. Every pass I note whether Beck's throw was accurate, underthrown, overthrown, into coverage or tipped. In most games Beck's accuracy rating is 70%+. On Sunday he was accurate on just a shade under 59% of his passes. In the fourth quarter he was especially bad, accurate on just 30% of his passes. So, he didn't have a bad fantasy day, his QB rating, a somewhat bad but not awful 78.92, and as for a meaningful stat, his DPAR was a more indicative -2.2, but though I haven't compiled information for the entire season yet, I think this was likely his worst game of the year. One more reason the Seahawks were lucky to survive on Sunday.
This is about as close as you'll ever see to me breaking news: Beck was playing hurt. Oh, you knew that? Well allow me to elaborate. On Beck's first pick, he sidearms the throw. An not just a little bit, but so that his arm is almost flat. I noticed a stretch of plays where he was throwing almost every pass this way. Beck does stare down Bobby Engram and that allowed Landry to jump the route, but the pass was slow, floated and so underthrown that Engram breaks his ankles trying to get back to it. Funny, too, because that's the last pass Beck threw like that. Maybe it just hurt less, and as a long as he could get away with it, he would.
In 2007 Matt Hasselbeck set career highs in passing yardage, touchdowns and quarterback rating. Whoopee. Within Mike Holmgren’s broadcast and pass offense, he also set a career high in attempts. Attempts beget yardage and touchdowns and touchdowns disproportionately bolster quarterback rating. But throwing a lot and wracking stats does not a valuable quarterback make. The best metric available, DPAR, lists 2003 (87.3) and 2005 (88.4) as more valuable seasons than 2007 (77.0).
2007 was Matt Hasselbeck’s best season as a pro. His two best receivers, Hacks and Branch, missed snaps like it was going out of style. To say the running attack evaporated is to imply it disappeared, but it didn’t disappear, no, over 207 attempts the Alexander Express bore an oozing fistula into the heart of Seattle’s offense. The Hawks passing attack manifested in animated or reanimated castoffs, role players and backups. Marcus Pollard, 9.5 DPAR. Leonard Weaver, 6.7. Bobby Engram, 32.0. Mack Strong, 2.5. The Objectivist expanded his read, found plays wherever across the field, and on 72% of his passes, found openings, opportunities and made completions. For 18 games, Hasselbeck put 10 men on his back and created the semblance of offense.
Matt Hasselbeck will play most of the 2008 season a young 33. Behind a potentially dominant line, and with Sea Change improvements at running back and tight end, he may feel very young indeed. 2005 young, but with 2007's maturity. And barring any Mutations, 2008 should be Beck's best season ever--according to stats, according to analysis, and according to fan's everywhere Beer Can fueled memories.