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Can Seattle Game Plan Around a Mortal Weakness?

Colonel Paul Pasqiuna, medical director of the amputee program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said the general public suffers from a bias. That bias has slowed research into artificial limbs. People, especially the handed, assume a prosthetic must be lifelike. Pasqiuna said that the most functional, affordable prosthetic hand is the classic "hook" design that uses cables and a harness to control movement. The design is almost a century old. Most amputees are not worried about looks, but functionality. If their prosthesis could function like a hand, it wouldn't matter if it looked like a pineapple.

It forced me to question whether I was unhappy with how Matt Hasselbeck had played because it was ineffective or because it was unaesthetic. The effectiveness can be overstated. When considering the high number of attempts and low quality of defense, it's little wonder Hasslebeck totaled only 43 DYAR. Seattle rallied around Matthew Stafford's interceptions to win. But when it needed offense, the three yard swing pass was the offense it could muster. If not universally effective, the short passing game was relatively effective. It accomplished what Seattle needed then to win the game.

I expected Seattle to use the screen to slow Arizona. The Cardinals stacked eight in the box and dared Seattle to beat their secondary. Instead, Seattle stuck with its basic game plan of rushes and play action. Hasselbeck only targeted his backs twice: once to Justin Forsett for 16 and once incomplete to Owen Schmitt.

The screen is a powerful weapon and I've done nothing but rave about Greg Knapp's implementation of a varied and effective screen attack. Hasselbeck did not complete 17 passes to his backs because of an effective screen game, but an ineffective Lions pass rush. The passes Hasselbeck threw to his backs were not designed but outlet passes. Most were slow developing. Rather than attacking an aggressive defense, they worked because Detroit's defense could not create pressure. Hasselbeck would read his progressions and wait and wait and check down after a back finished his block and pulled out of the pocket. It took ages.

That will not work against the Cardinals. It won't work against most NFL teams. It relies on an offensive line that can block until receivers have run off linebackers and defensive backs. Beyond being difficult, it's low reward and high cost. Hasselbeck took five hits and a sack against the Lions 28th ranked pass rush. If Seattle attempts the same against a better opponent on the road, holds, hits and sacks will spike, followed by fumbles and injuries.

The Seahawks offense is struggling. It cannot run, it cannot establish the pass off the run. The Arizona Cardinals are not a dominant defense, but they dominated Seattle at home. Arizona has challenged teams to pass against their young, fast and athletic secondary. Quarterbacks that could, like Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler, have torched the Cardinals pass defense. Quarterbacks that couldn't, like Shaun Hill, Jake Delhomme and Matt Hasselbeck, have been completely shut down. The "haves" averaged 373 yards of passing offense. The "have nots" have averaged 137. What do the "haves" have that the "have nots" lack? Arm strength.

My prevailing image of Hasselbeck against Arizona is not from this season, but last. Seattle was trailing by six with two minutes to play. Hasselbeck targeted Deion Branch on a crossing pattern and before the ball could reach him, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie overran Branch and intercepted the pass to effectively end the game. Branch had beaten Cromartie out of his break, but the pass never arrived.

Maybe it's overly simplistic to blame that loss on lost arm strength. Hasselbeck has thrown worse. But you beat man coverage by attacking man coverage. A well thrown pass zips to its target and allows time enough for the receiver to reach it, but not the defensive back to react. That isn't a consistent part of Seattle's arsenal anymore. I don't think Hasselbeck can beat a defensive back in close cover. Not reliably. It might not be pretty and it might not work, but slings, swings and screens may be the only offense Seattle can still run.