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The Matt Hasselbeck to Darrell Jackson Touchdown Connection: A Look at Passing Successfully

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I don't know what it is about this last game against the Cardinals that had me so struck with anger. It wasn't the play calling. This team had it's chances to win and fundamentally should have had some big plays, far before it came down to that final drive. I came out of that game bitter and frustrated and angry because I knew what the bulk of the words would be. 'Tarvaris fails again,' 'Jackson isn't clutch,' and other iterations of QB hate the fan base can muster to explain how it's all one man's fault.

I spent two days wallowing in it a bit, starting a few threads in some other communities on this subject just getting angrier and angrier because everyone just wanted the easy way out. Blaming Tarvaris Jackson is easy, but meanwhile I watched a less-talented QB in John Skelton dissect our defense with a top-flight receiver named Larry Fitzgerald, despite being pretty inaccurate. On the other side, T-Jack is making due with Ben Obamanu and Golden Tate, with slight Deon Butler and Doug Baldwin.

I tried to make this case after Week 2 and maybe that was too early, I'll admit, and though Jackson has shown to have a limited command of certain key skills, he didn't get the help from his receiving corps much. Before Sidney Rice went down, you could see those two had worked together, the way Rice broke off his routes and worked back to the ball on a breakdown was important for Jackson to have in some key spots. With Jackson and Rice having been in the same offense for years together, it created a knowledge where little adjustments and understanding each other created bigger plays than scheming mismatches in meetings. (See the Bengals game, where Rice had 7 catches for 102 yards).

I think this is the point - Tarvaris Jackson shouldn't be and is not the complete scapegoat for the Seahawks offensive issues - and this is something that people need to understand. I'm sure the average fan thinks that passing success is just having receivers that are more athletic than the opposing corners and that's just not true, otherwise Steve Largent wouldn't have caught 100 touchdowns.

This brings me to the unorthodox title of this piece. I chose it because I hate Ben Obamanu, not as a person, but what he reminds me of every time I see him. Matt Hasselbeck and Darrell Jackson were what Sidney Rice and Tarvaris Jackson are, two guys who had a lot of experience in the same offense, who started to click in such a fantastic fashion that Darrell and Matt could hook up against even the best cover men.

A contract dispute caused Tim Ruskell to trade away Jackson for a 4th rounder from the 49ers. The team lost it's true number-one receiver and never replaced him. Matt never clicked with Deion Branch; Nate Burleson never had the crisp moves or route running or natural feel for the ball in the air; and as we've seen, Obamanu's talent is little more than decent depth. I watched this last game in utter disgust because, if the ball isn't right in there, the only guy that's shown to be able to grab tough catches this season has been Doug Baldwin.

Sidney Rice made his share when healthy, but overall, these receivers depend on the QB to do all the work for them. I bring this up because I see these receivers skating, yet again. This sentence has become common in most conversations:

"Our wide receiver corps is really talented, I can't wait to see what a REAL QB can do with them."

Not only is this sentence naive, it denies how great receivers help make quarterbacks better or even in some cases make QB all by themselves. Ask Daunte Culpepper what life was like without Randy Moss.

Ok ok, I hear you. You want solid evidence right? Well just as a warm up, how many of you heard this during the playoff games - "Oh what a great catch!" or saw one of Victor Cruz's many clutch fingertip snags that resulted in long gains or touchdowns all throughout 2011? Now, how about I bring this a little closer to home.

Think back to 2006 - a game against the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks aren't doing so hot, Shaun's out, Maurice Morris is in, it's near the end of the third quarter and Darrell Jackson splits the safeties for a 42-yard touchdown strike from Matt Hasselbeck.

It's a beautiful throw and and even better catch, but it was even more amazing hearing about it in 2009 when Clare Farnsworth tried to explain what that relationship was like in the context of Matt's struggles, with his then current group featuring T.J. Houshmendzadeh and Deion Branch.

Clare gives this quote from Matt about that throw:

"I never even really saw Darrell, I just knew that when we got this look where the safeties didn't move against this call either coming in or spreading, out that Darrell and I would split them. It was kind of a throw on faith, but knowing he was going to be there."

Now maybe that's a little too obscure and you don't remember it. How about this one?

Redskins and Seahawks - back in the 2005 Divisional Round of the Playoffs. Seattle is actually having a lot of trouble offensively, Shaun's been knocked out and, really, no wideout is shaking loose from this stiff man-coverage.

Well, Darrell beats is man off the snap, but sees that Ryan Clark is playing center field and hasn't moved to his side, so Darrell works his way up along the hashes. Matt throws off play action but has to lead Jackson away from Clark, but, in so doing, he puts a bit of zip on the ball and Jackson is forced to lay out and make the catch.

That situation wasn't about scheme, it was about two players understanding the situation, making a simple adjustment and each pulling their weight to make a great play that really helped turn the game, which, until that point, had been a bit of a disaster.

Darrell and Matt would go on to hook up again for 28 yards when the Redskins' safety jumped inside on the same play action look, leaving Jackson one-on-one vs Shawn Springs. This set up another TD, but the execution is almost exactly the same if you watch both plays. Hasselbeck cuts it loose and Jackson looks for it at about 20 yards down field, if he doesn't look for it, he's going to probably be under thrown, instead, Darrell stops under the ball and makes the catch despite taking a lick from Sean Taylor.

Before I wrap this up, I wanted to pose this question to all those here at Fieldgulls. Darrell Jackson is out for this game against the Redskins and you have to pick another receiver from this squad to make those 9 catches including the tough TD, who's number are you calling?

Sidney Rice? Ben Obamanu? Deon Butler? Golden Tate? Doug Baldwin? Jordan Kent's realized potential...errr I mean...Ricardo Lockette? I think the answer is easily Sidney Rice, but I'd like your thoughts on this.

Before you say it's all the QB and that just simply changing the QB would fix everything, watch these big play highlights from 2002 and 2003, and note how many times it's a big play by both the QB and the receiver. Apologies for the music.