"He holds us to a high standard," says Bobby Engram, who had a touchdown catch on Sunday. "If we're saying our legs are a little tired, he's like, 'Nah, you go get loose and ice your legs after practice.' Everything in this offense is predicated on timing and being in the right spot, and our practices are just as fast as the games sometimes."
Hasselbeck only slows things down in the film room or after practice, when he's trying to perfect a route. Wanting to get a better feel for how Deion Branch and Nate Burleson were running a post route in the red zone last Friday, Hasselbeck kept the two after practice and went over it with them. Two days later he found Branch on the same play, running the same route, for a 17-yard touchdown and a 24--0 lead.
"We talked it through after practice," Hasselbeck explained later. "I heard what he was being told by his position coach, and he heard what I was being told. We ran it a couple of times and hit it on air [practicing with no defenders].... In the game he was double-covered, but the safety had his back turned, and so because of our conversation, because we had run the route on air, I was confident [Branch] was going to try to split the double team. I just put it where either he catches it or nobody does. The first thing we said [afterward] was, 'Good thing we worked on it.'"
This season has been an about-face for Hasselbeck, who last year threw nearly as many interceptions (15) as touchdowns (18) and completed only 56.6% of his passes, his lowest mark since 2001. He struggled not only with injuries but also with getting to know the tendencies of newcomers Branch and Burleson. Now, Seattle is off and running—er, passing.
"You can't put a finger on [just one thing] Matt is doing within this offense," says Burleson. "Not just throwing touchdowns but also controlling the game, keeping everybody focused in the huddle, cracking jokes at the right time to get us to relax—just doing a great job of leading this team. He's our captain, he's the leader of the ship. Without him we don't sail."
ONLY AT SI.COM Jim Trotter's Inside the NFL