|Byproduct of all that Hasselbeck's throwing: Improved Seahawks running game|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008 15:12|
Running has been a part of Haskell's offenses for 38 years. So when Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren told his offensive coordinator, and everyone else, in November that he was going to rely on Matt Hasselbeck's passing in lieu of a stalled running game, Haskell joked, ``I'm going back to high school, to run the ball.''
Haskell didn't have to go way back to St. Ignatius High in San Francisco. He just had to go back to the playoffs.
``It couldn't get any worse,'' running back Shaun Alexander said. ``So we're doing little things and taking steps.''
The 2005 league MVP was going nowhere and getting booed at home until he ran for 73 yards two weeks ago against Baltimore. That's not exactly the USC rushing rampage in which Haskell learned to coach. But it at least left the Redskins with a second thought instead of recklessly blitzing Hasselbeck, as Seattle's opponents have done for most of the season.
``We've got to stop them from running,'' cornerback Shawn Springs said Tuesday at Redskins headquarters in suburban Virginia.
That's music to Haskell's 64-year-old ears.
``Being at SC all those years running the ball, we could just go (running). So I know you've got to run the ball,'' he said. ``You've got to be balanced.
``The last two games, we've run the ball better. We've balanced it up, which is great. So I don't see us changing from that.''
That balance stayed intact Tuesday when Hasselbeck, who's had a career season and made his third Pro Bowl, practiced fully with the first team. He landed awkwardly on his right wrist after throwing an incomplete pass during Sunday's loss at Atlanta. He was wearing a brace and ice pack after he left the meaningless game as planned following halftime. X-rays taken at the stadium Sunday were negative.
Haskell said he never doubted Seattle's most indispensable player, who set team records this season for completions (352), attempts (562) and yards (3,966), would practice this entire week and start against the NFC's hottest team.
``On the airplane (home) he was fine. Everything was fine,'' Haskell said, adding he thought Hasselbeck looked sharp in the 70-minute holiday practice.
To the Seahawks, Hasselbeck's passing is the reason they have totaled season bests of 144 and 167 yards rushing in their last two games. Seattle averaged 89 yards over the previous 10 games.
``If we would have still been forcing the run, we probably wouldn't be in the playoffs,'' Haskell said.
Center Chris Spencer said the reputation spawned from Holmgren declaring a pass-first philosophy at midseason is the reason for the larger running holes.
``I guess now we are known as a passing team,'' Spencer said. ``When he hit them with the run, it's like 'Hey, where'd that come from?'''
Maurice Morris, who now shares the lead role with Alexander, ran for a season-high 91 yards last weekend. Morris is enjoying both sides of this offense. He is more versatile than Alexander in the passing game. And he is faster than Alexander hitting the running holes that have grown as Hasselbeck has thrown more.
``As much as we've been passing, it's opened up the running lanes,'' Morris said. ``Oh, no doubt. The D-line is trying to stop the pass, trying to get sacks. Then, we can gash them.''
There is a caveat to this rushing resurgence. It has come against a Ravens defense that was without linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive end Trevor Pryce, then against a Falcons front that was without top two defensive tackles entering the season.
Saturday, the Seahawks must try to shove Washington's Anthony Montgomery, listed at 315 pounds, and Cornelius Griffin, who is at least 310, out of the middle.
``Can we move them?'' Haskell wonders.
The Redskins have also recently added a safety as an extra defender near the line of scrimmage on most downs to further stifle the run.
It's worked. Washington's run defense is third in the league, allowing just 91.3 yards per game.
``But,'' Haskell said, ``they haven't seen our passing attack.''
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.