Eagles Will Be After Hasselbeck Again

Saturday, December 1st 2007, 3:54 pm
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Matt Hasselbeck still cringes when he thinks about his second career start. A ferocious Philadelphia Eagles defense battered Seattle's young quarterback, sacking Hasselbeck seven times in a 27-3 victory at Husky Stadium in Week 2 of the 2001 season.

Hasselbeck can expect to see the same attacking defense when the Seahawks (7-4) visit Philadelphia (5-6) on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is still in charge and his philosophy hasn't changed in six years.

``He's a very good coach. He's well-respected,'' Hasselbeck said. ``I think at the first Pro Bowl that I got to go to, the Eagles staff was there and I think the quarterbacks, we were a little bit like groupies. We were like, `Oh Jim, we think you're great.'''

Johnson devised a scheme last week that slowed New England's potent offense and almost ended the Patriots' bid for an undefeated season. Relying on a variety of blitzes and stunts, the Eagles pressured Tom Brady, sacked him three times and held him to one touchdown pass. But Brady rallied New England to a 31-28 victory that was aided greatly by a pair of interceptions by Asante Samuel, including one returned for a score.

While the Eagles perhaps gave the rest of the NFL a blueprint for success against the Patriots, the lowly Rams may have given the innovative Johnson an idea or two on containing the Seahawks.

Seattle had a difficult time beating St. Louis 24-19 last Sunday, finally securing the win when backup quarterback Gus Frerotte fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 27 seconds left. The Rams confused the Seahawks by shifting their defensive alignment before the snap and sacked Hasselbeck five times.

``I would expect everyone to look at that film until we prove that we can do otherwise,'' Hasselbeck said. ``We have to get prepared for this kind of stuff and show that we can handle it and hopefully make somebody pay if they try to do it.''

Johnson expects Hasselbeck and coaching staff to make some adjustments from last week. The Seahawks could have different personnel, too. Halfback Shaun Alexander might play his first game in a month, especially since backup Maurice Morris has a sore ankle.

If both running backs are healthy, the Seahawks won't have to rely as much on their passing game. Still, Johnson is focused on stopping Hasselbeck.

``I've always had great admiration for him,'' Johnson said. ``He's a smart quarterback, a great competitor, a tough guy; he gets rid of the ball. It still starts with him. I know both running backs are going to be back this week and they're good running backs. The key to that offense is Matt Hasselbeck. If he is on, they're a very, very good offense.''

Hasselbeck has faced Johnson's defense twice since taking that beating in '01. He struggled in a 27-20 loss in 2002, but the Seahawks routed the Eagles 42-0 in a Monday night game in Philly on their way to the Super Bowl two years ago. Seattle's defense scored three TDs in that game, so Hasselbeck didn't have to do much.

At least the Eagles know which quarterback they'll face. The Seahawks had to prepare for Donovan McNabb and backup A.J. Feeley because McNabb missed practices this week with ankle and thumb injuries that sidelined him against the Patriots.

Feeley filled in nicely, throwing for 345 yards and three TDs in New England. But he also had two costly interceptions. Feeley led Philadelphia to the seven-point win over the Seahawks in Seattle five years ago in his second career start.

Eagles coach Andy Reid stressed that McNabb's starting job isn't in jeopardy and the five-time Pro Bowl pick would play once he's healthy.

``Playing against Donovan in years past, he was always much more mobile than the other quarterback, whoever happened to be playing there,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. ``He's had his share of leg injuries, but he still can move around. So that's the biggest thing. They don't change the plays or anything. At least, it doesn't appear that they do very much. Regardless of what Andy says, we are preparing to play against Donovan.''

This will be the fourth time Reid faces his mentor. Reid worked under Holmgren as an assistant in Green Bay during the 1990s. Both left the Packers after the 1998 season, and the student has been more successful than the teacher since.

Reid has led the Eagles to six playoff appearances, five division titles, four trips to the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl loss in his first eight seasons in Philly. Holmgren, who won a Super Bowl in Green Bay, didn't win a playoff game until his seventh year in Seattle.

``I have a lot of respect for him,'' Reid said. ``Obviously, I owe him a little bit. I probably wouldn't be sitting here in front of you if it wasn't for him.''