Matt was the difference in the Seattle Seahawks division loss at Arizona on Sunday, Sept. 16. Matt was terrific during the first half, when Matt was ineffective. The reverse was the case the second half, so you figure it out.
Oh, yeah: The first-half hero was Matt Leinart of the Cardinals; Matt Hasselbeck, the Hawk field leader, had the showier second-half stats, none of them reflective of the way the game ended. Arizona claimed the 23-20 victory with a 42-yard field goal as the clock ran down to one second.
Seattle might have had a mirror-image victory had Hasselbeck not improbably been part of a muffed handoff to Shaun Alexander with 1:48 left. By then the Hawks had sustained what looked to be an extended two-minute drill that would result in their own winning field goal as time expired. Coughing up the ball near midfield, the Seattle offense retired to the sidelines to watch Leinart and company do what Hasselbeck and the Hawks could not.
The possibility of a Seattle win seemed distant the first two quarters, when Heisman Trophy-winner Leinart moved the ball at will and built a 17-0 lead. Seattle's defense, widely praised after holding Tampa Bay to a pair of field goals the previous week, couldn't get past a suddenly credible Arizona offensive line. Leinart wasn't "sacked" until the second half, when he actually tripped and was tagged for a minor loss. His lone interception was a pick by Hawk linebacker Lofa Tatupa, an apparent tide-turning play that started Seattle toward a late-in-the-game three-point lead.
"I never lost a game that way," observed Seattle coach Mike Holmgren (or "Holmgram," as Fox Sports game announcer Terry Donahue repeatedly preferred.)
The coach said the play was the result of "a miscommunication. It'll never happen again but it happened today."
The loss leaves the Hawks even after two games, looking at a Qwest Field visit by Cincinnati next week. Experts insist on claiming that a division loss is worse that a plain old "L," but 14 regular-season games remain and it's somewhat early to declare that the Hawks are in danger of failing to defend their three-year dominance in the National Football League West Division. San Francisco leads with a 2-0 record with narrow division wins against St. Louis (0-2) and Arizona (0-1). But none of the Hawks' division foes shows evidence of being a Super Bowl contender.
Excuses weren't forthcoming from members of the veteran Seattle club, so I'll offer a few: Back-up runner Maurice Morris and receiver D.J. Hackett couldn't play, meaning the Hawks were without critical offensive weapons. Shaun Alexander had his sprained left wrist wrapped mummy-style in gauze and bandages.
Even so, the Hawks vaunted O-line (Holmgren says it's much improved from last year's) couldn't clear first-half holes for Alexander, and Seattle receivers ran bad routes and ham-handled catchable balls the first half. But Deion Branch, skunked during the week-one game, had seven grabs against Arizona. He was Seattle's main saving grace on offense.
If the Seahawks saved the best for last, the University of Washington Huskies saved the last for worst Saturday at home against 10th-ranked Ohio State. Many among the third-largest crowd in Husky Stadium history dared to dream of a season-affirming upset as the team came out of the tunnel with a 7-3 second-half lead. But the young Huskies made some stupid mistakes during the second half and lost 33-14. Tyrone Willingham's mostly rebuilt program, however, may be ahead of many preseason projections as the team goes into league play next Saturday with a 2-1 mark. The Huskies host UCLA, presumably beatable after a 44-6 drubbing by Utah.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, can be glad they won't face another Matt when they play the Bengals Sept. 23. On the other hand, they face Carson Palmer, who, like Matt Leinart, is a Heisman winner from USC.