This is the unedited version of my game story that will appear in tomorrow’s editions of the News Tribune:
By FRANK HUGHES
ATLANTA – The Seattle Seahawks say they accomplished their primary objective in their 44-41 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon at the sparsely attended Georgia Dome.
Namely, that they didn’t get anybody injured as they head into their first-round playoff game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday at Qwest Field.
But there certainly was some hand wringing along the way.
Or, perhaps more accurately, wrist wringing.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck injured his right wrist in the second quarter of the game when he was trying to throw away the ball and got knocked to the ground.
"I don’t know if I landed on it or somebody else landed on it," Hasselbeck said. "But I fell awkwardly."
Both Hasselbeck and coach Mike Holmren said Hasselbeck will be able to play this weekend, but it was enough of a concern that Hasselbeck had to get the wrist x-rayed after halftime.
Hasselbeck spent a large portion of the second half with ice wrapped around the wrist, then had it taped to keep down the swelling. He said he would tape it again on the Sunday night flight home to contain any additional swelling.
Hasselbeck said he will practice this week, which ends up being a shortened week of preparation because of the Saturday game.
The Redskins got into the playoffs after defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 27-6, in their season finale Sunday afternoon, an outcome the Seahawks did not learn of until they landed in Seattle.
It sets up a rematch of Seattle’s first game they played en route to the Super Bowl in the 2005 postseason, though that game, won 20-10 by Seattle, was one round later because Seattle had a first-round bye.
The other similarity, Shaun Alexander pointed out, was that the Seahawks also lost their season-ending game that year, to Green Bay, "and we ended up in a happy place."
After Sunday’s loss, which snapped a four-game win streak over the Falcons, the Seahawks certainly were looking forward to the postseason more than analyzing the defeat, which dropped their regular-season record to 10-6.
It was a good thing because they did not have much explanation for how an Atlanta offense that combined to score 44 points total in its last three games scored a season-high – by 17 points – in its season finale.
Or how a Seahawks secondary that permitted only 11 touchdown passes all season relinquished four to Chris Redman, the third starting quarterback the Falcons have used this season.
"I was disappointed we didn’t win the football game," Holmgren said. "But it’s a hard game to play. It’s a hard game to play."
Holmgren, of course, was referencing the point that Seattle had nothing for which to play, locked into its No. 3 seed in the NFC, part of the reason that Holmgren decided to sit offensive tackle Walter Jones – only the fifth game he has missed in his career – and wide receiver Deion Branch, both of whom will play against Washington.
Meanwhile, consider the Falcons’ reaction after the victory; they showered interim head coach Emmitt Thomas with Gatorade, usually reserved for something a tad more important than the fourth win of a 16-game season.
But when a franchise has been through what the Falcons have experienced this season – a litany of losing bunched between Michael Vick’s and Bobby Petrino’s situations – the players can be forgiven for misplaced overzealousness.
"I was so happy that it didn’t even matter," said the 65-year-old Thomas.
Seattle’s defense had the opportunity to set a single-season franchise record if it held Atlanta’s offense to 13 points or fewer. But that aspiration was eliminated in the second quarter, when Atlanta took a 14-10 lead following a Hasselbeck sack-induced fumble.
Two plays later, Warrick Dunn swept in for a five-yard touchdown run, turning what had been a mundane football game into a wild affair that included 501 yards of offense from the Seahawks.
The Seahawks actually assumed a 10-0 lead when Shaun Alexander scored his 100th career rushing touchdown, only the eighth player in NFL history to accomplish the feat, and Josh Brown kicked a field goal, one of two from over 50 yards.
Hasselbeck became the franchise’s single-season leader in passing yards with his second throw of the game. He finished the season with 3,966 yards and 28 touchdowns.
But things fell apart quickly in the fourth quarter after back-to-back turnovers by Seneca Wallace, who had replaced Hasselbeck.
Atlanta opened the fourth period with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Redman to Alge Crumpler, who ran over Lofa Tatupu en route to the end zone, tying the score at 27.
On Seattle’s first play of the next possession, Jonathan Babineaux – brother of Seahawks safety Jordan – sacked Wallace, knocking loose the ball. Twenty-eight seconds later, Crumpler was celebrating another touchdown reception.
On Seattle’s next play, Wallace threw an interception to Chris Crocker, who returned it to Seattle’s 10. One play after that, Redman hit Roddy White for a touchdown. In a span of 100 seconds, the Falcons scored 17 points and took control of a game that the Seahawks hope will be only a footnote.
"I take my hat off to the Falcons," Julian Peterson said, "but it’s not going to change our momentum."