RENTON, Wash. -- Pete Carroll spent part of Monday just watching.
The Seahawks coach wanted to see how Matt Hasselbeck reacted in meetings to the blunt criticism of all the mistakes he's made recently. Then Carroll sat down with Hasselbeck to make certain he was in the right state mentally after having been booed off the field less than 24 hours earlier.
With a division title still obtainable -- even at 6-8 -- Carroll decided he's going to stick with his veteran quarterback instead of making a change to unproven backup Charlie Whitehurst.
"We're going with Matt. Matt's been our quarterback, he's given us a chance all throughout, the best chance to finish off right and I'm excited in that sense he's going to pull this thing together," Carroll said Monday afternoon. "We've got to play well around him. We've got to take care of the quarterback in all ways, protection-wise, running the football, we need to play better on defense so it's not all tuned where the focus is to one guy and people can try and point the finger."
Carroll put to rest what could have been a lingering debate all week as the Seahawks prepare to play at Tampa Bay on Sunday in a game that could end up being relatively meaningless to their chances at an NFC West title. If St. Louis beats San Francisco at home on Sunday, then it doesn't matter what the Seahawks do against the Buccaneers, the NFC West title will be decided on Jan. 2 when the Seahawks host the Rams.
And unless an injury occurs or Hasselbeck's horrid turnover rate continues, Carroll made clear that Hasselbeck will be the Seahawks quarterback for the final two games.
"I was very specific to our team and Matt today about how to handle it and giving us a chance to keep staying with the game plan and giving our special teams and our defense a chance, and our offense as well, a chance to get back into it by not overtrying, by not trying to force the issues," Carroll said.
Hasselbeck was pulled in the third quarter of Sunday's 34-18 loss to Atlanta after throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble that resulted in a Falcons touchdown. Whitehurst replaced Hasselbeck and played well, scoring on a 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that prompted chants of "Charlie" from the fans who remained.
Carroll said Whitehurst's performance makes the coach more confident if he needs to turn to Whitehurst.
Hasselbeck has continually violated what Carroll preaches the most, taking care of the ball. In his last four games, Hasselbeck's been responsible for 13 turnovers -- three fumbles and 10 interceptions. His fumble in the end zone on Seattle's first offensive play of the second half Sunday was recovered by Jonathan Babineaux for a touchdown and a 24-10 Falcons lead.
Hasselbeck followed up with interceptions on Seattle's next two possessions.
And this performance came after he had the first five-turnover game of his career -- four interceptions and one fumble -- a week earlier at San Francisco. It hasn't helped that Seattle's fallen behind in both games and Hasselbeck has admitted feeling as though he needed to force things.
"Looking back, I seem to do stupid things when we're losing. When we're down by two touchdowns or more, that's where I have to be way smarter. That's where I've really failed recently. That's on me. I know better. You have to learn the lesson the hard way, and I just have to be smarter in those kind of situations."
Carroll said he was pleased with how Whitehurst played when he entered, but the decision to continue with the struggling Hasselbeck is another statement on how the Seahawks view Whitehurst. Seattle traded a second-round pick to San Diego and signed Whitehurst to an $8 million, two-year deal with incentives last offseason with the hope he would compete for the starting job that Hasselbeck clearly won.
Whitehurst was 8 of 16 for 83 yards in about one quarter of action on Sunday.
"He did handle himself very well yesterday, did a nice job handling the situation, and if we need him we'll call on him," Carroll said. "Maybe just in that sense I feel better about him, you know, under those circumstances."
On the Seahawks' injury front, the team placed special teams captain Roy Lewis on injured reserve with a lingering knee injury that will require surgery. Carroll remains hopeful cornerback Marcus Trufant will be able to play Sunday at Tampa Bay.
The team also signed defensive back Marcus Brown to the active roster.
Lewis had been bothered by the injury for a few weeks.
Trufant left Sunday's game with back spasms. Carroll says this is not related to the back injury that cost Trufant the first six games of 2009.
Cornerback Walter Thurmond is expected back this week after missing Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Junior Siavii's status is unknown after he suffered a stinger in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press