Seattle's captain and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has stopped talking about the goals the team set this summer -- winning the NFC West for the fifth time in six seasons, or at least returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Now, with postseason hopes still almost nonexistent despite two straight wins that have the Seahawks at 5-7 with four games remaining, Hasselbeck is rallying his team around a more modest goal -- a winning season.
"That's absolutely what we're still playing for," he said after leading the game-winning drive in the final minute of a 20-17 victory over San Francisco on Sunday. "The way to do it, though, is one game at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time, just doing all the things we said before the season is so important."
Admittedly, it's a modest goal now. Yet for a team that was 4-12 last season and just forced out its president and general manager, Seattle will take it.
"It would be easy to look at all the mistakes we've made, and look at the big mountain we have to climb to accomplish it, and get discouraged," Hasselbeck said. "So we just have to stay focused.
"If a (winning season) happens, it happens. We can control a good part of that."
It would take stretching the winning streak to an improbable six games, plus a combination of flops in front of them too numerous to mention, for the Seahawks' to steal a wild-card berth with a 9-7 record in the jumbled NFC. Losing both games to first-place Arizona (8-4) takes away virtually all hope of winning the division.
So coach Jim Mora isn't motivated by even the faintest of postseason prospects.
"No, not really," Mora said Monday. "I mean, every once in a while, sure, you give it a little thought, but really what we're trying to do is focus on the next game and getting better."
That next game is Sunday at Houston (5-7). And getting better includes the constant concern over the health of the indispensable, 34-year-old quarterback.
Hasselbeck, who missed 2 1/2 games earlier this season with broken ribs, got his throwing shoulder -- already aching for weeks -- driven into the turf on a third-and-1 scramble in the third quarter Sunday. San Francisco's Dashon Goldson hit him low, and Takeo Spikes came in across his back for a blow Hasselbeck felt on those ribs.
The double whammy left him on his back on the field for a tense moment. The home crowd gasped - as it often does every time Hasselbeck takes off running these days. A team doctor and trainer bent over him, then escorted him off the field. On the sidelines, the medical staff talked to him for half of the 49ers' ensuing drive as Hasselbeck stood with a coat and knit cap on. They didn't do any treatment, but the conversation was urgent enough that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was forced to stand aside for a few minutes and wait to speak to his quarterback.
"I mistakenly thought that I could probably get the first (down)," Hasselbeck said. "I wasn't in love with the Deion Branch opportunity on that route, and I tried to run it, and I didn't get it, and I kind of got my shoulder a little bit. I just needed a minute.
"It will probably be fine."
Hasselbeck threw a few warmup tosses, then went back and finished the game, looking as good thowing at the end as he had all day. Then he got what he and the team called extensive ice treatment afterward.
"It's no surprise: I'm a Matt Hasselbeck fan," Mora said. "I think that he excels in crunch time. He shows his toughness every time he goes out there."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press