- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

Tim Hasselbeck’s bubble didn’t just burst yesterday. It exploded.

Facing Dallas’ top-ranked defense in chilly, wet Landover, the Washington Redskins’ starting quarterback looked a lot more like the player every team bypassed in the 2001 draft than the cool customer who shined in relief of injured Patrick Ramsey the past three weeks.

Six days after Ramsey went on injured reserve with an ailing right foot ensuring that the job was his for the rest of the season, Hasselbeck looked as bad as Heath Shuler ever did in quarterbacking the Redskins.

Hasselbeck finished 6-for-26 for 56 yards with four interceptions and a bottom of the barrel 0.0 rating as Washington was blanked 27-0. It was difficult to believe this was the same player who threw for 242 yards against New Orleans and posted a sparkling 128.0 passer rating in beating the New York Giants.

“There are going to be bad nights,” Hasselbeck said. “I had a bad night tonight. I didn’t feel like I ever had anything going. You’ve got to treat situations like these like you do when you play well. You learn from what happened and move on. I don’t think for one minute that I can’t play in this league. I’ve seen my brother [Seattle starter Matt] have bad nights and he may go to the Pro Bowl. I’ve seen [Green Bays] Brett Favre throw a lot of interceptions. I’ve seen the ball come out of his hands in bad weather.”

But Matt Hasselbeck and Favre never had games as bad as this.

The younger Hasselbeck connected with tight end Zeron Flemister for 10 yards on Washington’s first offensive play, but it was all downhill after that. As many of Hasselbeck’s remaining nine passes in the first half — two — wound up in the hands of Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman as in those of Redskins.

The first pickoff occurred with Washington having its best field possession of the game, second-and-8 at the Dallas 27. However when Hasselbeck saw Newman get position on wideout Laveranues Coles outside, he threw inside.

“Laveranues is doing what he’s supposed to do and I left the ball inside too much,” Hasselbeck said.

Washington’s next series ended at its 29 when Hasselbeck’s throw sailed over running back Rock Cartwright’s head and right to Newman. The cornerback’s 25-yard return set up the touchdown that made it 14-0. At halftime, Hasselbeck’s rating was 1.7.

“The ball just came out of my hand higher than I wanted it to,” said Hasselbeck, who eschewed the gloves he wore last week in frigid Giants Stadium because he said they’re ineffective in wet weather. “Anytime you play in sloppy conditions, it contributes to more turnovers. You have to do a good job of putting the ball where a guy doesn’t have to reach for it and where it doesn’t get batted up in the air. I didn’t do a very good job of that.”

The second half didn’t start any better for Hasselbeck. His first pass soared over Coles’ head. His second landed so far from an eligible receiver that he was lucky he wasn’t called for intentional grounding. With 6:20 left in the third quarter, Hasselbeck was 3-for-14 for 34 yards and his rating had sunk to the level of Bluto Blutarsky’s grade-point average in the movie “Animal House.”

Hasselbeck completed three of his next five for 23 yards, but his 20th pass deflected off safety Darren Woodson to Newman for the rookie’s third interception. The fourth and final pickoff was recorded by nickel back Pete Hunter with 5:42 left in the rout.

The only positive for the 25-year-old Boston College quarterback was the way his coaches and teammates refused to blame him for the team’s pathetic performance.

“Tim had a tough time, but the guys around him didn’t do much to help him a whole lot,” coach Steve Spurrier said.

“Tim’s a level-headed guy,” receiver Darnerien McCants said. “A quarterback can’t get flustered. That’s going to throw the whole team off. Tim didn’t.”

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