Green Bay, Wis. With his arm, leadership and even his mouth, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck looked as solid as the guy he used to back up.
Until the final play, that is.
Hasselbeck was 25-of-45 for 305 yards in his first playoff start, dueling with Green Bay's Brett Favre into overtime. But the dramatic NFC wild-card game ended when Hasselbeck threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 33-27 victory Sunday over the Seahawks.
"It was tough," Hasselbeck said, still stunned in the interview room. "It would have been a lot better if we had won."
Hasselbeck played the game of his life, but his only mistake was the difference. Facing third-and-11 at his 46 and reading an all-out blitz, he called an audible and threw for Alex Bannister near Seattle's sideline.
Green Bay's Al Harris stepped in front of the ball and returned it 52 yards for the score.
"I was in shock, and he was going in slow motion," Hasselbeck said. "He shouldn't have been there, in my mind. He caught the ball and I didn't get a good jump. I don't know if it would have mattered."
"He gambled and hit the jackpot," Bannister added.
It was a tough way to go out on a day where Hasselbeck otherwise was fabulous. The fifth-year pro turned in a breakthrough performance, a coming-of-age for a quarterback who routinely was booed by Seattle fans after his arrival in 2001.
"Every time you play in a tough playoff game, you learn," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "This game today, I'm pretty sure it's going to help him for the next time around."
Hasselbeck, who threw for a team-record 3,841 yards this season, played behind Favre in Green Bay in 1999 and 2000. And Sunday, Hasselbeck looked like he learned plenty from the Packers' legend.
"I'm not trying to be him," Hasselbeck said. "I'm just trying to be myself, and I think that's what he does. People enjoy him. He's fun to be around. Above all, he plays football at a very high level."
So does Hasselbeck.
Favre's toughness and effectiveness in cold weather is already the stuff of lore, but Hasselbeck looked every bit as steady on a cold, cloudy day.
He even came out for warmups without sleeves on his arms. When he saw Favre wearing them, Hasselbeck couldn't pass up ribbing his old buddy.
"He told me, 'Yeah, I'm getting too old,'" Hasselbeck recalled. "Then Mike came in the locker room and said, 'Hey, Hercules, put on some sleeves.' That's the first thing Brett said to me at the coin toss. It was, 'What was that about the sleeves, tough guy?'"