San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith's progress in making quick decisions stood out when I re-watched the 49ers-Seahawks game.
His Seattle counterpart, Matt Hasselbeck, has been making those decisions for years. The last one Hasselbeck made Sunday helped win the game for the Seahawks. I wanted to take a closer look at his 32-yard pass to rookie Deon Butler after sizing up a 42-yard gain by the 49ers earlier in the day.
Seattle faced first-and-10 from the San Francisco 47 with 18 seconds remaining in a 17-17 game. The Seahawks went with four wide receivers for the 11th time in the game. They put Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch to the left. Butler was wide to the right and isolated against cornerback Keith Smith, the player San Francisco signed for depth when an injury sidelined starter Nate Clements.
Hasselbeck, standing in shotgun formation with Julius Jones to his immediate right, caught the snap from center Chris Spencer with 18 seconds still showing on the clock. Spencer, playing with a broken right thumb, delivered the snap quickly and accurately with his left hand. That bought critical time for Hasselbeck. The 49ers' Mark Roman and Patrick Willis showed blitz up the middle, but only Willis followed through. Jones dove at his legs and slowed him just enough.
Hasselbeck scanned the left side of the field as he was gathering the snap. He committed to Butler before the receiver was 2 yards downfield. The ball left Hasselbeck's hand just after the clock showed 16 seconds. The pass traveled 30 yards before Butler caught it at the 24 just as the clock turned to 14 seconds.
Elapsed time: less than 4 seconds. That's how quickly an NFL game can be won or lost, all because a quarterback makes the right decision and delivers the ball accurately 30 yards downfield.
49ers coach Mike Singletary wanted an offensive interference call against Butler on the play. Replays did not show viewers what Singletary could see from the 49ers' sideline. There definitely appeared to be contact. Officials were inconsistent in how they called holding and interference down the field. That's another conversation.
Seahawks through the air: Week 13
The chart shows how the Seahawks' passing game fared by personnel group during a 20-17 victory over the 49ers. Matt Hasselbeck attempted every pass but one. Seneca Wallace completed the only pass he threw.