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Hasselbeck fills in Favre-ly well

He's not a superstar, but the second-year quarterback gives the Packers a brief lead.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000


TAMPA -- Matt Hasselbeck is no Brett Favre.

Not by a long shot.

He doesn't have Favre's arm strength, his credentials or his experience. But Sunday, Hasselbeck did his best Favre imitation in relief of the Packers' longtime starting quarterback and rallied Green Bay from a 14-6 deficit into a brief lead with a gritty second-half effort.

"That kid Hasselbeck has a little wiggle to him," Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "He kept them in the game, but we pulled it out."

Barely.

Favre was injured after being sacked for a 5-yard loss by Sapp with 9:10 left in the third quarter. The Packers' all-time leading passer sprained his left foot and was taken to the locker room later in the quarter.

He did not return, depleting a Green Bay roster that has taken some major hits this season.

On Hasselbeck's first play, he completed a pass to running back Ahman Green that went for no gain. He then handed the ball off three consecutive plays before firing incomplete on third and 1 from the Tampa Bay 27.

On Green Bay's next two series, Hasselbeck went 0-for-3 before connecting with an open Bubba Franks for a 27-yard touchdown on a fake field-goal attempt. That play, which gave the Packers a 15-14 lead, seemed to help Hasselbeck settle into the game.

"Bubba and Mike Wahle (the other receiver on the play) did a great job," Hasselbeck said. "I wasn't sure who to throw it to. I kind of threw it between both of them. I was going to throw it to Wahle, but hey, it was a touchdown."

Hasselbeck completed 9 of 18 passes for 93 yards.

"You have to understand that stepping in and filling the shoes of Brett Favre is no easy task," Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. "Matt Hasselbeck came into this game without taking many reps in practice against one of the best defenses in the league and did a fine job. He did a great job on the fake field goal and I thought he played well."

The second-year quarterback from Boston College was not sacked and even showed Favre-like savvy by eluding Tampa Bay's pass rush. On one play, he escaped several defenders and dumped a short pass to Green, who fumbled after being hit by Bucs linebacker Al Singleton.

"(Hasselbeck) escaped a lot of sacks and did all right," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said.

Green's fumble led to a 51-yard Martin Gramatica field goal, which put Tampa Bay ahead 20-15 with 6:50 left.

On the Packers' final series, Hasselbeck completed two short passes and appeared to throw a picture-perfect pass to Franks on third and 1 from the Green Bay 29. Franks dropped the ball and one play later Hasselbeck's fourth-down attempt fell incomplete, ending the game.

Sherman said Favre's status was not known.

"Matt's better than half the starting quarterbacks in this league," Packers safety LeRoy Butler said. "No, he's better than at least 20. I've got confidence in both him and (Favre)."

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