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Hasselbeck can't trump snow, dropped passes

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Matt Hasselbeck shook his head as if to say "What else can I do?" and slowly walked off the field after the final incompletion of yet another, incomplete season.

On the sideline, the Seahawks quarterback who almost single-handedly carried his team into the playoffs stood just five feet from coach Mike Holmgren, who might have coached his last game. There, Hasselbeck, his shoulders slumped under a Seahawks team coat with the hood pulled up, and coach stood, silent, watching the snow.

But it wasn't the swarming, storybook flakes of Green Bay that ruined Seattle's season. It was crucial dropped passes and a defense that allowed the most postseason points in the Packers' history as the Seahawks lost 42-20 Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game.

"That was crazy weather out there. That was Packer weather," said Hasselbeck, the former backup to Brett Favre. "It's just too bad to lose and not play your best football. It stings."

After setting team records this season for yards (3,966), completions (352) and attempts (562), Hasselbeck made his third Pro Bowl in five years. But Saturday, he was left 0-4 in playoff games outside Seattle after finishing 19-for-33 for 194 yards and a touchdown.

Favre missed on just five of 23 passes and threw for three touchdowns. Teammate Ryan Grant, who fumbled twice early to start the game and give Seattle a 14-0 lead, romped through a slowed Seattle defense for 201 yards, a Packers' playoff record. And Green Bay outscored Seattle 42-6 over the final 56 minutes.

It was a resounding way to send the Seahawks to their eighth consecutive postseason loss away from Seattle since they won at Miami on Dec. 31, 1983, in their first playoff game.

"They exploited us," Seahawks safety Deon Grant said of Ryan Grant's cutback running through defenders who were out of place or missed tackles.

Grant's rushing total was 38 yards more than Seattle previously had allowed any team this season.

Saturday was Hasselbeck's first playoff game in Green Bay since 2004, when he boldly proclaimed "We want the ball, and we're going to score!" during the overtime coin toss - then threw the interception that Al Harris returned for game-winning touchdown.

This time, Seattle got the ball and scored two touchdowns in the first four minutes, thanks to two Grant fumbles on Green Bay's first three plays. But the good luck and opportunistic defensive play disappeared as quickly as the yardlines at Lambeau Field.

"I couldn't get too juiced up, because I knew we were playing against the Packers, we were playing against Brett Favre," Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson said. "I knew they were going to start playing Packers football."

Green Bay did, scoring 21 consecutive points in 13 minutes. Seattle lost momentum - and its season.

Some fans arrived at Lambeau Field wearing funky, half-Seahawks, half-Packers jerseys, with the names Hassel-arve and Farv-elbeck across the back. But nothing about the game was half and half. It was all Packers, after those first four minutes, that is.

After Green Bay took its first lead, the Seahawks reached the Packers 10 and were poised to tie the game. But a third-down pass to D.J. Hackett banged off his chest incomplete. Josh Brown made a 29-yard field goal to make it 21-17.

Only briefly.

On third-and-8 from the Seahawks 14, Favre spun away from a sack by Brandon Mebane, stumbled, then tossed the ball underhanded to Donald Lee for an 11-yard gain that epitomized his near-perfect half.

"The future Hall of Famer, I thought I had him," Mebane said, chuckling over the absurdity of the play. "He wouldn't go down."

On the next play, Grant ran 3 yards for his second score. The Seahawks were the ones down 28-17, and Lambeau was rocking.

Seattle had just allowed its most points in the first half in its postseason history.

The second half was more of the same: Grant running wild. Hasselbeck throwing to receivers who couldn't catch.

Nick Barnett yelled obscenities at Hasselbeck after an incompletion off Leonard Weaver's chest. Hasselbeck responded by barking back at Barnett - then completing consecutive passes for 29 total yards to get Seattle into Green Bay territory.

The Seahawks could have pulled to within 35-24, but the fading, 35-year-old Pollard allowed Hasselbeck's perfect pass to sail through his hands in the back of the end zone. Josh Brown kicked a 29-yard field goal to make it 35-20.

It should have been 35-28.

Down 42-20 and desperate, Hasselbeck had another pass go off Ben Obomanu's hands at the Packers 28. On fourth down, Pollard let another throw sail through his arms.

Hasselbeck looked frustrated, but Holmgren was impressed.

"I thought he handled his emotions very well today. He fought hard. We could have completed more balls," Holmgren said, before grimacing and raising his eyebrows for emphasis.

"It hurts. It always hurts - unless you win the Super Bowl itself."

As Hasselbeck said: "It's just a really hollow feeling."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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