'Hawks get home field vs. depleted Colts

SEATTLE (Dec. 24, 2005) -- Tony Dungy got three hours of comfort.

Seattle got home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks' NFL rushing leader Shaun Alexander ran for 139 yards and scored three touchdowns -- including a rare TD receiving -- to tie Priest Holmes' NFL record of 27 touchdowns in a season. That helped the Seahawks clinch NFC home-field advantage with a 28-13 victory over the injured, resting and reflective Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts (13-2), who already own home field in the AFC playoffs, were without Dungy. Their coach is in Tampa, Fla., where his son died in an apparent suicide.

Indianapolis players wore decals with black horseshoes on the backs of their helmets. The initials JD were inside, also inscribed in black. And a capacity crowd of 67,855 observed a moment of silence for the Dungy family before the 11th consecutive win for Seattle (13-2).

When the ceremony concluded, the scene turned into another normal NFL game day. The home crowd heartily booed the visitors.

"Then, it was just a normal game," Colts receiver Brandon Stokley said. "We knew that was the way it was going to be."

Immediately after it, Dungy called team president Bill Polian.

"It was right away, no sooner than I got in here," Polian said inside a Colts locker room that was subdued but not entirely devoid of banter.

Polian said Dungy "sounded good" and referred to watching the game as an escape from his tragic week.

"He watched all of it and said it helped him to root the team on," Polian said. "He wanted the players to know how proud he was of their effort."

Peyton Manning, when asked if there was a difference in the locker room without Dungy, said, "Not really."

"I think everyone had coach Dungy and his family on our minds," Manning said. "Our prayers are with him. But when you are out there playing, then you are out there trying to do your job."

Colts safety Mike Doss said: "I'm just glad we could give him some comfort for three hours."

Polian said one of the first things Dungy told him was, "Now I understand why you get so frustrated watching."

"Then he starting talking a bit about some of the officiating calls," Polian said, smiling and shaking his head.

But officiating had little to do with this one.

Alexander became the 16th NFL player to eclipse 1,800 yards rushing in a season while leading the Seahawks to their first-ever top seed in a postseason.

"Every flight is going to be at least three hours," Alexander said of his playoff foes next month. "Now every team has to take that trip to us. You don't feel the same after flying on a plane all day."

The Colts (13-2) were set to be on a plane all night eastbound for Tampa, Fla., to rejoin Dungy for the funeral on Dec. 27. Their coach has been there since Dec. 22, hours after his 18-year-old son James was found dead.

"We're going to come out in force," Stokley said.

First-year assistant head coach Jim Caldwell is filling in for Dungy indefinitely.

When asked how difficult a situation the game was for him and his team, Caldwell said, "The focus shouldn't be on me. I've really got the easy job compared to what our head coach is going through."

"His job is the one that we need to certainly support and pray about," Caldwell added.

The Seahawks dominated a depleted Indianapolis team without Pro Bowlers Marvin Harrison, Cato June and Bob Sanders -- and with Manning (9 for 12, 116 yards passing) playing just one quarter.

The Seahawks capitalized to set a franchise record for wins in a season.

"We're all just kind of in the groove," Alexander said. "And no one wants to get off anything right now."

Alexander's record-tying score was full of theater.

Seattle's Craig Terrill recovered a fumble from Manning's backup, Jim Sorgi, and returned it to the Colts 17 with 5:27 left. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell had already told Alexander he would be departing the game with about five minutes remaining. So a giddy Alexander began running onto the field with his offense.

But Mitchell pulled him back.

"We're done. There's no more hits today," he told Alexander.

But then backup runner Maurice Morris was stopped just short of the goal line on a 13-yard burst. Mitchell turned to Alexander and said, "OK, I'm giving you one play to score. But if you get hit, get hurt and go to the hospital, I'm not coming to visit you."

Alexander plowed into the end zone without the need for medical attention. He hugged the ball in his left arm and pointed to the sky. Then he walked down the offensive line as it set up for the extra point and shook each one of his blockers' hands.

"His first thing was to come over to the line and kind of thank us. It just shows you how this team is a little different," Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson said.

On Alexander's first touchdown, a 2-yard jog in the first quarter on which he was untouched, Hutchinson blew June's replacement, Gilbert Gardner, 3 yards into the end zone. That gave Seattle a 7-3 lead it never relinquished.

Alexander's second score came on the opening drive of the second half when quarterback Matt Hasselbeck found him ignored as a third receiving option in the flat. Alexander caught his 15th pass in 15 games and easily scored to give Seattle a 21-6 lead.

The Colts couldn't turn Manning's 116 passing yards over the game's first two drives into touchdowns. They stalled at the Seattle 5 and settled for Mike Vanderjagt's 24-yard field goal. Manning's second and final drive ended when Vanderjagt had his 31-yard try blocked.

Notes: Sorgi, throwing his first passes since a meaningless 2004 regular-season finale at Denver, completed 22 of 31 throws for 237 yards and a late touchdown to Troy Walters. ... Indy also rested Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney for all but a few plays. ... After winning their first 13 games, the Colts have lost two in a row.

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