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Seattle advances without Alexander 20-10

SEATTLE (Jan. 14, 2006) -- His head pounding and his day over, Shaun Alexander walked off the field at halftime and flashed the "OK" sign.

He was right.

Despite losing the NFL MVP to an early concussion, the Seattle Seahawks ended their 21-year playoff drought by beating the Washington Redskins 20-10 behind Matt Hasselbeck and a stout defense.

"I told Matt at halftime that he had to shoulder the load," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "We always put a lot on his shoulders, but I told him that now he had to do a little bit more."

Hasselbeck did.

He passed for a touchdown and ran for another as the Seahawks advanced to the NFC title game next week against the winner of the Jan. 15 game in Chicago between Carolina and the Bears.

Holmgren said he was optimistic Alexander will be able to play. Alexander, injured in the first 10 minutes, did not talk to reporters.

The victory ended the longest run without a postseason victory by any NFL team -- Seattle had been 0-6 since its last playoff triumph on Dec. 22, 1984. The contest next week will be the second title game in its 30-year franchise history -- the Seahawks played for the AFC championship after the 1983 season.

"I don't know if it was me. Those other guys stepped up," Hasselbeck said. "It was really a team win today."

Alexander, who scored an NFL-record 28 touchdowns this season and led the league with 1,880 yards rushing, lost a fumble without being hit at the Washington 11 on Seattle's opening drive. He was then hurt with 5:28 left in the first quarter and did not return.

Without Alexander, this became Hasselbeck's game.

Not only did he complete 16 of 26 passes for 215 yards and a 29-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson, but he scrambled around the right side for a 6-yard TD in the third quarter.

"I think he was awesome," said wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, one of the few Seahawks with Super Bowl experience. "He loses his starting running back and he's able to overcome that with no problem."

Indeed, Hasselbeck's work helped overcome three costly turnovers -- one that kept Seattle from scoring in the first period, a second that led to a Washington field goal and a third in the fourth quarter that the Redskins squandered.

Jackson had nine receptions for 143 yards despite playing with a bad back.

The Seahawks (14-3) stopped Washington's six-game winning streak. The Redskins (11-7) were inept on offense for the second successive week -- they had 140 yards in the first three quarters after getting a total of 120 in last week against Tampa Bay.

"That's my responsibility," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said. "Obviously we wanted to be much more productive than what we were in the playoffs. We have to look to see how we can do a better job offensively."

Washington's last chance ended in the final minute when Mark Brunell's desperation fourth-down pass for Santana Moss was batted down by safety Michael Boulware in the end zone.

And had it not been for the Seahawks' mistakes, the Redskins never would have been in the game against a Seattle defense that was able to concentrate on stopping Clinton Portis' running, because only Moss and tight end Chris Cooley were receiving threats.

"If he's not playing at a Pro Bowl level, their offense struggles," Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher said of Portis, who gained 41 yards on 17 carries.

After Josh Brown's 33-yard field goal gave the Seahawks a 17-3 lead early in the third quarter, the Redskins finally got going. Brunell hit a wide-open Cooley for 52 yards, then completed a 20-yard TD pass to Moss that deflected off the helmet of Seattle's Andre Dyson.

That cut the Seattle lead to a touchdown only 3:01 into the final quarter. Then Josh Scobee fumbled the kickoff and kicker John Hall recovered, but Hall missed a 36-yard field-goal attempt that would have cut it to four.

Brown clinched it with a 31-yard field goal with 2:54 left.

Said Hasselbeck: "We've got a great feeling in our locker room right now because we did come together. We overcame adversity."

After that first series when Alexander fumbled, there were nine consecutive three-and-outs -- five by the Redskins and four by the Seahawks. Washington never got beyond its own 22 until the second quarter.

But after Washington's fifth futile series, Jimmy Williams fumbled Derrick Frost's punt at his own 39 and Pierson Prioleau recovered for Washington. From there, the Redskins plodded their way to the Seahawks 7, setting up Hall's 26-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead.

The Seahawks finally got going after that with Hasselbeck using his legs as well as his arm. He scrambled for 16 yards to help keep the drive moving, then finally hit Jackson, single-covered by safety Ryan Clark, from the Washington 29 to make it 7-3.

Seattle then went 81 yards on 10 plays on its first possession of the second half to make it 14-3 with Hasselbeck scrambling in for the touchdown.


Jackson's 143 yards receiving was a postseason record for the Seahawks.
Washington guard Ray Brown, at 43 the oldest lineman in modern NFL history, played his final game after 20 seasons.
Brown, wide receiver Taylor Jacobs and cornerback Shawn Springs all had to leave the game temporarily for Washington.
Seattle fullback Mack Strong's 32-yard run in the fourth quarter, which helped set up the clinching field goal, was the longest in his 13-season NFL career.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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