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Seahawks stay alive

Hasselbeck keys win over 49ers

The Seattle Seahawks' bench practically exploded when Jeff Garcia skipped a fourth-down pass off the turf at midfield with 1:06 left. Several Seahawks charged onto the field waving their helmets, and several others threw most of their uniforms into the crowd in celebration.


The Seahawks' 24-17 victory over the 49ers yesterday at San Francisco earned them a chance at the playoffs -- and an uneasy Sunday of waiting.

Matt Hasselbeck passed for 315 yards and threw scoring passes to Koren Robinson and Alex Bannister to keep the Seahawks' postseason hopes alive.

Seattle's first win in San Francisco since 1979 wasn't pretty, with both teams struggling to move the ball on a chilly day at Candlestick Park. But Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander came up with just enough big plays to give the Seahawks (10-6) their second road victory of the season and a sweep of the 49ers in 2003.

Now the Seahawks need Minnesota to lose at Arizona, or Denver to beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field today. Seattle also could get in if Dallas loses at New Orleans, kicking off a complicated scenario that would eliminate the Packers.

"You win, and you give yourself a chance to go the playoffs," said Alexander, who rushed for 60 of his 85 yards in the fourth quarter. "I thought, `I can't let this opportunity slip away to do something this organization hasn't done for a long time.' "

The Seahawks haven't made the playoffs since coach Mike Holmgren's first season in 1999, but they're ready to end that frustration with consecutive season-ending victories over NFC West rivals Arizona and San Francisco.

"We needed to win the last two to have a chance," Holmgren said. "They did what I asked them to do. Now it's out of our hands. I told the fellas if they don't normally go to church, I want them in church tomorrow. I hope we get a chance to keep playing."

Jed Weaver and Cedrick Wilson caught TD passes from Garcia for the 49ers (7-9), who wrapped up just their third losing season since 1983 with a roundly dismal effort.

San Francisco dropped just its second home game of the season with a non-existent rushing game and a fragile defense that couldn't stop Hasselbeck or Alexander.

The Seahawks went ahead, 21-17, late in the third on Robinson's diving 30-yard TD catch, which was upheld after review. Robinson had six catches for 85 yards. After several minutes of ineffective offense for both teams, the Seahawks made a pounding 70-yard drive centered on Alexander. Seattle handed off to Alexander on nine of the 13 plays on the drive, which ended with Josh Brown's 33-yard field goal with 1:56 left, clinching the franchise's first 10-win season in 17 years.

Eagles 31, Redskins 7 -- Donovan McNabb completed 23 of 32 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score as visiting Philadelphia clinched its third consecutive NFC East title. The Eagles (12-4) secured a much-needed off week to rest their injured players; running back Brian Westbrook joined the list when he tore a triceps muscle in the first half. Philadelphia will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs if St. Louis loses to Detroit today.

The Redskins (5-11) lost 10 of their last 12 and finished with their worst record since going 3-13 in 1994, and there is rampant speculation about the future of coach Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier has said the franchise needs to undergo significant changes, but he has refused to be specific about his plans.

Among Washington's lowlights: The team broke the franchise record for penalties in a season, committing nine to finish with 124 and surpass the mark of 122 set in 1948.

McNabb moved impeccably in the pocket, finding open receivers on the run as the Eagles scored touchdowns on their first three drives to take a 21-7 halftime lead.

Bruce Smith, the Redskins' defensive end and NFL sack king was honored at halftime of his final game. The cries of "Bruuuuuce!" turned to boos when Smith thanked owner Dan Snyder, who has overseen four consecutive non-winning seasons. Smith, 40, finished his 19-year career with 200 sacks, breaking Reggie White's mark of 198.

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