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Seahawks dodge big bullet


Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander stiff-arms Titans cornerback Pacman Jones.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander stiff-arms Titans cornerback Pacman Jones. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Scott M. Johnson Everett Herald

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In what is rapidly becoming the best season in franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks accomplished two more ever-elusive feats Sunday.

They won their 12th game for the first time since 1984, beating the Tennessee Titans 28-24 in a game that was much more exciting than it needed to be. More important, the Seahawks (12-2) advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

Seattle’s victory assured the Seahawks of a first-round playoff bye, meaning Qwest Field will host a game the weekend of Jan. 14-15 against an opponent that will be determined the week before.

The Seahawks have not advanced past the first round of the tournament in their past six tries, and they have never hosted a second-round playoff game.

“It’s great to be in the second round of the playoffs,” running back Shaun Alexander said after rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown in the win over Tennessee. “This is a new door for us, but it’s something we’ve been preparing for for a long time. So we’re really excited.”

The Seahawks are still one victory from clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs after Chicago beat Atlanta on Sunday night. Only the Bears (10-4) could catch Seattle in the race for the top seed in the NFC, but it would take two Chicago wins and two Seahawks losses for that to happen.

Regardless of what happened in the night game, the Seahawks were happy to accomplish one of their main goals Sunday afternoon.

“It’s going to be nice,” fullback Mack Strong said of the first-round postseason bye. “It’s going to be an opportunity to heal and get ready for the playoffs.”

The Seahawks took care of their own business Sunday, but it wasn’t easy.

An early 14-0 lead made the game look like it would be Seattle’s third blowout win in a row. When the Seahawks moved into Tennessee territory on their third drive, the game was dangerously close to getting out of hand.

But Seattle had to settle for a field goal, and kicker Josh Brown’s attempt was blocked by Antwan Odom to end that drive. The Titans, who had been held to 14 total yards and one first down on their first two drives, came alive after Odom’s block. Tennessee scored on its next four drives, taking a 24-14 lead with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.

But Seattle got back on track. The Seahawks went on a three-play, 83-yard drive that resulted in Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter to pull within 24-21.

Tennessee (4-10) continued to move the football again on its next drive but got stopped on fourth-and-1 when Seahawks defenders Michael Boulware and Grant Wistrom stuffed running back Chris Brown at the Seattle 7-yard line.

The Seahawks took possession and drove 93 yards in 13 plays before Darrell Jackson’s 2-yard touchdown reception with 8:59 left in the game put them ahead for good. It was Hasselbeck’s third touchdown pass of the game. He finished 21 of 27 for 285 yards. Hasselbeck started Seattle off and running in the first quarter with a 22-yard scoring strike to tight end Jerramy Stevens.

Tennessee had one final drive that stalled at the Seattle 34 when another fourth-down attempt resulted in an incomplete pass with 5:03 remaining. The Seahawks got three first downs on their last possession to clinch the victory.

If Seattle can win one of its final two games _ against Indianapolis this Saturday or at Green Bay on New Years Day _ the Seahawks would also take homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Nine of the past 15 NFC representatives at the Super Bowl have been No. 1 seeds.

Seahawks 28, Titans 24

Seattle1407728
Tennessee01410024

First Quarter

Sea—Stevens 22 pass from Hasselbeck (J.Brown kick), 11:35.

Sea—Alexander 1 run (J.Brown kick), 5:54.

Second Quarter

Ten—Payton 3 run (Bironas kick), 6:05.

Ten—Bennett 4 pass from McNair (Bironas kick), :04.

Third Quarter

Ten—Bennett 14 pass from McNair (Bironas kick), 10:55.

Ten—FG Bironas 38, 6:14. Drive: 7 plays, 60 yards, 2:20.

Sea—Jurevicius 4 pass from Hasselbeck (J.Brown kick), 4:51.

Fourth Quarter

Sea—Jackson 2 pass from Hasselbeck (J.Brown kick), 8:59.

A—69,149.

SeaTen
First downs2625
Total Net Yards459417
Rushes-yards33-18326-81
Passing276336
Punt Returns1-50-0
Kickoff Returns5-945-101
Interceptions Ret.0-00-0
Comp-Att-Int21-27-024-39-0
Sacked-Yards Lost1-90-0
Punts2-38.52-45.0
Fumbles-Lost0-00-0
Penalties-Yards4-384-30
Time of Possession30:2429:36

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Seattle, Alexander 26-172, Jackson 1-7, Morris 1-3, Hasselbeck 5-1. Tennessee, C.Brown 20-56, McNair 2-13, Payton 3-9, Bennett 1-3.

PASSING—Seattle, Hasselbeck 21-27-0-285. Tennessee, McNair 23-38-0-310, Hentrich 1-1-0-26.

RECEIVING—Seattle, Engram 6-95, Jackson 6-72, Stevens 4-53, Jurevicius 3-31, Strong 1-20, Morris 1-14. Tennessee, Bennett 8-93, Troupe 6-116, Roby 3-54, Calico 3-25, Scaife 2-13, Nickey 1-26, Payton 1-9.

MISSED FIELD GOAL—Seattle, J.Brown 36 (BK).

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