Seattle Looks to Clinch Division Tonight With Victory Over 49ers
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The Seattle Seahawks won't have to wait long for another chance to clinch their third straight NFC West title.
The Seahawks look to wrap up the division on Thursday when they host the stumbling San Francisco 49ers.
Seattle (8-5) lost 27-21 to Arizona on Sunday for just its second defeat in six games. With San Francisco's 30-19 defeat to Green Bay, the Seahawks could have secured another West title and remained in the race for the top seed in the NFC.
Seattle can still clinch the division with a win on Thursday, but did fall into a tie for third place in the conference with Dallas, which lost to 9-4 New Orleans. Factoring in tiebreakers, the Seahawks must win their final three games and have the Saints lose twice to get the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
``We're going to get in the playoffs one way or the other,'' wide receiver Darrell Jackson said.
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said that his team and the coaches will have to move on from the disappointing loss to the lowly Cardinals.
``We've got to turn the page quickly as coaches,'' he said. ``Have I? I will turn the page.''
The Seahawks gave up 14 points off three lost fumbles from normally sure-handed players - quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander and fullback Mack Strong.
``You have to concentrate on it on offense and it's a huge, huge thing. And if you're a receiver, a running back or a quarterback, you can't do that a lot,'' Holmgren said. ``You look at the guys I mentioned, they're our best players. So it was unfortunate and they're not big fumblers, but it all happened in one game and it really cost us the game.''
Seattle also struggled defensively, failing to record a sack on rookie quarterback Matt Leinart and allowing an opponent to rush for 100 yards for the seventh time in 10 games.
The Seahawks' rushing defense will get a huge test on Thursday against San Francisco's Frank Gore. In the 49ers' 20-14 home victory over Seattle on Nov. 19, Gore ran for 212 yards - the third-most allowed in Seattle team history.
The win ended a six game losing streak in the series for San Francisco (5-8), which had not beaten Seattle since 2002. However, Hasselbeck missed that game because of a knee injury and Alexander was playing for the first time after missing six games with a broken foot.
Gore, tops in the NFC with 1,347 rushing yards, ran for 130 and a touchdown against the Packers as the 49ers lost their third straight following a three-game winning streak.
``I don't think our energy was there,'' receiver Antonio Bryant said. ``We were kind of flat. Our crowd was there. Everybody was into it. The momentum kept swinging. We had two opportunities with great field position (at) about the 50, and we didn't capitalize on it.''
Rookie quarterback Alex Smith threw a pair of interceptions against Green Bay and has seven picks and four touchdown passes during the skid. Coach Mike Nolan, though, said he will not bench Smith, who has thrown 13 TDs and 14 interceptions this season.
``We knew what we had to do when we set out to do it,'' Nolan said of Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. ``Yes, he has struggled some, but so has our football team. It would be easy to say it's all his fault, but it's not.''
The Niners also had defensive problems, allowing Packers quarterback Brett Favre to throw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, one on a 68-yard pass and the other a 36-yarder.
``We play really well in spurts defensively and then we give up an explosive (play),'' Nolan said. ``It's feast or famine. That's how I see it.''
San Francisco will look to bounce back against a battered Seattle squad. Jackson, who is tied for the NFL lead with 10 receiving touchdowns and tops the team with 63 catches and 956 receiving yards, will not play because of a toe injury suffered on his last catch against the Cardinals.
Defensive tackle Craig Terrill was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after injuring ligaments in his knee, joining defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, who was lost for the season with a left knee injury. Left guard Floyd ``Pork Chop'' Womack is ``iffy'' with a nagging groin injury, according to Holmgren.
Holmgren, however, is hopeful that veteran receiver Bobby Engram, who has not played since Week 4 because of a thyroid problem, might be ready to return.
``It boils down to our Thursday night game,'' Holmgren told the team's official Web site. ``We're not dead. We lost a tough ball game, but we still have everything laid out in front of us. If nothing else, this team has proved to be pretty resilient.''
San Francisco linebacker and leading tackler Derek Smith sat out Sunday because of a hamstring injury, while cornerback Shawntae Spencer missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Nolan hopes both will return on Thursday.
By: David Michaels - theSpread.com - Email Us
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