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 KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -When the Packers and Seahawks meet on Saturday in the NFC divisional playoffs at Lambeau Field, they may test the notion that you have to have a running game to win in the playoffs.
Both teams like to throw the ball, and Green Bay's Brett Favre and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck do it well. But the Packers have shown an increasing ability to run the ball late in the season. Not so much for the Seattle Seahawks.
Rookie Ryan Grant has helped give Green Bay a consistent running game, something Seattle has lacked all season despite having one of the league's most heralded backs in Shaun Alexander.
``We haven't been able to get ours going very well,'' Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Monday.
The Seahawks beat Washington in last weekend's wild-card game despite rushing for just 77 yards. That sounds low - but it's better than they fared on Oct. 7, at Pittsburgh (38 yards) or Dec. 16, at Carolina (44 yards).
Seattle hasn't had a 100-yard rusher since Week 3. In Weeks 16 and 17, the Seahawks showed life on the ground, rushing for 144 and 167 yards respectively. However, that was against the Ravens, who were spiraling and missing menacing middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and the Falcons, who played without two starting defensive tackles.
Alexander has been playing with a broken wrist since September, and finished with 716 yards in 13 games. Second-year man Rob Sims and veteran Floyd Womack have been continually rotated on the offensive line. At midseason, Holmgren declared he was done ``trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,'' claiming the team would rely on Hasselbeck's passing instead of the stalled running.
At frosty Lambeau Field on Saturday, relying on a passing game could be problematic. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-20s with a 20 percent chance of snow flurries at kickoff.
``Uh, it's going to be cold,'' Alexander deadpanned when asked what he expected at Lambeau Field.
Cold, windy and snowy generally works against a passing team. Holmgren's been hearing this ever since the Seahawks clinched their fourth consecutive NFC West title and found that a Super Bowl run would go through Green Bay.
His response: ``I think New England is proving the point. While they run the ball very well, (they) throw the ball 33 times in a row and still have these big wins and all that.
``No one's saying they have to run the ball in the playoffs. I haven't heard that.''
Holmgren faced similar skepticism when he first arrived in Wisconsin in 1992 to be the Packers' head coach.
``There was always the belief that the weather you get, that we will get probably, can affect the passing game more than the running game,'' Holmgren said. ``Yeah, we understand all this passing business, but when it comes down to December and January, you've got to be able to bang it around a little bit.'
``I understand that. And there is some truth to that.''
But less so as it applies to Holmgren's passing fancy.
Holmgren's offense is as true to Bill Walsh's prototypical West Coast offense as any currently in football. Walsh gave Holmgren his first NFL job and taught him the pro game with the 49ers.
Hasselbeck has set team passing records for yards (3,966), completions (352) and attempts (562) while orchestrating a continuous set of 6-yard routes and safe dumpoffs near the line of scrimmage, with the occasional probe toward the back of a defense. The system mitigates the effects of wind, mud and snow.
``Because the ball is not in the air as long as in some systems,'' Holmgren said. ``Keeping in mind this offense, in its origins and how we've kept it going, we took out a few runs and replaced them with passes. Just substituted.
``It's the same thought in mind - 5 yards, 6 yards, hopefully.''
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