SEATTLE (AP) -Matt Hasselbeck was speaking from behind a podium, his side still aching from a hit during last weekend's game hours earlier. Suddenly, the inside shelves of the lectern collapsed.
After the startled Seattle Seahawks quarterback looked into the mangled podium, he turned to look at television lights looming over him. He shied away in mock fear they might come crashing down, too - just as an overhead network TV camera had near him during the previous game.
``Whew!'' Hasselbeck said, smiling. ``I'm going to lock myself in my house.''
The Seahawks (4-3) get a chance to do that this weekend. They take a bye, a halt to their season of mishaps. They lead the NFC West mainly because the division has been prone to injuries and just plain bad.
``The fact is we are leading the division,'' coach Mike Holmgren said of his defending three-time West champions, as if to confirm that was so.
``I really believe our best football, particularly on offense, is ahead of us,'' he said. ``Our defense is coming. They've shown flashes of being very good, and then sometimes where we can't do much on third downs, things like that.''
When the defense has pressured quarterbacks, Seattle has won. The Seahawks have 20 sacks in their four victories. They have just three sacks total in their three losses.
``We've been inconsistent,'' Holmgren said, meaning overall. ``And you look at the film, any one game, you'll see some really good things (and) some things that you scratch your head on, because I think they are things we should do better and we're not.''
Such as blocking. Holmgren has repeatedly harped on his offensive linemen for blowing assignments on plays he says they should know cold. This week, he hinted benching guys may be next.
``It's going to get a little tense around here if I don't see some improvement,'' Holmgren said.
Apparently, most of those mistakes are coming on runs by Shaun Alexander.
The league MVP two seasons ago is stalled and getting booed. He entered the season in the best shape of his career, with the broken left foot that doomed his 2006 healed. Then he cracked a bone in his left wrist during the opening win over Tampa Bay. He's been wearing a cast since and has just 107 yards rushing over his past three games, two of them losses.
Running behind an offensive line with three new players since his wondrous '05 season, he has only two touchdowns, none since Week 2. The five-game scoring drought is the longest since 2000, his rookie season. His 460 yards rushing is his lowest total through seven games since 2002.
Alexander said before his most recent game that he would stray from running to prescribed holes and instead would go back to more of the cutbacks and freelancing that produced a bulk of his 1,880 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns two seasons ago. But when he tried to cutback against the Rams, they swallowed him at the line. He ended up with just 47 yards on 19 carries - and a second consecutive week of boos and then mocking cheers when he left the game from the fed-up home fans.
``All they have seen out of me is great games, over and over and over again,'' Alexander said. ``When I'm not putting them together, they get frustrated - but I'm frustrated about it, too.''
The blocking has also hurt Hasselbeck, literally. He carried Seattle to a 3-1 start by having the best opening month of his career. Then he got sacked seven times during the first two games of October - and now has a canceled trip to Disneyland to prove he's been getting hit too much.
Hasselbeck and his wife, Sarah, were going to treat their three children with a vacation to Mickey Mouse's home in Anaheim, Calif., this week, since Holmgren gave his players the entire bye week off for the third consecutive year. But the quarterback had to spend the week inside the Seahawks' training room instead, because of a strained right oblique.
That's the torso muscle that St. Louis' Claude Wroten slammed into with his helmet and shoulder pad during the second quarter of Seattle's win over the Rams last weekend. Hasselbeck said he'll be back at practice Monday and will be ready to start at Cleveland on Nov. 4 because of this week of ``rest, time and ice.''
``I'll be sitting on my couch watching other quarterbacks getting blindsided and things like that,'' Hasselbeck said, smiling knowingly.
A look at the remaining schedule is also something for the Seahawks to smile about. They don't play a team that currently has a winning record for another seven weeks, Dec. 16 at Carolina. Then comes a home game against Baltimore before the regular-season finale at Atlanta (1-6).
So a fourth consecutive division title for the Seahawks is as likely as it was before the season began - even though they have often failed to get out their own way amid the podium crash and camera falling around them.
``You kind of laugh,'' Alexander said, after an NBC camera that lost power and plummeted two weeks ago during a loss to New Orleans missed hitting Hasselbeck by a few feet.
``But at the same time you're like, `Man, what else can happen?'''

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