Smith's 2 late TD passes help 49ers ground Seahawks

SEATTLE (AP) -- The setting was perfect for Alex Smith to fail:

His team was trailing, it was cold and wet, and the crowd expected

another Seahawks' division title.

Instead, with crisp, confident passes and nimble running, Smith

put together the best 15 minutes of his young career.

Elias Says

Alex Smith
Alex Smith engineered the fourth-quarter comeback with two touchdown passes and an 18-yard TD run. Only two other players in NFL history threw at least two TD passes in one quarter, while also running for a TD of at least 15 yards in that same quarter. Phil Simms did that as a rookie for the 1979 Giants (against the 49ers) and Kordell Stewart did it for the Steelers in 1997 (against the Ravens).

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Smith accounted for three fourth-quarter touchdowns -- two

passing, one running -- and the San Francisco 49ers prevented the

Seattle Seahawks from clinching the NFC West with a surprising

24-14 win on Thursday night.

"The boy just became a grown man today, baby," 49ers' running

back Frank Gore said of his quarterback. "There's a lot more to


Keeping the 49ers' slim playoff hopes alive, Smith tossed an

8-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis early in the fourth quarter,

then capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive with a 20-yard TD pass to Gore

with 4:01 left that sent soaked -- and shocked -- Seahawks' fans for

the exits.

One play after a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-1, Smith

stepped out of Kelly Herndon's grasp, scrambled and found Gore

behind defense near the goal line. San Francisco's players erupted

into celebration, as the 49ers (6-8) broke a three-game losing

streak and swept both games from Seattle.

"I think we always knew (we could beat Seattle)," Smith said.

"I think that changed a couple of weeks ago when we beat them at

our place.

"I think this team grew up a little bit tonight."

If his fourth-quarter passing wasn't enough, Smith faked the

entire Seattle defense and jogged 18 yards for a touchdown with

1:42 left to cap a night when he looked just a little like Steve

Young and Joe Montana.

The turnaround was startling, after the 49ers' offense went the

first 44 minutes with just four first downs and rarely looked

threatening. The 49ers rolled up 196 yards in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the questions only continue about the Seahawks.

Seattle (8-6) lost its second straight divisional game, ending any

hopes of getting a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...

Running back Shaun Alexander looked average and the Seahawks' passing game could not get going. Once again, poor tackling really hurt Seattle's defense and allowed the 49ers to convert many short-yardage plays to help keep the chains and clock moving. Early in the game, the 49ers could not take advantage of good field position or mistakes by the Seahawks, but got into a comfortable offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter. RB Frank Gore was effective and ran with power. The 49ers used their rushing attack late to control the clock and put the Seahawks in a situation where they were forced away form their game plane in an attempt to play catch up .

Afterward, coach Mike Holmgren said inconsistency is Seattle's


"We need to find a way to win this week or next week or

somehow," Seattle's Bryce Fisher said. "Otherwise there's going

to be a lot of us getting our lockers cleaned out."

Smith finished 14-of-25 for 162 yards, a far cry from the first

half when he was 5-of-12 for 38 yards and the 49ers best offensive

play was a 33-yard run on a fake punt.

It was Smith's completion to Antonio Bryant late in the third

quarter that finally got the 49ers' offense on track.

Smith's 11-yard completion to Bryant with 48 seconds left in the

quarter was San Francisco's first first-down of the half. On the

next play, Arnaz Battle beat Herndon off the line of scrimmage and

Smith hit him in stride for a 54-yard completion.

Two plays after hitting Battle for 13 yards on third-and-10 at

the Seattle 22, Smith rolled right and Davis got separation from

safety Jordan Babineaux in the end zone.

With Smith finding holes in Seattle's secondary, Gore put the

game away. Gore, who ran for a franchise record 212 yards in the

first meeting between the two teams, had 104 of his 144 yards in

the fourth quarter.

"When we go at them, it's hard to stop us," Gore said. "We

kept going downhill at them and they couldn't hold up."

Matt Hasselbeck threw a 22-yard touchdown to Jerramy Stevens

with 9 seconds left, for the final margin, but Hasselbeck was

outplayed by Smith.

Hasselbeck finished 20-of-37 for 220 yards, but threw a pair of

interceptions, the most damaging on the first possession of the

second half.

On second-and-11 at the San Francisco 20, Hasselbeck tried to

hit D.J. Hackett on a seem route in the end zone. Instead, 49ers'

safety Mark Roman stepped in front of Hackett and intercepted the

pass, returning it to the 27.

Shaun Alexander rarely found holes to run through in the second

half. Alexander had just 16 yards rushing in the second half, and

failed when Seattle needed 1 yard to keep its best drive of the

fourth quarter alive.

On third-and-1 at the 49ers' 27, Alexander was held to no gain.

Seattle went for it on fourth down, but Mack Strong was stopped

short with 9:37 left, causing Holmgren to flail his arms on the

sideline in disgust.

"I was trying to be aggressive. I always think we can get

that," Holmgren said. "Normally we convert those."

Alexander was held to 73 yards, 40 coming on Seattle's first

quarter scoring drive, capped by a 3-yard plunge by Alexander, just

his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.

Joe Nedney kicked a 39-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in

the first half.

Game notes
San Francisco lost C Eric Heitmann to a broken right leg in

the first quarter. Tony Wragge took his place. ... A heavy

rainstorm moved in shortly before kickoff leaving standing water on

the field and momentarily knocking out power to the video screens

in the stadium. The worst of the storm subsided during the game.