Seahawks beat slumping Ravens to lock up No. 3 seed

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle Seahawks were seeking to regain some fire heading into the playoffs.

Mere plumes of smoke were all that was required to beat the wretched Ravens.

"We have a couple of things to shore up," Matt Hasselbeck said of his Seahawks.

Hasselbeck shook off two interceptions to throw two touchdown passes and Shaun Alexander had his biggest rushing day since Week 4 as Seattle clinched the NFC's No. 3 seed with a methodical, 27-6 victory over Baltimore Sunday.

Hasselbeck's scores gave him a career-high 27 TD throws this season, but he rued his two turnovers.

His coach wasn't fully satisfied, either, even though Seattle (10-5) won for fifth time in six games.

"I always want to strive for more," Mike Holmgren said, two days after he reassured the players on his skittish offense he hadn't lost faith in them. "We did take a little bit of a step today, which is encouraging."

Can't say that about the Ravens (4-11). With 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completing 16 of 33 passes in his first NFL start, they extended their franchise-record losing streak to nine games. It took Smith's 79-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason with 4:41 left for Baltimore to avoid its first shutout since Sept. 15, 2002.

Smith, in because Steve McNair is on injured reserve and Kyle Boller has a concussion, was starting for the first time since he was at Ohio State and lost last January's national championship game to Florida in a rout.

This one wasn't much better.

When asked if there was anything from Smith's day that made him feel good, curt Ravens coach Brian Billick's first words were, "Well, he got through the game."

Alexander finally mattered in one. The 2005 league MVP turned a season of being booed at home into holiday cheers by gaining 73 yards on 13 carries and catching a touchdown pass.

Alexander caught Hasselbeck's 14-yard screen pass in the crook of his right arm, opposite the cast on his broken left wrist he has been wearing since Week 2. That made it 21-0 late in the first half.

That was after he sat on the bench in a hooded parka during Seattle's first two drives, watching more versatile backup Maurice Morris run in a hurry-up offense. Seattle ran nine of its first 10 plays without a huddle, Holmgren's effort to spark the team that scored its only touchdown with 1 second left in a dreadful loss at Carolina the previous week.

Alexander averaged 42 yards a game in his previous eight games before this romp against the depleted Ravens' defense. Baltimore was missing nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis, Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce and both starting cornerbacks -- then allowed a season-high 144 yards rushing.

"Today was the best I've felt all year," Alexander said.

Holmgren knows that's important for the playoffs, especially for a potential second-round game at inclement Green Bay, if the Seahawks win their open-round home game against the NFC's final wild-card team.

"If it ever had to come, I'm glad it comes now," Holmgren said of Alexander's return.

Alexander was more pointed.

"You're probably kidding yourself if you think you can win in the playoffs -- especially on the road, which we will have to do -- if you don't run the ball," he said.

Hasselbeck was 14-for-21 in the first half. His 21-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson came after Burleson ran past Willie Gaston, who was starting at cornerback because last week Samari Rolle became the ninth Raven to go on injured reserve.

Seattle's other touchdown came on linebacker LeRoy Hill's 20-yard TD return of Mike Anderson's fumble. Anderson, the former lead runner for Denver in because lead runner Willis McGahee left in the first quarter with broken ribs, lost the ball when Darryl Tapp hit him within a pile at the end of a 3-yard run.

Smith was left to essentially carry a sickly offense without McGahee. He got Baltimore into Seattle territory for the only time in its first eight drives by completing five consecutive passes late in the opening half. Then Patrick Kerney knocked the ball out of his hand and Julian Peterson recovered.

The Ravens lost another fumble to give them 25, most in the NFL this season.

Smith criticized himself for trying to do too many things at one time. He also sounded awed, rattling off the names of Seattle's stars.

"It was phenomenal," Smith said. "To be out there on the field with those same guys, it's incredible."

Smith's best pass was a javelin-like throw that soared 60 yards from his own end zone in the second quarter. The pass would have been a 98-yard touchdown to tie the game had Brian Russell not poked the ball away from Mark Clayton's hands at the Seattle 45.

But, par for this lost Ravens season, he did.

Game notes
Bobby Engram had five catches for 69 yards for Seattle to break Darrell Jackson's team record for receptions from 2004. Engram has 90, his career high. ... Baltimore Pro Bowl LT Jonathan Ogden was grabbing his left hamstring early in the game but played until late. TE Quinn Sypniewski also strained his hamstring. He was playing because Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox were already hurt.