Seahawks 23, Bucs 7

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Riding a three-game losing streak, the Seattle Seahawks hardly were in a position to rest for the playoffs.

Shaun Alexander ran for one touchdown and Matt Hasselbeck threw for a second TD Sunday, keying a 23-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and bolstering the defending NFC champions’ confidence heading into the postseason.

The Seahawks (9-7) had little to play for after clinching the NFC West title and assuring themselves of starting the playoffs with a home game, however coach Mike Holmgren felt it was important to play well and ease some of the sting from the team’s puzzling three-game slide.

Alexander rushed for 92 yards on 28 carries and scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter. Hasselbeck completed 17 of 29 passes for 216 yards, including a 5-yard scoring throw to D.J. Hackett, while Josh Brown kicked three field goals for the Seahawks.

Tampa Bay, which has missed the playoffs with a losing record three of four seasons since winning the Super Bowl, lost two fumbles – one of them inside the Seattle 10 – and was stopped on downs once at the Seahawks 3.

Former Seattle receiver Joey Galloway was one of the lone bright spots for the Bucs (4-12), finishing with eight receptions for 118 yards and scoring Tampa Bay’s only touchdown on a 4-yard catch in the second quarter.

Galloway went over 1,000 yards receiving for the second straight season and fifth time in a 12-year career. His other three 1,000-yard seasons came while he was with the Seahawks from 1995-99.

Seattle won for the first time since winning at Denver on Dec. 3. Losses to Arizona and San Francisco left Holmgren and his players searching for answers, however the Seahawks felt they played one of their better games of the season despite losing to San Diego on a last-minute touchdown pass last week.

The defending NFC champions have battled injuries all year, but entered Sunday’s finale believing they were getting healthy and beginning to play better at the right time.

They scored on their first two possessions and never trailed, however an already extensive injury report got longer with cornerback Kelly Herndon breaking his left ankle in the first half and linebacker Leroy Hill suffering a concussion.

Hackett scored three plays after the receiver made a lunging catch that initially ruled a 32-yard touchdown before being overturned by replay. The second-year receiver gained 21 on third-and-18 on the next play, then Hasselbeck found him open in the middle of the end zone for a 17-7 halftime lead.

Tampa Bay’s Mike Alstott fumbled at his own 11 and Jimmy Williams recovered to set up Brown’s 20-yard field goal early in the third quarter. The Seattle kicker booted a 23-yarder to finish a 14-play 65-yard march that made it 23-7.

Tim Rattay completed 16 of 27 passes for 185 yards in his second start for the Bucs, who last week helped the veteran backup beat Cleveland by forcing four turnovers and scoring a defensive touchdown.

AP-ES-12-31-06 1635EST

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