KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) – This would not appear to be the week for Shaun Alexander to get well.

Or get a milestone. And especially to declare that he is not washed up.

Big, bad Baltimore – that would be, the defensive half – is coming to Seattle ranked second-best in the league at stopping the run. Far less-formidable defenses have stonewalled Alexander this season, in which the NFL’s MVP in 2005 has faded into irrelevance.

“We haven’t really run the ball against anybody, so we can only go up,” Alexander said while preparing with the NFC West champions (9-5) to host the Ravens (4-10) on Sunday.

Alexander has averaged 42 yards rushing per game in his last eight games while wearing a cast over his broken wrist. His current average of 3.3 yards per carry is the lowest of his career. Seattle’s average of 3.6 yards per run is 30th in the league and the reason coach Mike Holmgren is concerned heading into the playoffs.

Yet Alexander, in the second season of an eight-year, $62 million contract with $15.1 million guaranteed signed a month after appearing in the Super Bowl at the end of the ’05 season, says he’ll return to elite form.

“If I said I was going to retire last year, everybody would have been like, ‘You’re in the middle of your prime,”‘ he said.

“Of course I still have it. … Breaking the foot last year, and breaking the hand this year, they’ve just caused changes in the game for me.”

Alexander romped to a franchise-record 1,880 yards and set the league record with 28 touchdowns two years ago. Since then, he has lost three Pro Bowl blockers: Left guard Steve Hutchinson signed before last season with Minnesota, center Robbie Tobeck retired in January and fullback Mack Strong was forced into retirement by a neck injury five games into this season.

Alexander fractured his foot last season, the first major injury of his football career. In August, he turned 30, the age at which runners historically have started to break down and disappear.

Broken? That would now be his left wrist, in a cast since Week 2. In November, he missed three games with a sprained left knee.

The cutback lanes he used to create now close on him faster than he can run. His trademark hesitation, which used to deftly set up blocks, now just invite emboldened defenders to swarm him in place – and his home fans to boo him. He’ll likely finish this season with his fewest yards rushing and touchdowns since he became a starter in 2001. His meager 17 yards on seven carries against Carolina last weekend in what has become a pass-first offense leaves him with 612 yards and just three scores in 11 games.

Holmgren said the injuries and Alexander simply having nowhere to run are the reasons for his steep decline.

“We have not run the ball well. It’s been well documented, talked about enough, but (age is) not the reason,” Holmgren said, after a sigh. “I think physically he can still do it. I think that wrist, it bothered him more than he ever thought it might or I ever thought it might.

“And then we got kind of a little bit of a loss of confidence. I’m not talking about him losing confidence, I’m talking about me losing confidence in calling certain things.”

Holmgren said when he and his staff looked at film of the Carolina game, he was stopped as quickly as Alexander has been lately.

“I told the coaches ‘Look it, let’s stop it right here. Where’s it going? What does he have? Someone tell me what he has? There’s nothing!”‘ Holmgren said, waving his arms in the air for emphasis.

“He’s a lightning rod, (but) he’s going to help us win games down the stretch, I know that. I believe that.”

When asked if Alexander fits into Seattle’s plans beyond this postseason, Holmgren said: “Oh, absolutely. He signed a long-term contract here.”

The coach added Alexander may require surgery on the wrist in the offseason, implying that will make Alexander good for 2008.

“We’ll fix that in the offseason,” Holmgren said.

Alexander will try Sunday for the third consecutive week to score his 100th rushing touchdown. He would be the eighth in league history to do that.

Holmgren said he “absolutely” would try to call plays that will get Alexander the milestone TD at home, perhaps to trump some of the boos. Seattle finishes the regular season at Atlanta before opening the playoffs at home on the first weekend of January, but postseason scores don’t count on such career totals.

“We’re going in with the idea to win the football game first,” Holmgren said. “But within that structure, if he can do that, I’d be very happy if he can do that at home.”

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