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Seahawks stumble, but still lock up NFC West crown

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Chargers didn't need touchdowns from
LaDainian Tomlinson to win. The Seahawks didn't need to win to
capture the NFC West.

San Diego's league record holder for touchdowns and favorite to
win the league's MVP award didn't score on Sunday. Teammate Vincent
Jackson did -- twice -- including on a 37-yard touchdown pass from
Philip Rivers with 29 seconds left and the Chargers won their ninth
consecutive game, 20-17 over the Seahawks.

The AFC West champion Chargers (13-2) set a team record for wins
in a season. A victory at home against Arizona next week would
clinch them the top seed in the conference for the first time since
1980. The Chargers already have an opening-round bye for the first
time in 12 years, thanks to the Houston Texans beating the
Indianapolis Colts earlier in the day.

Tomlinson was happy to give the spotlight to Jackson, who raced
behind Michael Boulware for the winning score.

"I'm just as happy seeing other guys score than when I score,"
said Tomlinson, who has 31 TDs this season. "People expect me to
score so much sometimes that it's kind of a relief when other
people do it."

He wasn't the only one relieved after the game.

The Seahawks' sting of a tough loss was soothed by the
Cardinals' victory at San Francisco minutes earlier. That meant
Seattle (8-7) clinched its third consecutive NFC West title despite
its third straight loss.

Division-championship caps and T-shirts were in the Seahawks'
lockers afterward, though linebacker Lofa Tatupu was the only
player seen wearing any of the celebration gear.

"We may have won it by default, but the eight games we have
won, we've earned it," Tatupu said while donning the white,
division-title shirt that read "One game, one dream."

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren told his team immediately after the
game, "This doesn't have to be a morgue.

"To be honest with you, I am more on the upbeat side than the
downbeat side," Holmgren said. "Our first goal was to win the
division, and we won the division. People can say whatever they
want about that -- and frankly, I don't care ... I'll take it."

San Diego won despite Rivers missing on 22 of his first 28
passes. He finished 10-for-30 for 181 yards and is 18-for-53 in his
last two games.

"I think struggle is a misused word," the first-year starter
said. "I am not denying that I haven't played my best football ...
but I think that the key stat is obviously we have won nine in a
row."

That's all Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer cares about.

"There's one percentage that hasn't dropped: W's,"
Schottenheimer said. "And that's all he's charged with doing."

Tomlinson finished with 123 yards on 22 carries, his ninth
straight 100-yard game. But more than half of those came on one
play, a 62-yard romp in the first half. The long run set up a
9-yard reception by Jackson for San Diego's first score.

Tomlinson failed to score after an astounding 21 touchdowns in
his previous eight games.

Shaun Alexander, last season's MVP, ran for 140 yards and both
Seattle touchdowns to rally the Seahawks from a 10-0 deficit in the
second half. His spinning, 9-yard score put Seattle up 14-13 with
13 minutes left. Josh Brown added a field goal with 5 minutes to
go.

But then Rivers got going. He completed two throws for 24 yards
before Jackson easily slipped behind Boulware, who was back after
being benched for nine games.

"That thing just was hanging up there. All I saw was rain and
the ball," Jackson said. "I was like 'Come on. Come on down!"

Boulware was inconsolable at his locker, his eyes reddened by
tears.

"This is ... the hardest situation I've ever been through in my
life," he said. "But, hey, it's definitely not going to kill me.
I'm going to learn from it."

After allowing five sacks and committing a penalty that
nullified Nate Burleson's 96-yard touchdown on a kickoff return,
the Seahawks finally scored nine minutes into the third quarter.
Alexander ran inside a Walter Jones block of fellow Pro Bowler
Shawne Merriman for a 33-yard touchdown to pull Seattle within
10-7.

Earlier, the Seahawks' renowned "12th Man" crowd booed their
team's offense. Matt Hasselbeck threw two interceptions in the
first half, including an overthrow of wide-open Bobby Engram that
Clinton Hart intercepted at the Chargers 6 with 1:02 left in the
half.

Hasselbeck was 17-for-37 for 189 yards. Former Super Bowl MVP
Deion Branch dropped four passes amid a steady rain. Engram also
bobbled a low throw.
^Notes:@ Merriman had three sacks and has 15½ sacks this season,
tied with Aaron Kampman of Green Bay for the NFL lead, despite
missing four games because of a league suspension for flunking a
steroids test. ... Jackson's score in the second quarter helped the
Chargers to avoid their first scoreless opening half in 14 months.
... Seattle CB Marcus Trufant left with a sprained right ankle. He
said he will get further tests Monday, but fears it is a high ankle
sprain.