Chargers beating NFL's best

The San Diego Chargers improved to 6-2 against teams with winning records on the season and pulled out a late victory over a team that many feel is a favorite to return to the Super Bowl in the NFC.

The Seahawks are headed to the playoffs as the fourth seed from the NFC despite their 20-17 home loss to San Diego on Sunday.

"Our first goal was to win the division, and we won the division," coach Mike Holmgren said after the game, putting a cheery face on a potentially heart-breaking defeat. "People can say whatever they want about that and I frankly don't care.

"Secondly, I thought there were a lot of good things in this game. I would probably be celebrating a bit more had we won the division and won the game, but I'll take it."

Seattle won the NFC West after the 49ers lost at home to Arizona. The turn of events handed the Seahawks their third consecutive NFC West title and a home game against Philadelphia or Dallas in the wild-card round. The Seahawks are 8-7 heading into their regular-season finale against Tampa Bay on New Year's Day.

Despite Holmgren's rosy outlook, players took the loss to San Diego hard. Seattle has lost three consecutive games.

"There's no silver linings in this one," defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "What you saw out there was a team giving their absolute best, and still not be good enough to win.

"And if we don't find a way to be better then, yeah, we'll be playing in January, but for about 10 minutes."

Losing to the Chargers wasn't as bad as how the Seahawks lost the game. Strong safety Michael Boulware blew the coverage on a 37-yard touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds. Seattle had been leading 17-13 when Boulware didn't get deep enough. The play marked the latest error in pass coverage for the 2004 second-round pick.

The Seahawks could put Jordan Babineaux back into the lineup at strong safety. Babineaux replaced Boulware after the sixth game of the season. Boulware went back into the lineup Sunday because Seattle thought he would improve the run defense.

Looking ahead, the Seahawks will try to build on a few positives that emerged against the AFC leaders.

Shaun Alexander's 140-yard rushing performance showed that Seattle can run the ball against one of the league's top defenses. Alexander scored two touchdowns and ran with more authority than he had in previous games this season. He said his injured foot was feeling better than it has in the past.

"This is the healthiest that both Matt (Hasselbeck) and I have been, and this is the first time that the o-line understood their roles," Alexander said. "I think you saw our team. We fought tooth and nail. Teams usually have to play well to beat us when we are playing our game, and the Chargers made just enough plays to beat us.

"We don't have to pout about losing when we play a good game against a good team. From here on out, we are going to play real Seahawks football."

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