Coach Mike Holmgren lacked specifics Monday when asked how he might utilize his starters in the regular-season finale Sunday. The Seahawks have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, meaning they have nothing to gain against Green Bay. "We haven't decided yet on exactly how we're going to do that," Holmgren said. "We'll spend a couple days thinking about it. There are some guys that were nicked up Saturday."
Seattle could be without its top three cornerbacks Sunday. Marcus Trufant will not play after suffering a bruised back during a 28-13 victory over Indianapolis on Saturday. Andre Dyson (ankle) also will miss the game. Kelly Herndon (knee) is not expected to play.
The status of running back Shaun Alexander is also in some question. Alexander planned to spend part of this week with relatives near Cincinnati after an aunt died early Monday. Alexander needs one touchdown to break the NFL single-season record. His 27 scores match Priest Holmes' total from 2003.
"I would like to see him get the record if he can possibly get the record," Holmgren said. "He kind of knows how we feel about that, and at the same time he also knows that being healthy for the playoffs is the most important thing.
"It's a balancing act, and we'll talk some more about it. I haven't really got into it with him and how he feels about it."
Alexander leads the league in rushing. He needs 193 yards to reach 2,000 yards for the season. He probably won't get enough carries Sunday to have even a remote chance at reaching that milestone.
Alexander did not sound ready to remain with family long enough to miss the game. "No, because I think life goes on," Alexander said. "You have to do what you have to do, but at the same time I want to console my family.
"I have an uncle that is really hurt, and they were the only ones on my mom's side of the family that didn't have kids, so my brother and I being the closest, my mom was two years older than her, so we kind of got to be like her sons."
Alexander is expected to start, but wide receiver Darrell Jackson might miss the game to rest his surgically repaired knee. This is new territory for the Seahawks and their coach.
Holmgren coached highly successful teams while with Green Bay from 1992-98, but never as a head coach has he been in a position to rest starters during the regular season. His best teams in Green Bay had something to play for right to the end.
"You can take a little bit of a breath, there is no question about that," Holmgren said. "Like I said three or four weeks ago, I hoped I was in that position to make some of the calls that we might make going into this game.
"At the same time, it's important for us to maintain some continuity. It's important for me and the team, when we step on the field anywhere that we play, we play well."
--Center Robbie Tobeck had to go it alone when it came time to dump Gatorade on coach Mike Holmgren in the final minutes of the victory over Indianapolis. The victory clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was involved in the planning stages of the Gatorade ambush.
"Matt kind of suckered me," Tobeck joked. "He said, 'Hey, let's go get coach with the Gatorade.' Then when it came time to throw it, Matt bailed. You know, he's the Eddie Haskell type. Came time to throw the Gatorade and Matt bailed. But I'm up to the task."
--A year ago, running back Shaun Alexander blamed Holmgren for preventing him from winning the league rushing title. The comments overshadowed a victory that clinched a division title for Seattle. On Sunday, Holmgren put Alexander back into the game for a chance to tie the NFL's single-season record for touchdowns.
Holmgren had already chosen to sit down Alexander, but he had a decision to make after backup Maurice Morris carried twice to set up first-and-goal from the 1. With fans chanting for Alexander, Holmgren rewarded them by sending the NFL's leading rusher onto the field.
"I'm just laughing," Alexander said, "and then coach turns around and said, 'I'm giving you one play to score, and if you get hit and get hurt and go to the hospital, I'm not visiting you.'"
Alexander scored to give Seattle a 28-6 lead with about five minutes remaining in the game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--QB Matt Hasselbeck is expected to start the game Sunday in Green Bay, but he won't play a full game. The team has not yet announced how the playing time might break down.
--RB Shaun Alexander could be away from the team this week while his family mourns the death of his aunt. Alexander was expected to spent time with family near Cincinnati. The team has not said how those plans might affect Alexander's availability for the final regular-season game Sunday in Green Bay.
--WR Darrell Jackson might not play Sunday. The team might decide to rest Jackson's surgically repaired right knee.
--LB D.D. Lewis might not play Sunday. After recovering from a knee injury, Lewis injured a foot against Indianapolis. The team was not yet sure whether Lewis would play.
--CB Andre Dyson will not play Sunday. The team hopes he can return for the playoffs. Dyson has a high ankle sprain.
--CB Marcus Trufant will not play Sunday. The team expects him to be ready for the playoffs. Trufant suffered a back injury against Indianapolis.
--CB Kelly Herndon might not play Sunday. The team expects him to return from a sprained MCL in time for the playoffs.
--DT Chuck Darby might not play Sunday. The team has been resting his injured knee.
--FS John Howell might not play Sunday. He is recovering from a hamstring injury.
REPORT CARD VS. COLTS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Matt Hasselbeck completed better than 80 percent of his passes for a third consecutive game. Hasselbeck again showed a firm grasp of the offense in leading Seattle to the end zone on three of its first five possessions. TE Jerramy Stevens caught a TD pass for the third game in a row. The team rested WR Darrell Jackson after the first few series. The pass protection was solid, and Hasselbeck's rating was 137.7.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- RB Shaun Alexander breezed to 139 yards on the ground against a watered-down Colts defense. Indianapolis was resting numerous key players on defense, and Seattle capitalized. Alexander scored two of his three TDs on the ground as the Seahawks controlled the line of scrimmage.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- An injury to top CB Marcus Trufant forced the Seahawks to play the final three-plus quarters without their top three cornerbacks. The Colts didn't go out of their way to exploit the depth problems, but backup QB Jim Sorgi was able to move the ball consistently through the air. The pass rush had its moments, notably when DT Marcus Tubbs sacked Sorgi and forced a fumble. DT Craig Terrill caught the ball and returned it inside the Indianapolis 20. The play killed any thoughts of a miraculous Colts comeback.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Tubbs' return from a calf injury has bolstered the run defense in recent weeks. The return of LB D.D. Lewis also helped. Lewis delivered some big-time hits. Colts RB Edgerrin James carried 13 times for 41 yards before the Colts pulled him from the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Seahawks blocked a first-half field-goal try to leave Indianapolis with three points to show for a pair of extended drives with QB Peyton Manning in the game.
COACHING: A -- Coach Mike Holmgren and his staff deserve some credit for helping the team stay focused through an unusual week of preparations. The death of James Dungy, son of Colts coach Tony Dungy, changed the dynamics of the game. Seattle didn't try to ignore the tragedy. Instead, the team observed a moment of silence after practice Thursday, addressing the issue head-on. The players responded with another consistent effort.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
New holder, same miserable results for once-automatic kicker Ryan Longwell. However, Longwell did anything but blame newcomer Ryan Flinn for two missed field goals in the Packers' 24-17 loss to Chicago on Sunday. If anyone were to be held responsible, though it was by no fault of their own, it would be members of the grounds crew at Lambeau Field.
Flinn explained after the game that wet paint contributed to the first of Longwell's misses, a 38-yard attempt that sailed wide right in the second quarter. The paint used to mark the yard lines on the grass surface rubbed off on one end of the K-ball put in play for the kick. According to Flinn, that end of the ball was too slick, and he couldn't stop the ball from spinning as Longwell approached it.
"That, I've never had before," said Flinn, who held in college at Central Florida. "It's a little different when you have paint on the ball. The way I hold, I apply pressure on the tip of the ball to get it to stop. And, it just kept turning, even though I was pushing down on it.
"The ball was still rotating around when Ryan got to the ball. That messes with the rotation with the ball (on the kick) and definitely with the kicker, mentally."
Flinn was a bizarre story in his own right as he made his NFL regular-season debut Sunday. The Packers signed him just three days before the game after he stood out in a workout with three fellow free agent punters. Flinn had been bartending in Orlando, Fla., the last four months after he was released by Atlanta early in the preseason.
Flinn replaced B.J. Sander, who suffered a season-ending bruised knee in the previous game, as both the Packers' punter and holder.
Holding issues involving Sander early in the season set the tone for the least-productive season in Longwell's nine-year career. He's misfired on seven of 24 field-goal attempts, including a 39-yarder that he also pushed wide right in the third quarter Sunday.
"Ryan should have made (that) second one," coach Mike Sherman said Monday after reviewing the game tape.
Longwell has missed as many as seven field-goal tries in a season only twice -- he was off the mark 11 times in 2001, when he made a career-low 20. This season, Longwell has 79 points, meaning it's practically a given his streak of 100-point seasons will end at eight. "My confidence is high. I have no reason not to be confident," said Longwell, whose contract expires after the season. "The ball is flying far, and it's flying straight when the ball is there."
It's another matter, however, when there's paint on it.
--Packers coach Mike Sherman said Monday that no decision has been made about shutting down center Mike Flanagan for the final game this season. Flanagan made it through only the first two offensive series in the 24-17 loss to Chicago on Sunday. He aggravated the sore groin that's plagued him since he underwent Oct. 5 surgery for a sports hernia. "There's a lot of soreness, which is causing him an inability to function and doing certain movements," Sherman said.
Flanagan, who's due to become a free agent at season's end, insisted on coming back three weeks after the surgery and has started the past nine games. "If he feels healthy enough to play, then he'll play," Sherman said of Flanagan's status for Sunday's game against Seattle. "If he doesn't feel healthy enough to play, we certainly won't put him out there. Here's a guy that was champing at the bit two weeks after his surgery to play and doing everything he could to get himself back on the field. I don't know many players that would have done what he did, getting out there and playing in the pain that he has played with throughout this season. It's a credit to him and his commitment to this team."
Grey Ruegamer, who started the game Sunday at right guard, moved to center when Flanagan departed. Scott Wells slid over from left guard to right guard, and Adrian Klemm came off the bench to man left guard.
--Although running back Samkon Gado needs a few more weeks for his injured knee to completely heal, Sherman indicated Monday that the rookie isn't necessarily out for the finale Sunday. Gado, an undrafted player who made a name for himself with three 100-yard games and six rushing touchdowns in the second half of the season, sustained a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the Dec. 19 loss at Baltimore.
Gado didn't play in the last game, but Sherman said he's "doing much better this week than last week. He actually made a turn at the end of the week. I'm not exactly sure what that means. Obviously, we're not going to put him on the field unless he's 100 percent, or close to it. So, we'll wait and see on that."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--WR Robert Ferguson will have his sprained left knee further evaluated Wednesday, at which time a determination will be made about his availability for the final game. Ferguson was sidelined Sunday after aggravating the torn lateral collateral ligament in the knee during the preceding game.
--TE David Martin suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday's game and didn't return. Coach Mike Sherman, though, sounded optimistic Monday that Martin could be cleared for the finale.
--OLB Robert Thomas probably won't play in the last game because of a lingering strained quadriceps. Coach Mike Sherman said the team would list him as doubtful on the injury report later this week. Thomas, the starter on the weak side, has missed five of the past six games.
--DE Kenny Peterson suffered a sprained knee in the third quarter Sunday. The backup was to be further evaluated Monday, and a determination on his status for the upcoming game would be made later in the week.
--CB Mike Hawkins is expected to be back on the field this week after being deactivated Sunday because of a bruised knee. Patrick Dendy replaced Hawkins as the nickel back.
--The starting trio of WR Donald Driver (bruised knee), WR Antonio Chatman (bruised hip) and CB Al Harris (bruised thigh) suffered injuries in the Chicago game that aren't considered to be serious.
REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Brett Favre has been stuck on 19 touchdown passes for a month now, and he couldn't end the streak despite having one of his more prolific games of the season. Problem was Favre's gaudy numbers of 30-of-51 passing for 317 yards were offset by four interceptions. That makes nine miscues in the last four TD-less games and 28 for the season, one short of Lynn Dickey's franchise record, set in 1983. Favre's questionable decision-making wasn't the primary culprit this time, rather shoddy blocking that had him under duress with little time to react on a number of plays. None was more critical than a toss into the flat intended for FB William Henderson that LB Lance Briggs easily intercepted and returned for a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give Chicago breathing room with a 24-7 lead. The loss of C Mike Flanagan in the first half proved to be the undoing for the shuffled interior of the line. WR Donald Driver and RB Tony Fisher were an asset to Favre in fighting for extra yardage after a handful of catches.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Packers discovered what running the football is like without, ahem, Samkon Gado. The rookie sensation missed his first game because of a torn knee ligament, and the lackluster results against the Bears' stout defense weren't surprising. Rookie Noah Herron, who didn't start but became the team's sixth featured back of the season, averaged only 2.4 yards on 14 carries, though he did score on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter. Fisher was slightly better on his six carries, averaging 3.7 yards. WR Antonio Chatman had the longest gain on the ground with a 10-yard burst on an end-around.
PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- True, Green Bay's second-rated pass defense actually lowered its season average of 169.7 yards allowed per game by giving up only 166 to Rex Grossman on Sunday. However, Grossman, in his first start of an injury-marred season, was the difference-maker for the Bears' revitalized offense against a secondary that continues to be the Packers defense's weakest link. CB Al Harris, the Pro Bowl wannabe, was exploited for the second straight week. Grossman picked on Harris early and often, and succeeded with throws to Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. The speedy Berrian made the biggest play of the game by blowing past CB Ahmad Carroll for a 54-yard pickup that led to a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half. In the next Chicago possession, it took LB Paris Lenon to show the defensive backs how a deep pass is to be properly covered, as he made an exceptional breakup on the run in downfield coverage of Muhammad. S Mark Roman had the only takeaway by the defense three plays later with an easy interception on a badly underthrown deep ball by Grossman.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- By spotting the Bears a double-digit lead in the third quarter, the Packers played right into the hands of the run-oriented Chicago offense. The Bears featured a heavy diet of Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson in the final 30 minutes, during which the tandem combined for 94 yards on 24 carries. Jones finished with 105 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per pop, his second strong effort against the Packers' fading run defense in the past three weeks. DT Cullen Jenkins, though, did come to life to drop Jones for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-4 play at midfield to get the football back for the offense for a last-gasp drive to try to send the game to overtime.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Too bad special teams coordinator John Bonamego didn't impress upon Chatman that every game this season should have been treated as if it were played on Christmas Day. Chatman fulfilled Bonamego's holiday wish of returning a punt return for a touchdown. However, the electric 85-yard dash into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter was a long time in the making for both Chatman and the underachieving special teams units. Allen Rossum had the team's last punt return for a touchdown four years ago. Still to be sorted out is the inept kicking game, which featured two more missed field-goal attempts by Ryan Longwell, who wisely refrained from making new holder Ryan Flinn the scapegoat. Flinn didn't flinch in his NFL debut, averaging an acceptable 40 yards on three punts.
COACHING: D-plus -- While there's no denying there was a decidedly spirited effort on the part of the players on the heels of their 48-3 meltdown at Baltimore six days earlier, a loss remains a loss. Some of the same silly mistakes that should have been rectified long before the final weeks of the season continued to haunt the Packers, particularly a number of drive-killing penalties and another batch of interceptions from Favre. Despite his contention that he was going to call a timeout at that moment anyway, coach Mike Sherman erred by challenging the spot of a second-quarter run by Herron, who clearly was tackled short of the goal line. Sure enough, Sherman lost another challenge later in the first half and left himself with none for the remainder of the game.