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Monday, December 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hawks get kick save

Seattle Times staff reporter

Turnover time

2nd

quarter

5:11

Jay Cutler interception returned by Darryl Tapp for 25-yard TD.

2nd

quarter

2:45

Rod Smith fumble recovered by Julian Peterson.

3rd

quarter

11:08

Cutler fumble recovered by Rocky Bernard.

4th

quarter

8:04

Brian Clark fumble recovered by Joe Tafoya. Seattle later kicked FG.

4th

quarter

4:01

Cutler intercepted by Jordan Babineaux. Seattle later kicked FG.

Big boots

Seattle's Josh Brown has four winning FGs in the final minute:

50 yards, Dec. 3

Hawks 23, Broncos 20

38 yards, Nov. 12

Hawks 24, Rams 22

54 yards, Oct. 15

Hawks 30, Rams 28

42 yards, Sept. 10

Hawks 9, Lions 6

DENVER — Red noses, flushed faces, bumps, bruises and temperatures well below freezing never felt so good.

Three-and-a-half quarters of good defense. One quarter of offensive firepower. And the man who is now the NFL equivalent of other clutch superstars like the NBA's Kobe Bryant and baseball's Albert Pujols.

That man is Seahawks kicker Josh Brown, and his 50-yard field goal with 5 seconds left capped a wild fourth quarter in the Seahawks' 23-20 come-from-behind win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night at Invesco Field.

The victory propelled the Seahawks to an 8-4 record, keeping them tied with Dallas and New Orleans for the second-best record in the NFC as the teams jockey for a first-round playoff bye. The Seahawks also took a three-game lead in the NFC West, as both San Francisco and St. Louis lost Sunday.

Such a big division lead with only four regular-season games left is almost insurmountable, but the Seahawks were living for the here and now Sunday.

They struck quickly to take the lead, lost it on one display of bad tackling and took victory the way they have time and again this season — driving for the winning field goal in the final minutes. They did it in Detroit in Week 1, at St. Louis in Week 6, at home against the Rams in Week 9 and again Sunday night.

"I knew I made it," Brown said of the kick. "I love it."

What's not to love? Brown collected himself after two missed field goals earlier in the game. The Seahawks defeated a quality opponent on the road in bitter cold weather, a game many didn't see them winning.

"When we had to have some stuff at the end, we got it," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I have gone into the last few minutes of a game with a little more confidence than I had [last night]. We weren't really moving the ball with a lot of consistency offensively, but give the players credit. They did a nice job."

It was a cold night — 16 degrees — and so was the Seahawks' offense. There were five dropped passes in the first half, plus three delay-of-game penalties. But in the final quarter, the Seahawks scored 16 points and withstood a tying touchdown in the last three minutes to win.

Starting a drive with 9:42 left in the game, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck found wide receiver Darrell Jackson for 27 yards. It was the Seahawks' longest play from scrimmage — for a few seconds.

Hasselbeck hit Jackson for 33 yards on the next play, and Shaun Alexander ran in for a 1-yard touchdown with 8:13 left to give the Seahawks their first lead, 14-13.

"On that particular drive, I kind of said the heck with it," Holmgren said. "I'm going to take a couple of shots here."

They worked. Cornerback Kelly Jennings forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return. They drove down the field for a 44-yard Brown field goal.

Then what appeared to be the knockout blow: Defensive end Grant Wistrom tipped first-time starting quarterback Jay Cutler's pass, and Jordan Babineaux intercepted it. The Seahawks then got a 23-yard field goal from Brown.

Thirteen points in about 5-½ minutes. That was the game.

Not quite.

Cutler, a non-factor for much of the game, connected with receiver Brandon Marshall from the Broncos 29. What should have been a routine catch-and-tackle turned into Marshall busting through the arms of Babineaux, Jennings and Michael Boulware on his way to a 71-yard touchdown.

Tie game, 20-20.

"That shouldn't happen," Holmgren said. "We missed a few tackles on the play. The kid made a pretty good effort, but it just cannot happen. I'm not going to put a damper on the win ... but if we hadn't won the football game, that one would have stuck with us for a while."

The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:31 to play. Hasselbeck completed a 16-yard pass to Nate Burleson and a 13-yard pass to D.J. Hackett and Alexander scampered for 8 yards as the Seahawks fought their way into field-goal range, bringing on Brown.

"We just hung in there," Hasselbeck said. "Didn't make big mistakes. Our defense kept us in it."

The game didn't appear to be headed for so much excitement. It might have been lopsided if not for four forced turnovers by the Seahawks' defense and one on special teams.

Rocky Bernard and Julian Peterson recovered fumbles to go with an interception and touchdown return by rookie defensive end Darryl Tapp and Babineaux's play.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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