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Originally published January 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 6, 2008 at 1:39 PM

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Fourth fireworks for Hawks

Matt Hasselbeck strode up to the podium after his Seahawks' 35-14 NFC wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins, and knew exactly...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Matt Hasselbeck strode up to the podium after his Seahawks' 35-14 NFC wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins, and knew exactly what the throng of media wanted to hear.

"I'll just say it right now. We want the ball, and we're gonna score," Hasselbeck said, cracking a smile. The room burst into laughter.

The Seahawks quarterback pretended to walk away, but was asked about his brash prediction. He couldn't resist another joke.

"I said it and I mean it. What are you going to do about it?" Hasselbeck said.

More laughter.

Hasselbeck referred to his ill-fated statement made for the nation to hear right after the overtime coin toss of a wild-card playoff game at Green Bay on Jan. 4, 2004.

The Seahawks won the toss, but moments later, Hasselbeck was intercepted by Al Harris, who returned the pick for a touchdown and a Packers win.

Now Hasselbeck and crew will return to the scene of that game. Seattle's wild victory Saturday over Washington propelled the Seahawks to an NFC divisional showdown with Green Bay next Saturday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

"I'm going up there to get a victory," safety Deon Grant said. "I'm not trying to go out and party. I'm not trying to be excited by all the history in that stadium. I'm just going up there for a victory."

But the first order of business was winning to advance, and the Seahawks made it interesting. A fourth-quarter flurry of points after losing a 13-0 lead propelled Seattle to the win at cacophonous Qwest Field.

It happened at home in what could be the final game of the season in Seattle. The Seahawks sent a message that they are a team to be reckoned with in the postseason, even if many outside of the Northwest believed they couldn't win Saturday against emotionally charged Washington, which had won four in a row.

The game had all the markings of a grind-it-out win against a gritty Washington defense. The Seahawks led 13-0 late in the third quarter thanks to two Josh Brown field goals and fullback Leonard Weaver's 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, when Washington's stagnant offense finally began to click.

The first play of the fourth quarter, capping a 12-play, 84-yard drive, was a 7-yard touchdown pass from Todd Collins to Antwaan Randle El. Hasselbeck was intercepted two plays later by safety LaRon Landry.

Three plays later, Collins connected with Santana Moss for a 30-yard touchdown strike, a blown coverage helping to make it happen.

Lead evaporated. Gut-check time.

Few could have envisioned what transpired over the next seven minutes.

The kickoff after the touchdown took a huge bounce over Nate Burleson and was recovered by Washington at the Seattle 14. The Seahawks defense knuckled up and forced a field-goal attempt by Shaun Suisham, who missed wide left from 30 yards.

Momentum swung to the Seahawks, but only briefly. Hasselbeck put the offense into a faster tempo, but Landry picked off another pass to end a good drive.

Hasselbeck managed to shake off his interceptions and take advantage of good field position. His 20-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett, and subsequent two-point conversion pass to Marcus Pollard, gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead with 6:06 remaining.

That signaled the disintegration of Washington. All of the emotion the team had been playing with and fed off of in the wake of safety Sean Taylor's shooting death in November and the big plays Collins and company had made to get into the playoffs came to a head.

Collins tossed a deep ball well over Moss's head and into the hands of Seattle's Marcus Trufant, who fielded the ball like an outfielder. Trufant needed two good cutbacks and a punishing block from defensive tackle Brandon Mebane to take the turnover 78 yards for the clinching touchdown.

"You can't say enough about Trufant's interception return. That was really the nail, I think," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.

The Seahawks stopped Washington and finished with a flourish when Jordan Babineaux returned an interception 57 yards for a TD. Now it's on to Wisconsin.

"We'll go out and play as hard as we can, and see what happens," Hasselbeck said.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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