This is a copy of my unedited game story that will appear in tomorrow's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
The News Tribune
PHILADELPHIA – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was asked in the wake of his team's 28-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon how this year compared to the 2005 season, the last time the Seahawks played at Lincoln Financial Field.
"That," Hasselbeck said, "was a special year. Everything was going right for us. It was almost too easy. This year has been a little tougher."
Indeed, the difference between that Super Bowl season and this year can be distilled into the way the Seahawks captured the two games against the Eagles.
That year, they beat Philadelphia 42-0 on Monday night, a win so complete the Seahawks almost felt compelled to apologize for it.
On Sunday afternoon, with a steady rain falling in temperatures hovering around freezing, the Seahawks were not able to claim their fourth consecutive victory until the end – and even then it was in doubt.
Seattle thought it had all but locked up an 8-4 record when it stopped the Eagles with two minutes left and simply had to run out the clock.
But three runs by Shaun Alexander netted only two yards, and combined with the Eagles using all three of their timeouts only 40 seconds came off the clock.
Still, Seattle was going to punt and pin the Eagles into their own territory with very little time. Only, Ryan Plackemeier's punt went only 31 yards. That mistake was then compounded by allowing Brian Westbrook to return the punt 64 yards to Seattle's 14.
"That was my fault," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "I should have told (Plackemeier) to kick the ball out of bounds. It wasn't a thing in my mind as much as when we played the Bears and (Devin) Hester."
The Seahawks were in a similar position last week, when they needed a goal line stand at the end to prevent St. Louis from beating them.
This time, on third-and-7 from the 11 with 23 seconds left, Lofa Tatupu ended Philadelphia's threat by intercepting A.J. Feeley, allowing the Seahawks to win their second consecutive road game and maintain their two-game division lead over the Arizona Cardinals (6-6), who visit Qwest Field next week.
"I told the team, 'If nothing else we are interesting,'" Holmgren said. "These games going down to the wire, obviously they don't care about me and my health."
It was a watershed game for Tatupu, who enabled the Seahawks to jump to an early lead by twice intercepting Feeley, who was starting for the injured Donovan McNabb.
His first interception on the first play of the game led to a two-yard touchdown run by Alexander, his first touchdown since the second week of the season.
His second interception led to Hasselbeck's 12-yard touchdown throw to Bobby Engram, giving the Seahawks a 14-7 lead.
Tatupu, who now is tied with team leader Marcus Trufant with four interceptions, also had 12 tackles.
"Lofa Tatupu had one of the great games I have ever seen a linebacker have," Holmgren said.
The game, played before 68,445, also marked the return of Alexander, who had been out for three weeks with a sprained left knee.
With his presence also came a return by Holmgren to a more balanced attack, which he eschewed in Alexander's absence for a pass-first approach.
Of Seattle's plays, 34 were passes and 29 were rushing attempts. Alexander gained 65 yards on 20 carries, a 3.3-yard average belying a much better effort than in the weeks before his injury, which prompted boos from Seattle's fans.
"It wasn't even about the touchdown," Alexander said. "It was just exciting to be there."
Maurice Morris had five carries for 64 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown run on a sweep one week after he had a 46-yard gain on a draw play.
The Seahawks needed the running game on a day that Hasselbeck was not particularly sharp (19 for 34, 187 yards), though he did throw two touchdowns, including a 43-yarder to Nate Burleson in the second quarter that came about because of some fancy footwork by Burleson after the catch.
Meanwhile, the defense won for the first time this season in a game in which it was not able to regularly harass the quarterback. Second in the league in sacks, the Seahawks were able to get to Feeley only once, that on the last drive just before Tatupu's interception.
But they made big plays when they needed to, including a goal line stand at the end of the first half that played a large role in the ultimate outcome.
On first and goal from the 1, the Eagles were stopped four times, including Rocky Bernard's trip of Westbrook on fourth down.
"We were right there with a chance to score, and I thought we could get in," said Eagles coach Andy Reid, explaining why he chose not to kick a field goal on fourth down.
That seemed to instill in Seattle a sense of confidence. After allowing the Eagles 17 first-half points and 234 yards, the Seahawks permitted just one touchdown and 129 yards of total offense after intermission.
A tale of two different halves.
A tale of two different seasons.
"Not to say we can't reach our goals," Hasselbeck said, "but we have had to fight for some stuff. Fortunately we are still in the hunt."