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Originally published Monday, December 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks win the West again

Call it a division dynasty. The Seahawks captured a fourth consecutive NFC West title Sunday with their 42-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals...

Seattle Times staff reporter

If playoffs began today...
A look at the NFC playoff matchups if the season ended today:
Team W-L Opponent
1 Dallas 12-1 First-round bye
2 Green Bay 11-2 First-round bye
3 Seattle 9-4 vs. Minnesota
4 Tampa Bay 8-5 vs. N.Y. Giants
5 N.Y. Giants 9-4 at Tampa Bay
6 Minnesota 7-6 at Seattle
Source: NFL.com
Remaining opponents
While chances are slim of the Seahawks improving their playoff seeding, it is possible. A look at the remaining schedules for each NFC division leader:
Dallas Cowboys (12-1)
Dec. 16 Philadelphia (5-8)
Dec. 22 at Carolina (5-8)
Dec. 30 at Washington (6-7)
Green Bay Packers (11-2)
Dec. 16 at St. Louis (3-10)
Dec. 23 at Chicago (5-8)
Dec. 30 Detroit (6-7)
Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
Dec. 16 at Carolina (5-8)
Dec. 23 Baltimore (4-9)
Dec. 30 at Atlanta (3-9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
Dec. 16 Atlanta (3-9)
Dec. 23 at San Francisco (3-10)
Dec. 30 Carolina (5-8)

Recent postseason history

2004

Seattle 9-7

Playoffs: Lost wild-card game.

2005

Seattle 13-3

Playoffs: Reached Super Bowl before losing.

2006

Seattle 9-7

Playoffs: Won wild-card game before losing.

2007

Seattle 9-4

Playoffs: To be determined.

Call it a division dynasty.

The Seahawks captured a fourth consecutive NFC West title Sunday with their 42-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field, continuing a run of dominance like never before in Seattle's 32 seasons with an NFL franchise.

Three regular-season games remain for the Seahawks (9-4), but they clinched the division title because the Cardinals fell to 6-7 and can only tie Seattle when the regular season ends. The Seahawks own the advantage in the tiebreaking scenario that would decide the title — a better record within the NFC West.

"We've always put an emphasis on our division opponents and division games, and that's the first step," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "Getting into the playoffs and maybe getting a home game in the playoffs, that's the first step. The credit goes to the players and my assistant coaches for a great job."

The Seahawks' championship-caliber effort Sunday was cause for celebration. At the end of the game, the white ballcaps and T-shirts proclaiming the Seahawks as NFC West champions were handed out. Wide receiver Bobby Engram proudly pointed to his cap as he walked off the field. Team owner Paul Allen raised his fists in triumph.

Being back at home to clinch the NFC West title after a two-game road swing never felt so good, despite the 35-degree temperature at game time.

The Seahawks came up with big play after big play, starting with a Deon Grant interception that led to a field goal.

Also in the first quarter, the Seahawks put together a 79-yard drive highlighted by Shaun Alexander's winding and weaving 25-yard run on fourth-and-inches. Two plays later came the first of four Matt Hasselbeck touchdown passes, this one to a wide-open Nate Burleson in the corner of the end zone for a 10-0 Seattle lead.

A 31-yard Hasselbeck-to-Deion Branch completion set up the next touchdown pass, this one to Engram at 11:47 of the second quarter. The pass to Branch was right in his hands as he barely had to look back for the ball, and the throw to Engram came after Hasselbeck stepped up to avoid the rush, fired low where only Engram had a chance for the ball. Engram scooped it up before it hit the turf.

Hasselbeck slapped Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett on the backside coming off the field after the play, as if to say "Nice try."

The Seahawks were rolling, and it continued.

A sack by defensive end Patrick Kerney — one of three for the day as he overwhelmed Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown all afternoon — came before a 26-yard Burleson punt return, which led to a 46-yard screen pass to fullback Leonard Weaver. On the next play, another pinpoint Hasselbeck pass found Branch, who tiptoed the back line in the end zone but stayed in bounds for the score.

It was 24-0, then 27-7 Seahawks at halftime. Hasselbeck was a scorching 14 of 18 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.

"He was like a field general," Engram said.

The Cardinals rallied as they put together a 13-play, 83-yard drive helped by two pass interference penalties on Seattle's Marcus Trufant. Arizona scored a touchdown when former Seahawk Jerheme Urban tipped a pass to himself.

Then Arizona recovered an onside kick, but the momentum died when Trufant picked off a Kurt Warner pass on the next play.

The Seahawks took possession and used a personal-foul penalty to get to the Cardinals' 5-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 3, Hasselbeck hit tight end Marcus Pollard for a touchdown and a 34-14 lead.

But the party didn't stop there, and a party it was at Qwest Field. Josh Scobey, just signed last week, got into the big-play bash when he got to Cardinals punter Mitch Berger in the end zone for a safety with 9:25 to play. And Trufant completed the Seahawks' scoring when he returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown.

The Seahawks won their fifth consecutive game. As a division winner, they are guaranteed a home playoff game.

"It's a great feeling," Hasselbeck said. "Four in a row division titles. I can remember when this NFC West was formed and San Fran was really good ... the St. Louis Rams were coming off of Super Bowl after Super Bowl, and it felt impossible to get a win at St. Louis at the time. Slowly but surely, we had enough guys helping us believe that, hey, maybe we could get there someday, and here we are."

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

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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