San Francisco The Seattle Seahawks' bench practically exploded when Jeff Garcia skipped a fourth-down pass off the turf at midfield with 1:06 left. Several Seahawks charged onto the field waving their helmets, and several others threw most of their uniforms into the crowd in celebration.
The Seahawks' 24-17 victory over San Francisco on Saturday earned them a chance at the playoffs -- and an uneasy Sunday of waiting.
Matt Hasselbeck passed for 315 yards and threw scoring passes to Koren Robinson and Alex Bannister to keep the Seahawks' postseason hopes alive.
Seattle's first win in San Francisco since 1979 wasn't pretty, with both teams struggling to move the ball on a chilly day at Candlestick Park. But Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander came up with just enough big plays to give the Seahawks (10-6) their second road victory of the season and a sweep of the 49ers in 2003.
Now the Seahawks need Minnesota to lose at Arizona, or Denver to beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Seattle also could get in if Dallas loses at New Orleans, kicking off a complicated scenario that would eliminate the Packers.
"You win, and you give yourself a chance to go the playoffs," said Alexander, who rushed for 60 of his 85 yards in the fourth quarter. "I thought, 'I can't let this opportunity slip away to do something this organization hasn't done for a long time."'
The Seahawks haven't made the playoffs since coach Mike Holmgren's first season in 1999, but they're ready to end that frustration with consecutive season-ending victories over NFC West rivals Arizona and San Francisco.
"We needed to win the last two to have a chance," Holmgren said. "They did what I asked them to do. Now it's out of our hands. I told the fellas if they don't normally go to church, I want them in church tomorrow. I hope we get a chance to keep playing."
Jed Weaver and Cedrick Wilson caught TD passes from Garcia for the 49ers (7-9), who wrapped up just their third losing season since 1983 with a roundly dismal effort.
San Francisco dropped just its second home game of the season with a non-existent rushing game and a fragile defense that couldn't stop Hasselbeck or Alexander.
"The future is really unclear right now," said Garcia, who was 22-of-38 for 248 yards. "It's really going to be up to the management side of things. The nature of the business is that things are going to change."
The Seahawks went ahead 21-17 late in the third on Robinson's diving 30-yard TD catch, which was upheld after review. Robinson had six catches for 85 yards.
After several minutes of ineffective offense for both teams, the Seahawks made a 70-yard drive centered on Alexander. Seattle handed off to Alexander on nine of the 13 plays on the drive, which ended with Josh Brown's 33-yard field goal with 1:56 left to clinch the franchise's first 10-win season in 17 years.
"The things we were doing were stupid mistakes, and very correctable," Hasselbeck said. "Nobody lost their mind, and everybody kept their calm."
After three straight outstanding offensive performances, the 49ers struggled into the offseason. Garcia missed open receivers and settled for the short passes that caused San Francisco fans to boo the home team repeatedly.
"We just had a lot of injuries this season, and we never overcame them," said left tackle Derrick Deese, the longest-tenured San Francisco player. "We just got some unlucky breaks. Hopefully guys will start working out early and remember this bitter taste we have in our mouth right now."
The teams traded punts until the second quarter, when San Francisco scored on Garcia's 18-yard tipped pass to Weaver.
After linebacker Jeff Ulbrich intercepted another tipped pass, the 49ers scored again when Wilson caught a short pass and reached the end zone untouched.
Seattle finally woke up for two scores in the final six minutes before halftime. Bannister made a 31-yard TD catch, and Alexander ran for a tying 3-yard score with 54 seconds left.