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Brown comes through again late to lift Seahawks

Dec 4, 2006 - 4:57 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Josh Brown's right leg proved more valuable than rookie Jay Cutler's right arm.

Brown drilled a 50-yard field goal with five seconds remaining as the Seattle Seahawks spoiled Cutler's first career start with a 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos.

It was the fourth field goal that Brown converted in the final minute this season that gave the Seahawks (8-4) a victory.

"Josh Brown's been clutch for us all season long," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "He's a great kicker."

Seattle moved three games ahead of San Francisco and St. Louis in the NFC West.

The 11th overall pick in April's draft, Cutler was tabbed the Broncos' new starting quarterback by coach Mike Shanahan over veteran Jake Plummer.

Cutler struggled virtually the entire way, throwing two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown while also losing a fumble.

However, Cutler and rookie wide receiver Brandon Marshall hooked up on what looked like a game-changing play. Cutler found Marshall with a short pass and the fourth-round pick broke numerous tackles on his way to a 71-yard touchdown with 2:37 remaining, tying the game at 20-20.

"That's all Brandon Marshall," Cutler said. "I didn't do anything. I just got him the ball, and he made the big play for us. We have a lot of guys like that and we need to spread the ball around more."

"I was very disappointed," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "We are not a gambling defense. We missed a few tackles on that play. If we ended up losing on that play, it would have really haunted us."

Cutler completed 10-of-21 passes for 143 yards.

"I knew going into this it wasn't going to be a perfect game and it wasn't," Cutler said. "I made some mistakes and we had a lot of mistakes. I blame myself. The defense played really well."

"I think he did pretty good for his first game," Shanahan said. "I am upset with myself. I thought we put a little too much into the game plan."

But Hasselbeck, who led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance last season, calmly directed the game-winning 10-play, 54-yard drive.

Hasselbeck kept alive the march with a 16-yard pass to Nate Burleson on 3rd-and-4 to the Seattle 36. He followed with back-to-back completions of eight yards to Deion Branch and 13 yards to D.J. Hackett, moving the ball to the Denver 38.

After Shaun Alexander ran for three yards, Chris Spencer had a false start before Alexander broke off an eight-yard run to set the stage for Brown, who continued his penchant for coming through in the clutch. Brown had missed from 40 and 53 yards in the first half, but did convert two field goals earlier in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos (7-5) committed five turnovers that the Seahawks turned into 13 points.

Denver, which lost its third straight game, fell three games behind San Diego in the AFC West. The Broncos visit the Chargers next Sunday.

The latest loss also came with a price after Pro Bowl inside linebacker Al Wilson was carted off the field with 11:37 remaining with a sprained neck. He was injured diving for a loose ball on a special teams play.

In the first half, Broncos kicker Jason Elam injured his left hamstring after a short run on a curious fake field call by Shanahan. The run only shortened Elam's attempt from 43 to 41 yards, which he still converted on the final play of the half, giving the Broncos a 13-7 lead. Elam still kicked in the second half.

The Broncos maintained the lead until the fourth quarter, when mistakes took their toll.

Hasselbeck had back-to-back completions of 27 and 33 yards to Darrell Jackson, setting up Alexander's one-yard touchdown run with 8:13 remaining, which gave Seattle a 14-13 lead.

"It was a great play call," Hasselbeck said. "I had a slant and go to Branch on the left side. I pumped it and its kind of my choice to chose Deion on the left side or I go to Jackson running down the right. Both were wide open."

Alexander rushed for 75 of his 90 yards in the second half.

Hasselbeck also recovered after a slow start to complete 16-of-28 passes for 168 yards and an interception.

"My number one goal was not to turn the ball over today," Hasselbeck said. "Our defense and special teams created some turnovers and that was huge for us. We didnt execute some of the things that we usally do execute early in the game, but our defense kept us in it."

After Alexander's TD, Brian Clark fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Joe Tafoya recovered for the Seahawks at the Broncos 40.

Brown converted the turnover into a 44-yard field goal with 4:08 remaining, giving the Seahawks a 17-13 lead.

On the Broncos' next play from scrimmage, Cutler had his pass tipped by defensive end Grant Wistrom and intercepted by strong safety Jordon Babineaux.

Three plays later, Brown converted a 23-yard field goal with 2:58 to play

Cutler, who failed to complete a pass until early in the second quarter, found tight end Stephen Alexander, who made a juggling catch, for a six-yard TD with 6:14 left in the first half to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead.

However, Cutler made his first huge miscue on the Broncos' enusing possession. Trying to avert a sack, he tossed the ball up while being taken to the ground and rookie defensive end Darryl Tapp returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

"That was a bad play. We had a quarterback keep and the defensive end was coming around," Shanahan said. "He should have taken the sack or thrown it away instead of trying to make a play. You learn from that mistake. All quarterbacks go through that learning process."

Seattle gained just 67 total yards on 25 offensive plays in the first half.

Tatum Bell helped take some pressure off Cutler, rushing for 133 yards on 26 carries.

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