Matt Hasselbeck lay there yesterday, writhing on the ground in pain, as the football jumped from arm to arm and Shaun Ellis celebrated a monster hit. It didn't look good then for...

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Matt Hasselbeck lay there yesterday, writhing on the ground in pain, as the football jumped from arm to arm and Shaun Ellis celebrated a monster hit.

It didn’t look good then for the Seahawks’ often-battered and more-often-embattled quarterback. Trent Dilfer replaced him on the next series and completed the game.

Hasselbeck hurt his elbow on the play. Insult to injury came when the Jets recovered the fumble.

Thus continues Hasselbeck’s seasonlong battle against his body. He missed the first play of the second half because an upset stomach kept him in the locker room. And then he suffered an elbow injury, separate from rib and knee injuries earlier this year.

The extent of the injury wasn’t known; Hasselbeck had X-rays taken.

“We’ll wait and see what the doctors say,” he said.

Picture this

• The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with one more victory in the final two weeks.

• The Seahawks can win the NFC West with two wins OR with one win plus a loss by the St. Louis Rams.

• The Hawks also could win the division without another victory if the Rams lost twice and the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17.

• If the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would host the Minnesota Vikings in a wild-card game.

Establishing the tight ends

Jerramy Stevens swore it wasn’t planned, this tight-end bonanza the Seahawks put on display. Of the 22 passes Hasselbeck completed, six went to three tight ends. The Seahawks looked to establish their tight ends early. Itula Mili had four catches for 43 yards, and Stevens snagged a 6-yard touchdown pass all alone in the corner of the end zone.

“I was uncovered,” Stevens said. “That was as easy as it gets.”

Linebackers struggle

Sure, Niko Koutouvides notched nine tackles. And yes, Chad Brown recorded seven stops in his return from knee surgery. But Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren noted that the linebackers seemed to struggle.

Among the problems: 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Jets running back Curtis Martin. And a dropped interception by middle linebacker Orlando Huff in the first quarter.

“I thought I had it,” Huff said. “I should have had it.”

One-hand wonder

In yet another age-defying moment, Seahawks receiver Jerry Rice caught the first touchdown pass of the day with a single hand. Men half his 42 years seem unable to make the plays he has made since he joined the team in the middle of the season.

The catch came on the Seahawks’ first possession when Hasselbeck lobbed a pass into the corner of the end zone. It looked to be out of the reach of Rice, who was outrunning Jets cornerback Terrell Buckley. At the last second Rice reached up and grabbed the ball with his right hand. Then as he headed out of bounds, the ball slid down his arm until it finally lodged against his thighs.

He stutter-stepped, keeping both feet in bounds for a score.

Of course it turns out Rice actually practices this catch. In fact, the moment he saw the ball was long, he tried to simply get a hand on it to knock it in the air and then grab it.

“It almost stuck in my hand completely,” he said.

Turnovers, turnovers

A radio reporter asked Holmgren if he could “talk about” the Seahawks’ three turnovers (an interception and two fumbles).

“Do I have to?” Holmgren asked with a bemused smile.

Then the coach talked less about the plays themselves but their overall impact.

“We got a little careless at times and I think we pressed a couple times,” he said. “When you get behind you do some things you wouldn’t normally do and that’s what happened.”

Jackson again

Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson caught four passes after missing last week’s practices to attend his father’s funeral in Florida. He didn’t join the Seahawks until 11 p.m. Saturday, but he was effective in the time he played.

Since several people in Seattle had passed on condolences upon hearing of his father’s death before last week’s game, Jackson was asked if he had anything to say to them.

“Thanks for supporting me, keep it up and don’t boo me no more when I drop the ball,” he said.

Big, bad Barton

Eric Barton didn’t know he jarred the ball from Shaun Alexander with a goal-line hit (indeed, Alexander said he lost the ball before being hit).

But Barton received credit for a forced fumble anyway, merely one statistical mark in a day full of them: an interception, a recovered fumble, a sack, 11 tackles, a couple of passes defensed.

All to go with a play that helped turn the game for the Jets.

“We were in man-to-man defense and he (Alexander) was my man and we had a great defensive call for the situation,” Barton said. “(Linebacker Jonathan) Vilma was right there with me and we stopped him.”

A free-agent acquisition from Oakland in the offseason, Barton leads New York in tackles and passed the 100-tackle mark for the third straight year.

Pennington peeved

A week after one of the worst games of his career against Pittsburgh which resulted in some New York reporters questioning his ability as a quarterback, Chad Pennington responded with 253 yards, three touchdowns and one statement:

“Actions speak louder than words and so there is not a lot that needs to be said. There is not a lot that was said between the players this week,” Pennington said, appearing somewhat perturbed. “You can look in their eyes, you can look in my eyes, we know what we need to do.”

He took no questions.


• Holmgren wouldn’t say if he plans to start Koren Robinson at wide receiver next Sunday against Arizona. Robinson missed the team’s past five games — four for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and one for violating team rules. Holmgren said Jackson would start at one receiver spot and that Jerry Rice and Robinson “will play.”

“I’m looking for my dog,” Jackson said. “I miss him a lot.” • Martin’s two first-half scoring runs established a season team record with 12 TDs rushing. He also set the team mark for career TDs rushing with 53, passing Emerson Boozer.

Times staff reporter Les Carpenter and correspondent Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.