SEATTLE &

The Seahawks swarmed Alex Smith. They gouged Frank Gore. They tied records for stinginess.

Then again, those records came against the NFL's worst-ranked offense.

Seattle held San Francisco to six first downs, leaving ample opportunity for Matt Hasselbeck to enjoy fulfilling coach Mike Holmgren's promise of more throws with two touchdown passes as the Seahawks beat the inert 49ers 24-0 Monday night.

The shutout kept the Seahawks (5-4) ahead of Arizona (4-5) in an NFC West that has been awful. Most awful: the Rams (1-8) and the 49ers (2-7), who lost for the seventh consecutive time.

"The shutout was huge," Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "This is the NFL. They get paid a lot of money to move the ball."

That money is going to waste faster than cash inside a casino.

The Seahawks tied their team record for fewest first downs allowed, set against San Diego in 1987. San Francisco matched its fewest first downs since 1963 &

for the second time in less than a month.

So much for the 49ers ending the Seahawks' three-year reign of the division. Seattle swept the season series, outscoring San Francisco 47-3.

The 49ers squandered three drives that started inside Seattle's 41-yard line. They didn't get a first down and had just 31 yards until Arnaz Battle caught a 45-yard pass at the Seattle 11 on the last play of the first half.

Alex Smith, the $49.5 million quarterback, was sacked three times. The NFL's lowest-rated passer lost fumbles on two of them.

"We still have a lot of football left. In some ways you can look at that and say, 'Yeah,' &

and some ways, 'My God!'," said San Francisco coach Mike Nolan, who was on the sidelines one day after his father Dick Nolan, a former 49ers coach, died.

Nolan received condolences from Holmgren, referee Larry Nemmers and several players before the game. During it, he didn't stand idly watching the flop.

He had Battle shift into taking a direct snap from center. He brought Battle out of a spread punt formation and back under center in an attempt to draw Seattle offside on fourth-and-4. He went for it on fourth down three other times.

All failed.

He even tried an onside kick to begin the second half while down 17-0. The 49ers had the Seahawks surprised but couldn't hold onto the bounding ball.

"I'm not going to sit back here and take it in the shorts and lose the game by a touchdown or two touchdowns," Nolan said. "Let's try to get back into the game and win the doggone thing."

Hasselbeck completed 27 of 40 passes for 278 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown throw to Will Heller that ended Seattle's first drive and a 10-yard scoring pass to D.J. Hackett on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Patrick Kerney rushed untouched and hit Smith from behind to force a fumble that Rocky Bernard recovered at the San Francisco 21 midway through the first quarter. That became a 20-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

And Maurice Morris, playing while injured Shaun Alexander missed his first game, ran 6 yards for another score 10 minutes into the second quarter.

At that point, Seattle led in total yards 220-32.

Morris had 87 yards on 28 carries. He benefited from wide running lanes, spawned by Holmgren backing up his vow to throw more in lieu of a pitiful running game.

Sixteen of his first 19 play calls were passes. Many came out of shotgun formation, which Holmgren usually uses as much as sunscreen during a Seattle winter.

"It reminds me of our old days at BYU, where we never ran it," Holmgren said, reiterating he will not abandon the run entirely.

Yet, after Nate Clements intercepted Hasselbeck's overthrown pass and returned it 12 yards early in the third quarter, San Francisco had the ball at the Seattle 23 down 17-0. But on fourth-and-1 at the 2, fullback Moran Norris got bent back, Gore got dropped by Kevin Bentley for no gain and San Francisco got nothing &

again.

"I'm going to go get me a Krispy Kreme for that one," Bentley said, grinning like a kid after he had 10 tackles while replacing Leroy Hill, who was out with a strained hamstring.

Gore, who was questionable with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss San Francisco's loss to Atlanta last week, ran 13 times for 72 yards. It seemed like 720 yards compared to what the rest of the offense was doing.

The ineptitude came against a schizophrenic Seahawks defense that had allowed 428 yards and 33 points last week while failing to sack Derek Anderson in a loss at Cleveland.

"We're just Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and it's got to end," Tatupu said. "I'd love to say it's over now, but we've been up and down every other game."

Better than the 49ers.

Notes: Alexander, the sputtering 2005 league MVP, twisted his left knee and ankle last week. ... Deion Branch, Seattle's leading receiver, missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained foot. ... Heller, playing because starting TE Marcus Pollard had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, shares Seattle's team lead with three TD catches. His career high entering this season was one.