SAN FRANCISCO, DEC. 14 -- It's fitting that the National Football League's most unpredictable team, the Seattle Seahawks, came into their Kingdome on Sunday on the heels of two consecutive defeats and on the brink of being knocked out of the AFC playoff race -- and proceeded to beat Denver and climb within a half-game of the division lead.

The Seahawks team that showed up Sunday was the one many people picked to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. The Dave Krieg who showed up Sunday was the one ranked statistically among the top five passers of all time. The Seattle offense that showed up was one that played with imagination and spark. And the defense that showed up was one that contained Denver's John Elway as few defenses have.

That's not to say Seattle (8-5) will have such good fortune again this season. But against Denver (8-4-1), it all added up to a 28-21 victory over the team with the best record in the AFC, looking to wrap up a playoff spot.

The Seahawks, even with the triumph, don't really know what to expect in the final two weeks of the regular season, in games at Chicago and Kansas City.

Tight end Mike Tice, a seventh-year Seahawk out of the University of Maryland, said, "Every time we win, we get -- I don't know what we get."

Linebacker Bruce Scholtz felt much the same way. "Ever since I've been here," he said, "we say we'll learn from our losses, but we never seem to. We got one {a win -- Sunday night}, but we were also capable of beating the last two teams {Raiders and Steelers} and we didn't."

Seattle took a 7-0 lead with six minutes left in the first half on a three-yard run by Curt Warner, then 14-0 with 22 seconds left in the half as Krieg (22 of 33, 238 yards, three touchdowns) passed three yards to Ray Butler. The Seahawks figured that as hot as Elway has been in recent weeks, Denver would come back, and they were right. Sammy Winder's 11-yard run made it 14-7 and less than two minutes later Elway hit Rick Massie for 39 yards and a tie at 14.

But Krieg responded with touchdown passes of 40 yards to Butler and seven yards to fullback John L. Williams to go ahead, 28-14. A one-yard run by Winder cut the margin to seven points in the closing seconds.

The Seattle fans were so thrilled with the Seahawks' wide-open play calling -- Coach Chuck Knox is known for his conservative "Ground Chuck" offensive approach -- that they even cheered wildly when wide receiver Steve Largent threw a terrible and incomplete pass to quarterback Krieg in the second half. It was just one of those days when the Seahawks looked better than any rival in the AFC and as good as San Francisco or Chicago in the NFC.

But Knox, after the game, was not about to predict similar results in the remaining two weeks.

"I've been coaching for 34 years and I've never been able to tell when a team is ready," he said. Knox probably gets fewer signals from this team than his others.

His defensive linemen hadn't had a sack in 14 quarters, but each -- Jeff Bryant, Jacob Green and Tony Woods -- had credit for a sack against Elway. Going into the game, Knox had fretted over the pass rush, reasoning that if the Bears -- with all their team speed -- couldn't catch up to Elway then the Seahawks would have massive problems.

But defensive coordinator Tom Catlin came up with several wrinkles, including a modified pass rush that was designed to prevent Elway from rolling out. The result was that Elway completed only 21 of 42 passes, and was sacked four times.

Meanwhile, the Broncos continue to have injury problems. Denver was already playing without five injured offensive regulars, including leading receiver Vance Johnson. Massie was just beginning to emerge as an additional deep threat, but fractured a bone in his leg during the game and is out of action indefinitely.

"This is the most injuries I've ever seen," said Elway, who becomes even more of a one-man band with every injury. "I don't mean the most injuries in one year, but in my entire career."