- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Congratulations to the Patriots’ Willie McGinest — not for setting an NFL postseason record Saturday with 4-1/2 sacks against the Jaguars, but for reminding us that the old record was shared by long lost Redskins linebacker Rich Milot, who had 3-1/2 against the Bears in the ‘84 playoffs. I was at RFK Stadium that gray afternoon and, frankly, I have no memory of Milot’s Lawrence Taylor-like performance. He racked up more sacks in that game, believe it or not, than he did in all but one of six NFL seasons (career sack total: 141/2).

His efforts came in a losing cause, though — Bears 23, Redskins 19 — which is probably why they’ve been consigned to the wastebasket of history. The playoffs are all about winning, baby.

Which brings us to this weekend’s semifinal scrums in the NFC and AFC, each with its own intrigues. What do you say we deal with them in chronological order, beginning with “The Skirmish Not Far From Snohomish (Wash.)” …

Washington at Seattle (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.): The Redskins’ 120-yard output in their first-round win over the Bucs is easy to poke fun at. I mean, in the 1936 championship game — back when the football resembled a Polish sausage — they still managed 130 yards in a loss to the Packers.

What’s equally alarming, though, is all the talk afterward about Tampa Bay having “the No.1 defense” in the league — as if that’s any excuse for the offensive impotence the Redskins displayed. The Bucs, I’ll just point out, allowed 277.8 yards a game this season, not 120. Joe Gibbs never used to alibi like that in the old days, even after banging heads with the Bears’, Giants’ and Eagles’ legendary defenses.

It’s just one of the ways Coach Joe has changed, I guess. (His seemingly infinite patience with Sean Taylor being another.)

Seahawks 26, Redskins 17.

New England at Denver (Saturday, 8 p.m.): It’s interesting how many similarities there are between the Patriots, who are going for their third straight NFL title, and the ‘67 Packers, the last team to make it three in a row. Consider:

• Each lost its final regular-season game. At home. To a club that didn’t make the playoffs.

• New England’s finale was against the Dolphins, whose coach, Nick Saban, once served as an assistant under Patriots coach Bill Belichick (when he was with the Browns). Green Bay’s finale was against the Steelers, whose coach, Bill Austin, once served as an assistant under the Packers’ coach, Vince Lombardi.

• The Patriots and Packers had four common opponents. The Pats lost to the Colts and beat the Falcons, Raiders and Steelers. The Pack lost to the Colts, beat the Falcons and Raiders and would have beaten the Steelers (who finished 4-9-1) if they hadn’t rested their starters in the last game.

• Neither team had a 1,000-yard rusher … or a 1,000-yard receiver.

• The No.2 receiver on both clubs gained exactly 738 yards (Carroll Dale for Green Bay and David Givens for New England).

• The Packers had a backup quarterback named Horn (Don). The Patriots have a backup quarterback named Flutie (Doug).

• In their first playoff game, both teams enjoyed the home-field advantage, even though their foes had better records.

• The Patriots scored 28 points in that game. So did the Packers.

All we need now is an Ice Bowl in Denver. (Too bad the forecast is for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s.)

Patriots 24, Broncos 20.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis (Sunday, 1 p.m.): Is it just me, or does Jerome Bettis, with his increasingly circular shape, look more like a “South Park” character every year?

The Steelers have a real task ahead of them this weekend. For one thing, they aren’t likely to knock Peyton Manning out of the game after just two snaps (as they did the Bengals’ Carson Palmer on Sunday). For another, they have to be running out of trick plays. They threw the whole playbook at Cincinnati — the wide-receiver reverse, the halfback pass, the flea flicker, even the wide-receiver pass.

Memo to Indy: Watch out for the flying wedge.

Colts 30, Steelers 24.

And finally …

Carolina at Chicago (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.): Maybe Rex Grossman will be the next Sid Luckman for the Bears. But it’s hard to imagine the metamorphosis taking place in the next few weeks. Granted, the kid has been around for three seasons — Sid won his first championship in Year2 — but he’s thrown just 195 passes because of injuries.

The Panthers were road warriors when they went to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, pulling upsets at St. Louis and Philadelphia. They’ll do the same in Chicago (except it won’t be much of an upset).

Panthers 17, Bears 10.

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