CHICAGO, JAN. 10 -- Darrell Green, 5 feet 8, hurdled Cap Boso, 6 feet 3, on a punt return today, and it knocked his whole body out of whack.

Actually, Green sprained his costal (rib) cartilage on the leap, though he was so far in front when he landed, he was able to jog into the end zone. The touchdown gave Washington a 21-14 lead in the third quarter and turned out to be the winning points in the 21-17 game.

Nearly all of his Washington Redskins teammates hopped on him when he came to a stop, but he was in such pain he told them to get off.

Green said he injured himself "in the jump" or "after the jump," but it was clearly the leap over Boso -- a Chicago Bears tight end -- that got him in the clear. At first, he walked gingerly to the sideline, hand on ribs, but then he laid down on the Redskins bench, writhing. Minutes later, he jumped up and tried to play, but when he tried covering wide receiver Willie Gault, he pulled up, hands on ribs again, and returned to the sideline.

He did not return, though he said not to rule him out of next Sunday's NFC Championship game against Minnesota and wide receiver Anthony Carter at RFK Stadium. "If there's any way, I will play," he said. "You don't want to miss a game like that."

According to trainer Bubba Tyer, his status is day to day.

It was Green's first NFL touchdown on a punt return, but that's probably because Coach Joe Gibbs doesn't like to risk Green getting hurt. A Pro Bowl cornerback, Green is more valuable covering speedy receivers like Gault, but Gibbs figured the playoffs is time to use all your resources.

Actually, Green returned two punts for touchdowns in the 1985 regular season (against Philadelphia and Cincinnati), but both were called back on illegal blocks by fellow cornerback Barry Wilburn. So today was a breakthrough of sorts.

"That {return today} probably ignited us as much as anything," Gibbs said.

Boso, meanwhile, said: "I had outside containment, and I went after him. He's only 5-7, but he jumped over me. What could I do?"

Gault, who didn't catch a pass on Green today, said he's had a similar rib injury and that "Darrell will play next week, but he'll be sore.

"I had the same sort of thing in 1985, and since I'm a sprinter, too, I know how he's feeling. I came back, but it was painful. Of course, I didn't take shots {of painkiller}, and I hope he doesn't either."

Rookie Brian Davis replaced Green at cornerback and broke up several passes, but Gibbs said: "It would be a big blow to us {if Green doesn't play}."

Gault did make a 44-yard catch, taking a deep ball away from Davis, who was covering him one on one.

"I was surprised {the Bears didn't go to him more against Davis}," Gault said. "I didn't know {Green} was hurt at first, but I was surprised they didn't go to me more even when Darrell was in there."