Joe Gibbs is generally photogenic, although -- once in a while -- he gets a lost look on his face, such as Sunday.

Gibbs said yesterday that he never saw Minnesota's Darrin Nelson drop the last pass of Sunday's NFC championship game, which makes sense since the Washington Redskins' head coach was on his knees, praying.

Actually, Gibbs said he saw Nelson flash toward the goal line on the pattern, but that's all, because half the Redskins team jumped in front of him at the last instant. Nelson ended up dropping the ball, and that's when Eric Yarber leaped in Gibbs' arms, said something about a Super Bowl and took off.

Gibbs, the wind slightly knocked out of him, made a face he generally doesn't make (and CBS' mini-cams were there to record it) because he had no idea what had happened. But then it dawned on him, and he tried getting happy.

"A couple guys slugged me in the chest {after the incompletion}," Gibbs was explaining yesterday. "It took me a while to get my breath. A couple guys beat me up. I think Eric Yarber was one of them, all 168 pounds of him. He punched me about four times, and I said, 'We must've done something right.' "

Yesterday, that particular goal-line stand brought most of the chatter from players at Redskin Park, although Gibbs thought a goal line stand earlier in the fourth quarter was the "key" to the Redskins' 17-10 victory.

Apparently, those two stands will go down in Redskins lore, although Gibbs wants everyone to forget that "dumb" look on his face. "They ought to outlaw {mini-cams}," he said yesterday.

Redskins cornerback Darrell Green helped stop the last Vikings drive in the game's final minute when he bumped his shoulder into Nelson while Nelson was bobbling the football. That made Green an even bigger hero than he's been before. Fans crowded him yesterday at Redskin Park as he tried to change a flat tire on his car. One fan, Scott Grove, told Green to step aside, and Grove proceeded to remove the tire.

"It's not every day you get to change Darrell Green's tire," Grove told his wife. "Anyway, I don't want him to get hurt."

It's worth dissecting the two goal-line stands, because Gibbs and defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon agree they were the game in a nutshell.

The first came with just more than 12 minutes left in the game with the Redskins ahead, 10-7. The Vikings had secured a first down at the Redskins' 3-yard line after Washington was penalized for having 12 men on the field. The 12th man, Petitbon said, was cornerback Brian Davis, who had just replaced Green, who had re-aggravated his injured ribs.

Green would have known to get off the field in short yardage situation, but Davis -- a rookie -- did not.

The Redskins decided to blitz their linebackers on the first and second downs. On first down, defensive tackle Dean Hamel -- subbing for injured Darryl Grant -- grabbed Vikings runner Rick Fenney around the ankles, while linebackers Monte Coleman, Neal Olkewicz and Ravin Caldwell kept him out of the end zone. Fenney managed two yards.

On the second play, CBS broadcaster John Madden predicted a fake of some sort. "This isn't a bad down for a fake and a quarterback running play or a bootleg or something," Madden said.

His broadcast partner, Pat Summerall, asked: "A roll or a quarterback draw?"

Madden said: "A roll to the outside."

Instead, Fenney again got the ball up the middle, and 37-year-old Dave Butz penetrated and threw his body into him. Caldwell and Coleman finished off the play.

"I think Dave still has a young heart," Gibbs said yesterday. "He still gets excited, and he got especially excited in a game like that."

On third and goal from the 1, the Redskins decided not to blitz. "There's a little possibility of a pass coming on that down, so you want to cover all your bases," Petitbon explained.

So, none of the linebackers were supposed to charge, but Olkewicz -- playing a hunch -- did. After a running start, he lunged into the Vikings' backfield and caught the ball carrier, D.J. Dozier, in the thigh before he could leap. Safety Alvin Walton and linebacker Kurt Gouveia finished him off.

"It wasn't planned that I jump," Olkewicz said. "It was more or less instinct."

Olkewicz admitted he was "surprised" that the Vikings didn't try a pass or bootleg near the goal line, but he remembered that the Vikings tried a rollout near the goal line in the Redskins-Vikings meeting in December, and Olkewicz sacked the quarterback.

The next play that December day, Barry Wilburn intercepted a pass and went 100 yards for a touchdown, so Olkewicz thinks the Vikings might have been gun shy Sunday.

Anyway, the Redskins held the Vikings to a game-tying field goal -- a "big lift," according to Gibbs.

The second goal line stand did even more -- it won the game.

The Vikings had moved 55 yards in eight plays to gain a first down at the Redskins 12 with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.

On first down, the Redskins employed a zone. Vikings receiver Anthony Carter started out against Wilburn, but crossed over the middle into Coleman's zone. He made a catch to the 6, although Coleman says: "I should've been waiting for him in our zone."

On second down from the 6, Olkewicz blitzed up the middle and caused quarterback Wade Wilson to dump an incomplete pass. Strong safety Walton nearly intercepted. That play on second down was the only time the Redskins were covering man-to-man in the secondary, and the Vikings failed to exploit it.

On third down, the Redskins went back to their zone. Wilson saw tight end Steve Jordan open in the corner of the end zone but overthrew him.

"It'd been my responsibility if he'd caught that ball because I should've been out wide," Coleman said. "The pass could've been completed with a good pass."

So, it all came down to one play on fourth down with 56 seconds left. The Vikings called "Smoke 83 Option," which meant Carter would run a fade, taking Green into the corner of the end zone.

In the meantime, Nelson would challenge Coleman and break either inside or outside. He broke outside and was open, but Carter hadn't gone far enough to the corner and Green was able to react and get in on the play.

"Had {Carter} cleared Darrell out, Nelson may have been able to catch the football," Petitbon said. "The route that {Carter} ran helped us."

Truth be known, replays showed that Nelson dropped the ball before Green got to him, although the Redskins still insist Green had something to do with it, perhaps distracting Nelson with his footsteps.

Gibbs didn't see it, but, from what he heard, Green made one heck of a play.