Willie's Moment In The Spotlight

Willie McGinest is a competitor and a savvy veteran. That's one of the reasons he's managed to last in the NFL for so long. On Saturday night he set a mark not likely to be broken anytime soon. McGinest broke the NFL career sack record in postseason history. He also broke the single game sack record. PI recaps each sack and how McGinest was able to achieve a new record against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Willie McGinest had a record setting night as the Patriots starting outside linebacker. His 4 ½ sacks against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wildcard game elevated him to a new record among defenders since the league changed to it's current playoff format. McGinest's sacks not only helped lead the Patriots to a 28 - 3 victory, they put him 1 ½ sacks above the all-time leader Bruce Smith who previously held the career postseason record at 14 ½ before Saturday.

McGinest's 12th season in the league has been another solid performance by the veteran. Manning his outside position, McGinest has been able to cause havoc on opposing offenses when rushing from his trademark left end position.

McGinest was pleased with his performance on Saturday declining to gloat about his place in history after the game.

"In the company of guys like Bruce Smith and Reggie White, it's definitely a compliment," he said. "I'm just humbled to be in the same category with those guys."

McGinest entered the game with 11 ½ sacks, and managed to shed blocks to continuously apply pressure and jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. Leftwich, who started the game, was hobbled by an ankle injury that affected his mobility, allowing the Patriots' defense additional opportunities to catch or put pressure on him

Cornerback Asante Samuel agreed that the pressure up front helped the whole defense, a point he exemplified himself when he made an interception late in the game to seal the win. Samuel singled out McGinest for his exceptional effort.

"It [The pass rush]was tremendous," said Samuel. "They got the quarterback riled up today. Congratulations to Willie [McGinest]. He works hard and plays hard."

Here's a look at how McGinest managed to reached the record and break it.

How The Record Fell

Sack #1

The Patriots defense turned up the heat on third down plays by bringing pressure with the inside linebackers as well as the outside linebackers creating hurried throws and missed opportunities for the Jaguars. Although Leftwich was not sacked, the first period was a defensive struggle as both teams forced opposing quarterbacks to miss plays. The Jaguars were unable to get their ground game on track and moved into a passing mode.

After two series of three-and-outs, the Jaguars' third possession started awkwardly. The first play was a low snap that rolled along the ground (ruled fumble) through Byron Leftwich's hands and Fred Taylor covered the ball up for an 8-yard loss.

On second and 18, Leftwich stood in shotgun formation with a 4-receiver set and went to throw as the Patriots put a blitz on. Monty Beisel managed to lay a hit on Leftwich as McGinest went around the left end and Rosevelt Colvin around the right. The play was ruled a non-play with a penalty on the Jaguars (delay of game).

Second and 23 was a short pass to Matt Jones on the left side with McGinest in coverage making the tackle. The play set up third and 15 from the Jaguars' own 25 as the quarter expired.

On third down, the Jags went to another four-receiver set with Alvin Pearman in the backfield. McGinest charged in from the left end, Pearman cut-blocked him with McGinest falling to all fours. Leftwich had to hold the ball as the Patriots had coverage, but Vince Wilfork was able to collapse the pocket up the center. McGinest got to his feet and charged into Leftwich who had no place to move as Wilfork, Ty Warren and Jarvis Green closed in while McGinest sacked Leftwich for SACK #1

Byron Leftwich #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is sacked by Willie McGinest #55 and Jarvis Green #97 of the New England Patriots during their Wild Card Playoff game on January 7, 2006 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


Sack #2

After the half the Patriots led 7-3 with both teams misfiring on offense. The Patriots stopped the Jaguars who went four straight pass attempts with Leftwich in the shotgun formation on their first possession. The Patriots then scored to improve their lead 14-3. They then increased pressure on the Jaguars by sending corner blitzes along with the normal pressure from the linebackers. The Jaguars misfired again on a three-and-out. The Patriots then took a commanding lead of 21-3 on a Brady to Watson 63-yard catch and run. This put the Jaguars into a one-dimensional situation and set the stage for McGinest.

The Jaguars' third possession started on their own 38 with 2:57 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor danced his way for seven yards on first down. On Second down, Richard Seymour blew through a double-team to force Leftwich out of the pocket. Leftwich took off upfield for an 18-yard gain, setting up first and ten on the Patriots 37.

On the next play, McGinest returned to the field replacing Tully Banta-Cain who was in for him. Jarvis Green took on a double team splitting the blockers on the right while McGinest took on Maurice Williams using a bull rush to collapse the pocket from the other side. Green and McGinest met at Leftwich who went down in a heap for SACK # 2

Asante Samuel snuffed out the drive with an interception return for a touchdown on a 4th-and-nine play.

Byron Leftwich #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is sacked by Willie McGinest #55 of the New England Patriots as his teammate Vince Wilfork #75 chases during their Wildcard Playoff game on January 7, 2006 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


Sack #3 (Ties the record)

With the four-score lead the Patriots unleashed their pressure attack defense on virtually every play in the fourth quarter. The Jags took over on their own 31 with 14:39 left in the game. The next six plays were all passes: pass-11 yards, incomplete, pass 11 yards, incomplete, pass - penalty for -5, pass-24 yards. The Jaguars then tried to run again, with the Patriots defense trapping Taylor for a 1 yard gain at the New England 28. Two more plays moved the ball down to the Patriots 8 yard line with a 2nd-and-two. A pass break-up by Hank Poteat in the End Zone force the Jaguars into 3rd down, setting up McGinest again.

The Jaguars had a solid drive and looked like they were going to cut the Patriots' lead when McGinest came up with his third sack of the game. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork charged up the middle as Leftwich dropped back, and McGinest charged in from the left. Leftwich managed to back peddle more and threw the ball away before being dragged down. McGinest grabbed Leftwich's shoulder pads with his left hand and kept reaching over the Jaguar's helmet to try to drag down the other shoulder. Leftwich managed to back peddle more and threw the ball away before being dragged down. The Officals ruled "in the grasp" and McGinest had SACK #3

Sack #3.5 (Record breaker)

After a Jaguars missed field goal - due in part to McGinest's sack - the Patriots took the ball and went three-and-out. Jacksonville elected to replace Leftwich with the more mobile David Garrard to start the next drive.

Garrard drove Jacksonville from the Jags own 17 all the way to the Patriots six yard line where the drive ended on an incompletion on 4th-and-5.

New England took over with 5:03 remaining. They proceeded to go three-and-out again as they tried to run the ball to chew up the clock. They punted back to Jacksonville giving the Jaguars the ball on their own 43 with 3:33 to go.

On the first play, Jacksonville took a 4-receiver set with one out to the left and three out to the right. Garrard backpedaled from shotgun after taking the snap only to see Richard Seymour bearing down on him from his left and McGinest from the right. Both defenders ran over their blockers to get to Garrard who was hauled down for an 8-yard loss. There was a penalty on the play, but McGinest instructed the ref to decline the penalty and record the play. McGinest shared the sack with Seymour for another ½ sack making it SACK #3.5

Quarterback Byron Leftwich #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is sacked by Willie McGinest #55 of the New England Patriots during their Wild Card Playoff game on January 7, 2006 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)


Sack #4.5 (icing on the cake)

The Jaguars then ran a draw play on 2nd-and-17 giving the ball to Greg Jones for an 11-yard gain. The Jaguars were then faced with a 3rd-and-6 on their own 47 with 3:03 remaining on the clock.

The Jaguars went with the no huddle and Garrard took the snap from shotgun formation. Seymour took off on the Patriots right side collapsing the pocket while Jarvis Green applied pressure from the middle. McGinest just held ground on the left looking like he didn't want to fight through Maurice Williams' block until Garrard - fleeing Seymour's rush - moved into McGinest's vision. McGinest then tossed Williams aside and pounced on Garrard for SACK #4.5

McGinest had enough, smiling and jogging to the sideline motioning for his replacement to come in for him. It was a new record for postseason sacks in a game (4.5) and an all-time career record for most postseason sacks (16).

Post Game Comments

A number of Patriots commented on McGinest's achievement during the postgame media period.

Mike Vrabel: "I think that since I have been here Willie ( McGinest) was a guy that leads by example. He is a guy you want to hitch your wagon to and you want to follow him. You want to try and out work him and you want to try an emulate him. He is a professional in every sense of the word on and off the football field. He symbolizes everything that Mr. Kraft wants out of this organization. It is great to see him (McGinest) have success."

Rosevelt Colvin: "Mac (McGinest) was off the chain today. He is a veteran. He gets it done regardless of the situation. He showed today why he has been in the league for twelve years and why he has been so successful. We are fortunate to have him on our team."

Tom Brady: "Willie McGinest, I mean, four and a half sacks tonight is pretty unbelievable."

Bill Belichick: "You know, Willie has had a great year, had a great year last year, one of our most durable and productive players. I just can't say enough about him. [He] gives us a lot of leadership on and off the field, day in and day out. Practices hard, prepares well and shows up on game day."


As a first round draft pick (4th overall) by the Patriots in the 1994 NFL Draft, McGinest moved from his traditional left defensive end position to the left outside linebacker position with the Patriots. He has been a big part of the Patriots defense, and a member of each of the past four Super Bowl appearances.

McGinest is now a part of NFL history and he couldn't be happier.

For post-game comments by McGinest check the Insiders Lounge or Willie's Bio page.

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