Joe Kazmar
Sports Columnist
For The Record

The National Football League’s Wild Card Playoffs are in the books and guess what? The Seattle Seahawks—the only team in NFL history to win a division title with a losing record—are still alive and well in the playoffs, while the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints are long gone.

Not many pro football fans would have predicted this scenario, but as the old-timers say, “that’s why we play the games.”

This 41-36 victory by the Seahawks Saturday afternoon was one of three upsets that occurred out of the four playoff games last weekend. Saturday night a 32-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired gave the New York Jets a 17-16 win over the three-point favored Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning.

Sunday’s noon game at Kansas City was the only one in which seven-point favored Baltimore drubbed the hosting Chiefs 30-7. Sunday’s afternoon contest saw the three-point favored Philadelphia Eagles lose at home to Green Bay 21-16 as quarterback Michael Vick was intercepted in the end zone with 33 seconds left to seal the win.

In this weekend’s Division Round Baltimore (13-4) is an early 3-point underdog at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburgh (12-4) on CBS while two-point favored Atlanta (13-3) hosts Green Bay (11-6) at 7 p.m. on Fox.

Ten-point underdog Seattle (8-9) travels to frigid Chicago (11-5) Sunday at noon on Fox followed by the New York Jets (11-6) visiting the 8½-point favored New England Patriots (14-2) for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS.

Because of the Atlanta Falcons’ great success during the 2010 NFL season, the Saints were able to qualify for the playoffs as one of the National Football Conference’s two wild cards.

And with the Seahawks winning the NFC West Division crown, the Saints had to fly to Seattle and find out just how important that “12th Man” really is at Qwest Field, the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints found out the hard way that when a defending champion meets a team with the worst record in the first round of the playoffs and are favored by a whopping 11 points, the noise factor can certainly even the odds pretty quickly.

New Orleans took advantage of a couple of early faux pas and jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Seahawks knew what was happening. Qwest Field nearly went silent as the overflow partisan crowd thought, “Oh, no, not another lop-sided loss.”

To the man not a single Seahawks player gave up the ship. Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck led his team downfield and before the first period ended, Seattle trailed only 10-7 as he threw one of his four touchdown passes.

The fans quickly became re-invigorated and before anyone knew it, the Seahawks had jumped in front 24-17 as the half was ending. The Saints’ Garrett Hartley booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired, with the teams going to the dressing rooms for the intermission with Seattle leading 24-20.

Whatever first-year head coach Pete Carroll said to his team in the dressing room sunk in as the Seahawks put 10 unanswered points on the Qwest Field scoreboard in the third period as the Saints looked at a 34-20 deficit going into the final 15 minutes of the game.

Still, many of the fans knew that two touchdowns were not that difficult to overcome for a Drew Brees-led championship team. And the Saints went to work and scored a touchdown and another Hartley field goal in less than six minutes.

But that proud Seahawks’ defense, with Orange’s pride and joy Earl Thomas leading the way with eight tackles from his free safety position, dug in and turned back the Saints when it counted most.

And the offense, which hadn’t produced a 100-yard rusher all season, kept moving the football on the ground and whittling the minutes and seconds off the game clock.

A simple off-tackle run by tailback Marshawn Lynch, who was acquired a mid-season from the Buffalo Bills, refused to go down and broke at least six tackles en route to an electrifying 67-yard touchdown that proved to be the winning margin giving Seattle a 41-30 lead with 3:22 left and helped clinch the first playoff victory by a losing team.

But the Saints didn’t give up without a fight as Brees tossed a touchdown pass with 1:30 left, but the run for the two-point conversion failed. And when the onside kick also failed, the champs were doomed and the underdog Seahawks had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.

“This was a day to remember, beating the world champions,” Carroll chortled after the game. “Our players believed they would win and had faith in one another. Marshawn’s touchdown was one of the greatest runs I have ever witnessed.” The last time New Orleans gave up four touchdowns in a game was Nov. 17, 2004. They gave up five on Saturday.

Sunday’s game at Chicago will be a rematch of a game played by these two teams in Week 6 at Soldier Field that was won by the Seahawks 23-20. Until Saturday’s big win over New Orleans, the Bears were the last team Seattle had beaten with a winning record.

Chicago and Seattle also met in a divisional playoff game at Soldier Field in Jan. 2007 that was won by the Bears 27-24 in overtime. Chicago advanced to play and beat New Orleans 39-14, putting them into Super Bowl XLI, which was won by Indianapolis 29-17.

KWICKIES…Sunset Grove golfer Sid Caillavet got a hole-in-one Friday on the Par 3 No. 3 hole. He said he used a “strong 5-wood” and thought he hit the ball over the green. After looking for a while Sid found it in the hole. This was his fifth career ace and his second on this No. 3 hole. He shot a 79 for the round, which is two years under his age. Witnessing the ace were Bill Van, Jodie Kelly, George Davis and Frank Giarratano.

Former Dallas Cowboys favorite Deion Sanders is among the 15 finalists announced Sunday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2011. Running backs Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome (The Bus) Bettis plus receivers Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown will also be considered for induction Feb. 5.

JUST BETWEEN US…We’d like to apologize for you readers not seeing our Fearless Forecast in last week’s edition. So we’ll attach it to this Korner.

Sat: Baltimore over Pittsburgh in an upset 19-17; Atlanta over Green Bay 27-24.

Sun: Seattle over Chicago in another upset 16-14; New England over New York Jets 38-28.