Published on: 23rd January, 2012



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San Francisco — The Giants sure know how to play exciting NFC championship games. More importantly, they know how to win them.

For the second time in five seasons, the Giants have advanced to the Super Bowl with a thrilling overtime victory on the road in the conference title game. On Sunday in rainy and windy Candlestick Park, Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal with 7:54 elapsed in the extra period to give the Giants a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.

It will be the Giants’ fifth Super Bowl appearance. They are 3-1.

The game-winning kick was set up by an overtime takeaway when Devin Thomas recovered a Kyle Williams fumble that was forced by Jacquian Williams on a punt return.

“That was a tremendous football game for those that really enjoy football in its very basic element,” Coach Tom Coughlin said. “It was just a classic football game.”

The scenario is eerily familiar to what occurred four years ago, when the Giants won the championship game on the road (at Green Bay) with an overtime takeaway (Corey Webster’s interception of a Brett Favre pass), setting up a game-winning field goal by Tynes (a 47-yarder), sending the Giants to a Super Bowl confrontation with the Patriots (whom they defeated, 17-14). Then, as now, the game is a rematch of a regular season meeting (the Giants won, 24-20, in New England on Nov. 6).

You can take it back further. In 2007, the Giants lost a home game to an inferior Washington Redskins team in Week 15 then won a road game at an AFC team (Buffalo) to catalyze their run (interrupted briefly by a three-point loss to undefeated New England in the regular season finale). In Week 15 this season, the Giants lost at home to last-place Washington. The next week they were the road team in a victory over the Jets. They haven’t lost since.

“I’m not surprised,” Coughlin said. “I’m delighted. I’m excited. At times it’s very difficult to contain yourself. Even this past week when the excitement of this thing was building up, the days seemed to be flying by and I was nervous that we were doing all we could possibly do to put ourselves in a position to win, but these guys have gone out and done it against the best we’ve played.”

Coughlin has done all he can to downplay similarities between the 2007 and 2011 seasons, but not even he can deny them now.

“I’m trying to fight it,” Coughlin said. “Osi (Umenyiora) sat next to me a minute in (the locker room) and he just looked at me with a smile on his face and he said, ‘Have you thought about how this is coming down? Do you realize that this is scary, because of the way that this is coming about?’”

“It’s the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever been a part of,” Umenyiora said. “I can’t really explain it. But I’m just going to go with it. It’s crazy how similar it is to what happened in 2007. It’s going to be a different game, but hopefully it will be the same outcome.”

Winning unforgettable title games is not a new endeavor for the Giants. Tynes’ field goal split the uprights at the same end of the Candlestick field where Matt Bahr kicked his game-winning 42-yarder as time expired in the 1990 NFC Championship Game.

That score was also set up by a late takeaway, when Erik Howard forced a fumble by Roger Craig that was recovered by Lawrence Taylor.

This time, two players normally out of the spotlight made the big play. The Giants punted on their first two overtime possessions. Kyle Williams fielded Steve Weatherford’s kick but had the ball knocked out of his hands by rookie Jacquian Williams. The ball was recovered by Thomas at the 49ers’ 24-yard line.

“I was going down there to make a big play, to attack,” Jacquian Williams said. “He gave me a move, a good move, and I stuck my hand out and knocked the ball out. I kept my eyes on the ball.”

“Jacquian, that’s my guy,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “It was just a big play. We always talk about big players make big plays in big-time games. And Jacquian, for a rookie, that guy’s really stepped up for us this year. And the whole special teams unit. San Francisco is known for having a great special teams unit. I think we outplayed them.

In the fourth quarter, Thomas had recovered a Kyle Williams fumble on a punt, setting up Eli Manning’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham. The officials originally ruled that Williams didn’t touch the ball and that Thomas had merely downed it. Coughlin challenged the ruling and after review, referee Ed Hochuli changed the call to a fumble and a recovery. It was Coughlin’s first successful replay challenge in nine tries, dating back to Sept. 19 against St. Louis.

“I had a vision in my mind I was going to make a big play to help us win the game,” Thomas said. “At first I thought it was going to be that first fumble. But I got an opportunity to recover another one and I jumped on that. I go out and do everything I can do help this team win and thank God today I was able to recover two fumbles. And now we’re headed to the Super Bowl.”

The instant Jacquian Williams separated Kyle Williams from the ball, Thomas was there to secure it.

“I was glued in on the ball,” Thomas said. “It’s one of those things (where you say), ‘I can’t believe he just fumbled.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m right here.’ I made sure I secured it and no one was going to take it from me.”

Coughlin said he expected vital contributions from unexpected sources.

“I felt like someone that did not necessarily get the kudos and wasn’t someone that everyone’s familiar with as a guy who is a difference-maker – I felt someone like that would step up and make a big play,” Coughlin said. “Because it was needed. This was a game of field position, a game of turnovers. And we needed the special teams to help us in the field position aspect of it and in contributing in turnovers. And certainly we got two big ones.”

After Thomas’ recovery, the Giants still had to deal with the little matter of actually scoring the game-winning points. They went about it conservatively, running Ahmad Bradshaw three times. He gained 18 yards before Manning’s kneel-down put the ball at the eight. A delay of game penalty moved it back five yards before Tynes booted the game-winner – just as he had envisioned the previous night.

“It’s my second NFC Championship Game, my second game-winner,” Tynes said. “It’s amazing, I had a dream about this last night. It was from 42, not 31. But I was so nervous today before the game, just anticipating this kind of game. I’m usually pretty cool, but there was something about tonight where I knew I was going to have to make a kick.”

The Giants had many other big-time contributors. Despite being sacked six times, Manning threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns while setting Giants postseason records with 58 passes and 32 completions. The other touchdown was scored by Bear Pascoe (another one of Coughlin’s surprise big-play contributors), his first as a professional. Tynes kicked another field goal, also from 31 yards. Victor Cruz had 10 receptions for 142 yards, including eight for 125 in the first half. Weatherford had a 40.6-yard net average on a franchise postseason record 12 punts. Bradshaw totaled 126 yards from scrimmage, including 74 on the ground. Chase Blackburn, unemployed until the week after Thanksgiving, had a team-high seven tackles (five solo). Jason Pierre-Paul had six tackles (five solo), a half-sack and deflected a pass.

The 49ers scored on Alex Smith touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards to tight end Vernon Davis and David Akers’ 25-yard field goal.

Manningham’s touchdown – on a third-and-15 – gave the Giants a 17-14 lead with 8:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the play, Manningham beat cornerback Tramaine Brock, who was substituting for the injured Tarrell Brown.

The Giants had to travel only 29 yards after Thomas’ first fumble recovery. The big play other than the touchdown was a 14-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks.

Kyle Williams’ 40-yard return on the ensuing kickoff enabled the 49ers to start their next possession at their own 45. On consecutive plays, Smith scrambled for 17 yards and Kendall Hunter ran for 18 more to put the ball on the Giants’ 15. But the defense tightened and when Webster stopped Michael Crabtree for a three-yard gain on third-and-five, Akers came on to kick the field goal.

Eight of the next nine possessions ended with a punt, the exception being Smith’s 29-yard pass to Delanie Walker on the final play of regulation.

Davis’ second touchdown gave the lead back to the Niners at 14-10 with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter.

On first down, Davis went in motion from right to left and got a step behind safety Kenny Phillips at the snap of the ball. Smith lofted a pass to the end zone that Davis caught before Webster could get over to attempt to break it up.

The 49ers’ three-play, 54-yard drive was set up by Kyle Williams’ 24-yard punt return. On second down, Smith slipped a short pass to Frank Gore, who turned it into a 24-yard gain. Davis scored on the next play.

Tynes’ 31-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the Giants a 10-7 halftime lead.

The Giants took possession at their own 36 with 1:36 remaining and no timeouts. Manning so often thrives in those situations and he did so again, leading the Giants 56 yards down the field – all on passes to Cruz. The Giants lost five yards on a delay of game penalty.

Manning’s 13-yard throw to Cruz advanced the ball to the Niners’ 13-yard line. Manning spiked the ball with five seconds remaining and Tynes came on to kick the field goal.

In the half, the Giants outscored San Francisco, 199-144, had 12 first downs to the home team’s five and enjoyed a time of possession advantage of 18:03-11:57.

Pascoe’s touchdown tied the score at 7-7 with 11:15 remaining in the second quarter.

On second-and-six, Pascoe found a void in the Niners’ defense, caught Manning’s short pass at the three-yard line and stepped into the end zone for the touchdown. It was the first score of Pascoe’s three-year career and it came on his initial postseason reception – against the team that drafted him on the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

The score capped a 10-play, 69-yard drive that included a 36-yard pass to Cruz on third-and-six. Three plays later, Cruz’s six-yard catch on third-and-four gave the Giants another first down at the 17. Nicks’ eight-yard catch and Brandon Jacobs two-yard run set up a first-and-goal at the six. Two plays later, Manning found Pascoe for the touchdown.

Davis’ long touchdown reception gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead with 7:11 remaining in the first quarter.

On second-and-10 from the their own 27, Davis ran a pattern down the right sideline and got a step on safety Antrel Rolle. Davis caught Smith’s pass at the Giants’ 42-yard line, straddled the sideline and outraced the secondary to the end zone. Davis was very close to stepping out of bounds, but after review, Hochuli said not enough evidence existed to overturn the call on the field.

Davis was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after jumping up in a camera stand to celebrate his touchdown.

On their ensuing drive, the Giants drove from their own 31 to the San Francisco 34-yard line, where they had a third-and-one. But they failed to get a first down despite two opportunities. On third down, Manning’s pass to Manningham fell short. Coughlin went for it on fourth down, but Jacobs was stopped for no gain on a run up the middle.

“It feels great, it was tough game,” Manning said. “We had to fight for every yard that we got. Defense is playing outstanding, special teams are getting us two turnovers. That was huge, leading to 10 points. They are a good team. Their defense is stout. They play smart, we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and turn the ball over. We did a good job doing that. A couple were close, but it was a hard fought game. I’m just excited about this win, just excited about having another chance to go to the Super Bowl and play New England.”


SAN FRANCISCO – Notes and statistics from the Giants’ 20-17 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

*The Giants improved to 5-0 in NFC championship games and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. It is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, won by the Giants, 17-14. The Giants also won the NFC title in 1986, 1990, 2000 and 2007.

*The Giants are 3-0 on the road in the NFC Championship Game, winning twice in San Francisco and once in Green Bay. It was the second time they defeated the 49ers in a championship in Candlestick Park on a last-play field goal. In the 1990 title game, Matt Bahr kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the Giants a 15-13 victory.

*The Giants defeated the Patriots, 24-20, in Foxboro on Nov. 6. They are 3-0 in Super Bowls against teams they faced in the regular season and 0-1 against a team they didn’t previously play (Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV).

*The Giants will be the 10th franchise to play in at least five Super Bowls, joining San Francisco, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, the Raiders, Washington, New England, Miami and Denver.

*Since they were 7-7, the Giants have won five consecutive games in which they’ve outscored their opponents 141-67.

*There have been five NFL/NFC championship games decided in overtime and the Giants have played in three of them. They lost the 1958 league championship game to the Baltimore Colts and defeated Green Bay in 2007 and San Francisco on Sunday in conference title games. The other NFC overtime games were Atlanta’s 30-27 victory at Minnesota in 1998 and New Orleans’ 31-28 triumph over the Vikings two years ago.

*The Giants played in a record 19th championship game. Dallas is second with 16 title games. The Giants are 8-11 in championship title games – 3-11 in NFL Championship Games prior to the 1970 merger and 5-0 in NFC Championship Games after it (1986, 1990, 2000 and 2007).

*The Giants are the third team since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in 1978 to reach the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with a 9-7 record. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals were 9-7. Both of those teams lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

*This was the fourth time – and the first time in the NFC – a fourth seed and a second seed met for a conference championship since 1990, the first season a sixth playoff team was added in each conference. The No. 4 seeds are 4-0 in such games. The Giants joined the 1992 Buffalo Bills (defeated Miami), the 1997 Denver Broncos (defeated Pittsburgh) and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens (defeated Oakland) as No. 4 seeds that beat No. 2 seeds in conference title games. The Bills lost the Super Bowl, the Broncos and Ravens won it.

*The Giants won their fifth consecutive road playoff game (three in 2007 and two this year), an NFL record. They had shared the mark with Dallas (1975, 1978 and 1980 seasons) and matched by Carolina (2003 and 2005 seasons).

*This was the 47th postseason game in the history of the Giants franchise. That is third-most in NFL history, behind Dallas (58 postseason games) and Pittsburgh (53).

*The Giants are 23-24 in the postseason. The 23 victories tie the Giants with Washington for sixth among NFL franchises.

*The Giants are 4-4 against San Francisco in the postseason. The four playoff victories is their highest total against any opponent. They have three against both Chicago and Green Bay.

*This was the eighth playoff game between the Giants and 49ers, tying an NFL record. The Giants and Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys and the Rams (when they were based in Los Angeles) have also met eight times in the postseason.

*The Giants-49ers postseason series is now tied 4-4. The regular season series is tied, 14-14. Total points in the 36 games: 49ers, 738; Giants, 729.

*The Giants are 7-10 in Candlestick Park – 5-6 in the regular season and 2-4 in the postseason.

*Since 1981 – their first post-merger playoff season – the Giants are 12-5 in postseason games against teams they faced in the regular season (including victories the last two weeks in Green Bay and San Francisco). They are 3-2 against the 49ers in such games.

*The Giants played an overtime period for the first time since Nov. 22, 2009, a 34-31 victory over Atlanta in Giants Stadium. It was the fourth postseason overtime game in franchise history. The Giants lost both home games (the 1958 NFL Championship Game to Baltimore and a 1989 Divisional Playoff Game to the Rams), but won both road games, including the 2007 NFC Championship Game in Green Bay.

*The Giants have won seven consecutive overtime games, including the two championship games, since their last loss on Nov. 27, 2005 at Seattle. The streak started on Dec. 11, 2005 at Philadelphia.

*Despite the wet and windy weather, the Giants did not have a turnover. It was the seventh consecutive game in which they did not lose a fumble, their longest such streak since 2008. The Giants did not commit a turnover in three of their last four games, including the regular season finale vs. Dallas. They have won their last eight games (regular season and postseason) in which they did not turn the ball over.

*The Giants’ time of possession of 39:36 was their highest in any game since they owned the ball for 42:34 in a 41-7 victory at Seattle on Nov. 7, 2010

*The Giants’ defense held San Francisco to one successful third down conversion on 13 tries – and that was on the final play of the fourth quarter, when the Niners snapped the ball from their own 38 and the Giants were playing back to prevent a miracle.

*Tom Coughlin improved to 11-7 as a head coach in postseason games. The 11 victories tie him with three coaches, including two former Giants coaches, for the seventh-highest total in NFL history:

Coaches Postseason Victories:

20: Tom Landry

19: Don Shula

17: Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs

16: Chuck Noll

13: Mike Holmgren

12: Bill Cowher

11: Tom Coughlin, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Marv Levy

Coughlin and Belichick are the only two active coaches on the list and will face each other in Super Bowl XLVI..

*The victory in San Francisco was Coughlin’s seventh on the road as a head coach, tying Hall of Famer Tom Landry for the most in NFL history. Coughlin is 7-4 on the road in the playoffs (5-1 with the Giants). Landry was 7-7.

*Coughlin’s seventh postseason victory with the Giants is one less than Parcells’ Giants’ record. Parcells was 8-3, a record Coughlin will match with a victory in the Super Bowl.

*In his 16-year head coaching career, Coughlin has 142 regular season victories and 11 postseason triumphs. The 153 victories tie him with Giants Hall of Fame coach Steve Owen for 18th place on the NFL’s career list. Marv Levy is 17th with 154.

*Coughlin is 2-2 conference championship games, losing twice in Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game and winning twice with the Giants.

*Eli Manning improved to 7-3 as a starting quarterback in the postseason, including 5-1 on the road. The five road postseason victories are an NFL record. Manning had been tied with five other quarterbacks, including Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, whose Ravens lost the AFC Championship Game Sunday in New England. Note: Elias Sports Bureau counts Super Bowls as neutral site games.

*Manning completed 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The attempts and completions both shattered the Giants’ previous postseason records – both, ironically, which had been set in San Francisco. The record for attempts was 44 by Phil Simms on Dec. 29, 1984. The completions mark had been 29 by Kerry Collins on Jan. 5, 2003. The 33 completions also tied Manning with five other quarterbacks – including his brother, Peyton – for the fourth-highest total in a postseason game.

*Manning’s 316 yards were the second-highest total of his postseason career; he threw for 330 yards in the divisional playoff victory in Green Bay. It is the fourth-highest postseason total in Giants history. Manning is the first quarterback in Giants postseason history with back-to-back 300-yard games.

*Manning now owns the franchise postseason records for passes (316), completions (190), completion percentage (60.13), yards (2,220) and touchdown passes (16).

*Manning was sacked six times, the most times he’s been tackled attempting to pass since Dec. 14, 2008, when he was sacked eight times in a loss in Dallas. It’s the most times he was sacked in a Giants victory since Sept. 17, 2006, when he went down eight times in an overtime win in Philadelphia.

*Manning, the first overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft, and Alex Smith, the first choice of the 2005 draft, were the starting quarterbacks. It was the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that both starting quarterbacks in a conference championship game were number one overall picks in an NFL draft. The other time it happened was the 1998 AFC Championship Game on Jan. 17, 1999 when Denver’s John Elway and the Jets’ Vinny Testaverde were the quarterbacks. The Broncos won, 23-10.

*Victor Cruz caught 10 passes for 142 yards (including eight for 125 yards in the first half). The 10 receptions tied Cruz with Ike Hilliard for the second-highest total by a Giant in a postseason game. The record of 11 was set by Plaxico Burress in the 2007 NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. The 10 catches ties Cruz with three other players, including Hilliard, for the third-highest total ever in a championship game.

*Cruz’s 142 yards was the fifth-highest postseason total in Giants history and was nine yards behind Burress’ 151 in Green Bay, which is fourth.

*Hakeem Nicks caught five passes for 55 yards. In three postseason games he has 18 receptions for 335 yards. The 18 catches is tied for the second-highest total by a Giant in a single postseason (Burress had 18 in 2007). The record of 21 was set by Amani Toomer in 2007. Cruz has 17 receptions this postseason.

*Nicks’ 355 yards in just three career postseason games is good for third on the Giants’ list. Mark Bavaro is second with 366 postseason receiving yards.

*Nicks is averaging 18.6 yards per catch, easily besting the former Giants records of 13.9 held by Frank Gifford (17 catches for 236 yards) for receivers with at least 15 receptions.

*Tight end Bear Pascoe scored his first NFL touchdown on his first postseason catch, a six-yarder in the second quarter.

*Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 74 yards on 20 carries. He increased his career postseason rushing total to 408 yards, which places him third in franchise history. Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 13 yards vs. the 49ers, is second with 424. Joe Morris is first with 553.

*Bradshaw has 94 postseason rushing attempts and his 4.34 postseason yards-per-carry average is the highest in Giants history (minimum 50 attempts).

*The Giants sacked San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith three times for losses totaling 18 yards. Justin Tuck had 1.5 sacks. Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka each had a half-sack. Umenyiora has 3.5 sacks in three 2011 postseason games and 5.5 in his postseason career.

*Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals (including the game-winning 31-yarder with 7:54 elapsed in overtime) and two extra points. The eight points increased his Giants postseason record total to 52. Tynes also owns the franchise postseason records for extra points attempted and made (17 each), field goal attempts (15) and field goals (11).

*Steve Weatherford punted 12 times, tying David Lee of the Baltimore Colts (in a 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff) for the second-highest total in NFL postseason history. The record of 14 was set by Jets punter – and former Giant – Dave Jennings in a 1986 divisional playoff game. All three games went into overtime. The former Giants postseason record was 11 punts by Brad Maynard against the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.

*The team record for punts in a postseason game is 13 vs. Chicago on Dec. 17, 1933.

*Weatherford’s 557 punting yards easily outdistances the former postseason record of 422, set by Maynard in the Super Bowl 11 years ago.

*Devin Thomas recovered two punt return fumbles by Kyle Williams, the first setting up Manning’s touchdown pass to Manningham, the second leading to Tynes’ game-winning 31-yard field goal.

On the first of the two recoveries, the officials originally ruled that Williams didn’t touch the ball and that Thomas had simply downed it. But Coughlin challenged the ruling, which was reversed by referee Ed Hochuli after replays showed clearly that the ball had hit Williams in the leg. Coughlin had lost his previous eight replay challenges. He had last won a challenge on Sept. 19 in a victory over St. Louis.

*The fumble that led to Tynes’ game-winner was forced by rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams, his first career forced fumble.

*Manning, Jacobs, Chris Snee, David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie all played in their 10th Giants postseason game, which tied them with Michael Strahan and Simms for the third-highest total in franchise history. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora each played in their ninth postseason game.

*The Giants won the coin toss and Coughlin elected to defer for the second time this season; he also did it in the regular season finale vs. Dallas.

*Center David Baas, a former 49er, suffered an abdominal contusion in the second quarter, forcing Kevin Boothe to replace him and Mitch Petrus to step in at left guard. Baas returned later in the quarter.

*A trio of former Giants representing each of their Super Bowl championship teams – Mark Bavaro, Michael Strahan and Rich Seubert – served as honorary captains for the NFC Championship Game.

*The Giants’ inactive players were linebacker Mark Herzlich, wide receiver Ramses Barden, running back Da’Rel Scott, offensive linemen Jim Cordle and James Brewer and defensive linemen Jimmy Kennedy and Justin Trattou.


This article was written by Michael Eisen and Scott Mandel.

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