Giants win NFC title, beating 49ers in overtime
BY JANIE McCAULEY Associated Press January 22, 2012 9:45PM
New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe (right) celebrates with tight end Jake Ballard after scoring on a six-yard touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. | Paul Sakuma~AP
Updated: January 23, 2012 12:08AM
SAN FRANCISCO — Eli Manning directed one short, final drive and Lawrence Tynes kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime, sending the New York Giants to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football Conference championship game on Sunday.
In another tight game in this decades-old postseason rivalry, both defenses made key stops before New York capitalized on another costly mistake by San Francisco.
Manning and the Giants (12-7) will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis as underdogs. The last time the teams met for the NFL title, 2008, the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season.
Tynes had a hand, er, foot in getting the Giants to that one, too, kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime at Green Bay.
Devin Thomas put the Giants in position by recovering his second fumble of the game after Jacquian Williams stripped the ball from fill-in return man Kyle Williams, who also fumbled earlier to set up a New York touchdown.
“It’s my second NFC championship game, my second game-winner,” Tynes said. “It’s amazing. I had dreams 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. Hats off to Eli, offense, defense. Great win.”
Manning went 32 of 58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his record fifth road playoff win, New York’s fifth in a row overall and fifth out of six.
A 12-point underdog in the 2008 title game, the Giants battered Brady and got a late-minute TD pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress to win their third Super Bowl.
Five months after declaring he is in the same class as Tom Brady, Manning will get another chance to outdo Brady on the NFL’s biggest stage. He outplayed Aaron Rodgers and the defending champion Packers last week, then fellow former No. 1 pick Alex Smith and upstart San Francisco the next.
Victor Cruz set the tone with eight of his 10 receptions in the first half and finished with 142 yards
“It’s just been a tremendous effort by all of us, man,” Cruz said. “We understand that any one of us can get hot at any moment. As long as we’re all on the same page and just playing together, man, we’ve got a great group of guys.”
Vernon Davis caught touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards and wound up with three catches for 112 yards for the NFC West champions (14-4), who went from 6-10 a year ago to a contender and ended an eight-year playoff drought.
He scored the game-winner from 14 yards out last week as the 49ers stunned Drew Brees and the favored Saints 36-32.
Thirty years after their dynasty began under the late Bill Walsh, another former Stanford coach — Jim Harbaugh — got the 49ers this far with his “Who’s got it better than us? No-body!” chant that caught on so well with the players and city.
“It will be a tough one. It will take a while to get over,” Harbaugh said.
The only other time these two franchises faced off in the conference championship the game finished in memorable fashion. On Jan. 20, 1991, Roger Craig fumbled with the 49ers leading 13-12 late in the fourth quarter and the Giants went on to win 15-13 to deny San Francisco a chance at a third straight Super Bowl title. New York then beat the Bills to capture its second Super Bowl.
These teams met six times in the playoffs between the 1981 and ‘94 seasons with the winner going on to win the Super Bowl four times.