Giants top 49ers 20-17 in OT to reach Super Bowl
Originally published January 22, 2012 at 9:58 p.m., updated January 22, 2012 at 9:58 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The New York Giants have their own Super Bowl formula: in overtime and on the road.
And with Lawrence Tynes’ foot.
Eli Manning directed one short, final drive and Tynes kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime, sending the Giants to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday.
In another tight one 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 3 1/2-point 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.
David Akers kicked a 25-yard field goal with 5:39 to play in regulation for San Francisco, and the game went to overtime tied at 17-17.
Akers’ kick came after the 49ers were done in by a rare turnover. After tying an NFL record with just 10 giveaways in the regular season, the 49ers committed their first one in this game at a most inopportune time.
With San Francisco leading 14-10 early in the fourth quarter and about to take over possession, a bouncing punt by Steve Weatherford glanced off returner Kyle Williams’ right knee and was recovered by New York’s Thomas at the San Francisco 29. The play was originally not ruled a fumble but was overturned by instant replay.
Six plays later, Manning threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham, who beat backup cornerback Tramaine Brock on the third-and-15 play. Brock was playing in place of starter Tarell Brown, who left late in the third quarter after a violent collision with teammate Dashon Goldson.
Williams helped atone for his miscue when he returned the kickoff 40 yards. Kendall Hunter’s 18-yard run and a 17-yard keeper by Alex Smith set up Akers’ kick.
Neither team threatened to score after that in regulation, sending the game to overtime.
Smith had thrown two touchdown passes to Davis, and Manning and Bear Pascoe connected on a score for the Giants.
A 36-yarder to Cruz set up Pascoe’s touchdown, and Cruz had four catches for 56 yards on a field goal drive late in the first half.
Smith completed just one pass to a wide receiver in regulation — a 3-yarder to Michael Crabtree. But the two big plays to Davis did enough damage on a wet evening in San Francisco.
On the second play of San Francisco’s second drive, Davis beat safety Antrel Rolle and got loose down the sideline. He pulled down the pass from Smith and raced into the end zone. He then jumped up onto a camera stage and posed, drawing a penalty for excessive celebration — his first of two personal fouls on the day.
Davis added a 28-yard TD catch in the third quarter.