The New York Giants will face New England in the Super Bowl, four years after ending the Patriots’ pursuit of a perfect season.
The Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in last night’s National Football Conference title game on a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes with 7:06 left in overtime. The winning kick came after the Giants recovered a fumbled punt by Kyle Williams at the 49ers’ 24-yard line.
“There was moisture, the footing was tough, the balls were really slick,” said Tynes, who also made the winning kick in overtime as the Giants won the NFC championship in Green Bay four years ago. “I am going to a dome for the Super Bowl, so I am going to be happy.”
The Patriots held on for a 23-20 victory in yesterday’s American Football Conference championship game as Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal for the Baltimore Ravens with 11 seconds left. Tom Brady ran for the go-ahead touchdown with 11:29 left, helping send the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the fifth time in 11 years and tying Joe Montana’s National Football League record among quarterbacks with his 16th career postseason victory.
The Giants (12-7) and Patriots (15-3) will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 at Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Patriots have won 10 straight games since their last loss, at home against the Giants on Nov. 6. The Giants, who are three-point underdogs, have won five straight games.
“It’s all about getting hot at the right time and that’s what we’re doing,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said after yesterday’s game in San Francisco. “I hate to compare this team to 2007, but it’s kind of the same thing we did then. It’s hard to count out the Giants.”
The Giants won three straight road playoff games after the 2007 season and then upset New England 17-14 in Glendale, Arizona, to prevent the Patriots from finishing 19-0. The Giants were 12-point underdogs in that game, and the Patriots are favored by three points this time.
“We know they’re a great team,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers. “They’ve been playing great football recently. We’re going to celebrate, have fun and then start getting prepared, go to Indy and play our best football.”
Indianapolis is the city in which Manning’s older brother, Peyton, has spent the past 14 years with the Colts, winning four NFL Most Valuable Player awards and one Super Bowl title.
If Eli Manning can beat the Patriots again, he’d have two NFL championships to Peyton’s one, in six fewer seasons.
“I’m not thinking about that, I’m just thinking about the team and this opportunity,” Manning said. “It doesn’t matter to me where we’re playing it.”
Super Bowl History
The Giants are 3-1 in the Super Bowl, having also won titles after the 1986 and 1990 seasons.
The Patriots are 3-3 in the NFL’s title game and previously won championships behind Brady and coach Bill Belichick after the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.
“You pinch yourself to get this opportunity,” Brady said. ‘I’m privileged to be part of an incredible organization and to play with a great group of teammates.’’
The Giants benefited from two miscues by punt returner Kyle Williams to improve to 5-0 in NFC championship games.
The first came with 11:05 left in the fourth quarter, when a punt glanced off Williams’s knee and the Giants recovered at the 49ers’ 29-yard line. Six plays later, Manning threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to give the Giants a 17-14 lead with 8:34 left.
After the Giants’ second overtime drive stalled, Williams hauled in the 12th punt by Steve Weatherford and was stripped of the ball. The Giants then ran the ball four times to set up Tynes’s second winning overtime kick in an NFC championship. He made a 47-yard field goal as New York beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in the NFC title game after the 2007 season.
“It was just one of those situations where the guy caught me slipping and got the ball out,” Williams said of his overtime fumble. “Everybody here has told me to keep my head up, that it’s not on me and we’ll move forward, but you hate to be the last guy who had the ball and to give it up that way and lose a game of this magnitude.”
The Patriots held on for the win as Baltimore, which last reached the Super Bowl after the 2000 season, blew two scoring opportunities in the closing seconds.
On second down from the New England 14-yard line with 22 seconds left, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a pass to Lee Evans in the end zone. The ball hit Evans in the chest but was stripped by Sterling Moore before Evans had possession.
Two plays later, Cundiff, who made the Pro Bowl last season, pulled his kick wide to the left, setting off a celebration in Gillette Stadium as several Ravens players stood on the sideline with their hands on their heads.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots, who were the top seed in the AFC. Baltimore finishes the season 13-5.
Brady, who was intercepted twice and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 18 games this season, credited the Patriots’ defense for pulling out the win.
“I sucked today, but our defense saved us,” Brady said in the trophy ceremony. “I’m going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple weeks.”
Both teams have two weeks to prepare for the championship game, which will be the first played in Indianapolis.
“It’s going to be a rematch of probably the best Super Bowl ever played,” Tuck said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”