New York Giants Beat 49ers 20-17, Earn Super Bowl XLVI Rematch with Patriots
It's so hard not to compare the 2011 season to the memorable 2007 season.
But the way everything is going right now for the Giants, it's literally impossible.
The 49ers came into the game as a team very new to the playoff experience; at least this year's 49ers were new to the experience.
For the Giants, nothing was new to them. They were in the same situation four years ago playing in the NFC Championship on the road against the number-two seed.
San Francisco took the early lead with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. The Giants were caught off guard with the early score.
In the second quarter, the Giants answered back with a five-yard touchdown from Eli Manning to Bear Pascoe that made it 7-7.
A 31-yard field goal before halftime by Lawrence Tynes made it 10-7, and the Giants went into the locker room with momentum on their side.
In the first half, Manning had no trouble getting the ball to Victor Cruz—shredding the 49ers secondary. But the Giants were just having trouble getting more points on the board.
But the 49ers were having the same issue as well.
Late in the third quarter, Smith and Davis connected again. This time on a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the 49ers up 14-10.
Most teams would panic after giving up the lead, but the Giants are no ordinary team. They've been in this situation before.
Following a Steve Weatherford punt, the ball bounced off of Kyle Williams' knee. It got picked up by Devin Thomas of the Giants, which gave the Giants the ball back again.
On third and 15, Manning struck again—hitting Mario Manningham in the end zone to allow the Giants to re-take the lead 17-14.
The 49ers kept their composure by driving down the field to set up a 25-yard field goal by David Akers to tie it 17-17.
Both the Giants and 49ers each had one possession before time expired in regulation. The game went into overtime.
In overtime, the Giants and 49ers each traded a possession before punting. The Giants got the ball a second time and Weatherford punted to Williams, who got the ball knocked out by Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams—and was recovered by Thomas at the 49ers' 26-yard line.
The Giants were set up to take over and win the game deep in enemy territory.
Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball three times for 18 yards getting it to the eight-yard line. Manning took a knee at the eight to set up a 26-yard field goal for Tynes.
A delay of game penalty backed up the Giants five yards to make it a 31-yard field goal.
49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh tried so hard to ice Tynes, but a 31-yarder is practically a chip shot, especially when you kick a 47-yarder in negative-seven degree weather at Green Bay.
Tynes got the kick, drilled it down the middle and the Giants won the NFC Championship Game 20-17 to send them back to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots aren't 18-0, but the last game they lost was back in Week nine to the Giants at Gillette Stadium 24-20. That game dropped the Patriots to 6-3. Since then, the Patriots haven't lost a game.
And now for the Giants, it's a chance for Eli and Coach Tom Coughlin to get a second Super Bowl ring and cement their legacy in New York.
Manning was 32-for-58 with 316 yards and two touchdown passes with no interceptions. It wasn't the prettiest game Manning ever played. He had a couple of passes the 49ers could have picked off.
But he kept his composure during the toughest times of the game to lead his team to another victory.
If the Giants and Eli want any chance of beating the Patriots and their defense, he will have to play even better than he did on Sunday night.
Bradshaw had 20 carries for 74 yards and six catches for 54 yards to give him a total of 128 total yards in the game.
Bradshaw's biggest play might have been the 30-yard reception down the sideline to keep the Giants' drive going.
Hakeem Nicks didn't have a spectacular game, but the 49ers' defense couldn't stop Cruz, as he had 10 catches for 142 yards.
Cruz had several third-down catches to keep the Giants' drives going. He has essentially become Eli's go-to-guy in crucial situations.
The defense played a great game, sacking Alex Smith three times, forcing two fumbles and holding the 49ers to 1-for-13 on third down situations.
Yes, 1-for-13. That is why the 49ers only scored 17 points and Alex Smith had 196 yards passing.
In the playoffs, the Giants' defense had allowed a total of 37 points in three games, averaging out to about 12 points. That's a fantastic job the Giants' defense has done.
But they aren't finished. They have to stop Tom Brady and company in Indianapolis.
The Giants are now the NFC Champions and have one game left to play in two weeks.
Who would have ever thought that after Week 15 when they lost to the Redskins to make them 7-7, that the Giants would make this run winning five in a row.
Here they are five weeks later and five wins in a row and the Giants are back in the Super Bowl.
The fact that they have gotten this far is amazing, but they aren't done yet.
And Coughlin will remind his team of that fact.
He's done a terrific job of focusing and motivating this Giants team down the stretch and winning key game after key game.
For now though, the Giants can enjoy this victory. Then refocus and get ready for a trip to Indianapolis in the house of Peyton.
Super Bowl XLVI can't get here soon enough.
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