NFL Championship Sunday's 5 Unsung Heroes

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaCorrespondent IIJanuary 23, 2012

NFL Championship Sunday's 5 Unsung Heroes

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    Both of Sunday's divisional championship games were far from ordinary. The New England Patriots and New York Giants narrowly escaped with victories that came down to the outcome of two very high-pressure field goals.

    Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game with the Patriots, while Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes nailed a 31-yard field goal in the rain to give his team the win over the San Francisco 49ers.

    However, had it not been for the clutch performances of five unsung heroes, these results may have never happened.

1. Jacquian Williams

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    Giants rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams may have made the biggest impact play in Sunday's NFC championship game. His fourth-quarter strip of 49ers kick returner Kyle Williams was a game-changing moment for the Giants as they were given the ball in exceptional field position that would eventually lead to the game-winning field goal.

    Special teams play late in the game was a turning point in this grueling overtime win.

2. Sterling Moore

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    Earlier this season, backup cornerback Sterling Moore was unsure of his future in the NFL when he was cut from the Oakland Raiders practice squad in September before eventually signing with the Patriots a month later.

    Who would have figured that the 21-year-old would make one of the biggest plays in postseason history and preserve the 23-20 lead for the Patriots in the fourth quarter?

    With 22 seconds left in the game, Moore managed to knock the ball out of the hands of Ravens veteran wide receiver Lee Evans in the end zone.

3. Steve Weatherford

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    Butterfingers? Not this time. Being the holder of a potential game-winning field goal is just as nerve-racking as being the kicker. Just ask Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

    With the rain coming down and the stakes higher than ever, Giants punter Steve Weatherford bobbled the snap for just a split second before recovering and positioning the ball in the right spot at the last second.

    The rest is history.

4. Stephen Gostkowski

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    Consistency and performance in the clutch are two of the most important traits a good kicker in the NFL possesses. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was as consistent and clutch as they come in Sunday's championship game.

    Gostkowski made field goals from 24, 29 and 35 yards, along with two extra points for a grand total of 11 points. In a tough defensive battle, Gostkowski ensured that the Patriots would not vacate a drive empty-handed.

5. Lawrence Tynes

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    Last but certainly not least is Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes.

    What more is there to say? When the Giants needed a clutch field goal from Tynes to win the game, he didn't disappoint. Tynes' 31-yard field goal in the pouring rain with a botched snap will probably go down as one of the most clutch kicks in postseason history.

    Along with the game-winner, Tynes made another 31-yard field goal just before halftime and two extra points.