SAN FRANCISCO –- The New York Giants needed overtime but their incredible run continues on to Indianapolis after emerging out of a soggy Candlestick Park with a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
What it means: Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin are heading back to their second Super Bowl and will see the Patriots again. The Giants won with a monster special teams play when Jacquian Williams poked the ball out of Kyle Williams' hands and Devin Thomas recovered his second fumble recovery of the game. That gave the Giants the ball at the Niners' 24 in overtime with 9:32 left. Lawrence Tynes then sent the Giants to the Super Bowl for the second time in his career with a 31-yard field goal.
The defense stepped up during the biggest moments of the game and Manning, who took a ton of hits, led the offense to yet another game-winning drive this season to extend this stirring winning streak to five straight.
Giants' defense: The pass rush was relatively quiet until under four minutes remaining in regulation. With the game tied at 17-17, Mathias Kiwanuka got to Alex Smith, who was then hit by Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul for a 7-yard loss on a third down that forced the Niners to punt with 3:12 remaining.
The Giants' defense, which held the Niners to a game-tying field goal on their previous offensive possession despite San Francisco getting down to the Giants’ 7-yard-line, also came up with a quick three-and-out with 1:29 remaining and stopped the Niners at the end of regulation to force overtime.
Special plays: Thomas recovered two critical fumbles, one in overtime on the Jacquian Williams' forced fumble and another in the fourth. The Giants were trailing 14-10 when they punted to the Niners. But the ball bounced off Kyle Williams’ knee and Thomas alertly picked up the ball at the Niners’ 29.
That set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Mario Manningham that put the Giants up 17-14.
Vernon strikes: The Giants seemed to had gotten past their costly mistakes and lapses in the secondary during this winning streak.
But the Giants lost Vernon Davis twice in coverage and the Niners tight end made them pay. He scored on a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter when he got past Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant was not able to get over in time.
Otherwise, the Giants' defense did a good job on the Niners, as Smith completed only two passes for 79 yards in the first half.
In the third quarter, Kenny Phillips let Davis run by at the line of scrimmage and then grab a 28-yard touchdown reception to put the Niners up 14-10. On both occasions, there was a clear breakdown in coverage, something the Giants had not had since the middle of December.
Cruzing: Victor Cruz carried the Giants in the first half with eight receptions for 125 yards. He had four catches for 56 yards on the Giants’ last drive of the half to help set up a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes that put the Giants up 10-7 at the half.
Rainy Sunday: It rained, and rained hard at times, in the first half of the NFC Championship Game. But the play wasn’t greatly impacted by the weather for the most part. Rain got heavier right at the start of overtime.
What’s next: The Giants head back to the Super Bowl for a rematch with the New England Patriots. The Patriots lost Super Bowl 42 to the Giants and also dropped a 24-20 defeat to the Giants in New England on Nov. 4. Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks did not play during that Giants victory.