Giants continue own run of perfection

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Catches like this one by Victor Cruz proved to be crucial to the Giants victory over the 49ers.

Once again, the New York Giants had the golden touch when it came to winning an NFC Championship Game in dramatic fashion. This one against the San Francisco 49ers ended the same way as their last conference-championship appearance, with a game-winning overtime field goal by Lawrence Tynes after an opponents’ miscue.

Let’s take a closer look at the statistical highlights:

Why the Giants Won

Eli Manning became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966) to have three games with at least 275 pass yards and multiple touchdown passes in a single postseason.

Manning was sharp when passing inside the numbers, going 23-for-35 for 192 yards on such throws, including both of his touchdown passes.

Worst PPG Allowed Rank
Make Super Bowl

Eight of his 11 passing first downs came on passes thrown inside the numbers as well. In their previous meeting earlier this season, the 49ers held Manning to 119 yards on throws inside the numbers.

Early in the game, Manning’s favorite receiver was Victor Cruz. He finished with 10 catches, one shy of the Giants record for catches in a playoff game. The record was set by Plaxico Burress in the 2007 NFC Championship road win against the Packers.

Cruz had seven of his catches and 110 yards in situations in which the Giants used three wide receivers. Video review showed that Cruz led the league with 1,093 yards when the Giants used three or more wide receivers in the regular season.

The Giants defense held the 49ers to just 1-for-13 on third down for the game, with the only conversion coming on the final play of the fourth quarter.

The Giants pressure stifled Alex Smith on third down passing plays, as he was either under duress or sacked on seven of his 12 third-down dropbacks. Smith was 4-for-8 for 47 yards on third-down plays in the game.

The 49ers ranked second-worst in the NFL in converting third downs, making just 29 percent of them during the regular season.

The Turning Points

The Giants took advantage of two miscues on Kyle Williams punt returns, setting up a touchdown after starting at the 49ers 29-yard line and the game-winning field goal after starting at the 49ers 24-yard line.

Before the game, the 49ers allowed opponents to start just four drives inside the San Francisco 30-yard line, just one after Week 4.

The field position on the winning drive was similar to that which the Giants had on their winning drive in overtime in Green Bay in 2007. That drive, set up by a Brett Favre interception, started at the Packers 34.

Stats of the Game

This was the fifth conference championship game to go to overtime since 1970, the fourth to be won by the road team.

This is the first season since the merger in which both conference championship games were decided by three points or fewer.

The 22 combined punts were one shy of the NFL postseason record for punts in a postseason game, set in 1933 by the Giants and Bears.

What’s Next?

Three things to know on the Giants heading to the Super Bowl:

Worst Regular Season Point Differential
Make Super Bowl

The Giants allowed six more points than they scored during the regular season. They are the first team to make the Super Bowl with a negative point differential in the regular season.

The Giants are the third team with a 9-7 record to make the Super Bowl. The previous two teams both lost in the game—the 1979 Los Angeles Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals.

The Giants and New England Patriots are the fifth pair of teams to meet in multiple Super Bowls. The others are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys (three times), the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers (twice) and Buffalo Bills (twice), the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals (twice), and the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins (twice).