GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Eli Manning kept making plays. So did the Giants' defense. Finally, Lawrence Tynes got in the act, kicking New York into the Super Bowl. For anyone who has doubted Peyton's little brother or thought the Giants had no business in the NFC championship game at frostbitten Lambeau Field, chew on this: A Manning is going back to the Super Bowl riding a wave of road wizardry.
21-JAN-2008: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates after
his team's 23-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC
Championship football game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008, in Green Bay, Wis.
(AP Photo/David Duprey) [Photo copyright 2008 by AP]
HOT TRAVEL DEALS
Manning repeatedly put the Giants in position to win Sunday, and when Tynes came through at last with a 47-yard field goal in overtime, New York had itself an improbable 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Now comes Mission Impossible: beating the undefeated New England Patriots in two weeks in a Super Bowl matchup hardly anyone saw coming.
"You never know when you're going to get your opportunity, when something is going to click, when you're going to get hot", Manning said. "You're just playing your best football at a certain time and that's what's happened with us.
"Every sort of thing has been thrown at us and we've handled it very well, I think."
What will be thrown at the Giants (13-6) in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3 is perfection. The 18-0 Patriots, who finished their unblemished regular season with a 38-35 victory over New York, are partly responsible for Manning and his team making a remarkable turnaround.
With nothing to gain in that game, New York played its regulars and went all out. Manning was sensational with four touchdown passes, the beginning of a renaissance that has seen him go from unpredictable to, well, Peytonesque.
It's also seen him lead the Giants to three consecutive road playoff wins without committing a turnover; the Giants have won 10 straight away from home overall.
And this one, in minus-3 degrees (wind chill of minus-24) earned New York its first Super Bowl trip in seven years. A win in two weeks and Eli will match Peyton for NFL titles -- and the Manning family will have consecutive championships.
"I saw on TV earlier this week nobody picked us to win this game", said Plaxico Burress, who had a career-high 11 catches for 154 yards. "It was kind of funny that we won nine straight games on the road and still, coming in here everybody was talking about how cold it was going to be, the weather, the wind chill, coming to Lambeau -- we didn't even have a shot. Watching it on TV, all you were doing is you were laughing.
"We came here, got the job done when nobody expected us to, and came up with a win."
A win the hard way, for sure.
Tynes had two misses -- a 36-yarder at the end of regulation following a bad snap, and a 43-yarder with 6:49 to go -- before nailing his long winner 2:35 into OT.
He got another chance in overtime after Corey Webster intercepted a struggling Brett Favre, the kind of mistake Manning often made before his recent turnaround.
"I screwed it up twice", said Tynes, who sprinted straight to the locker room after his decisive kick, leaving his frozen teammates to celebrate outside. "Thank God we got another opportunity."
That extra opportunity came after Green Bay (14-4) won the OT coin toss, then turned over the ball immediately. It was the final mistake by a team outplayed much of the frigid night; aside from a second-quarter, 90-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver, the Packers were held to 146 yards passing by a secondary criticized for being leaky, and to 28 yards rushing. They were 1-for-10 on third downs a week after blitzing Seattle in the snow.
"For me, I kept thinking how many opportunities are we going to let slip away", said Favre, who now will contemplate retiring or returning to the youngest team in the league. "It felt like everything had kind of fallen into place. I was disappointed that the last pass I threw was intercepted."
He wound up 19-for-35 for 236 yards and two interceptions. It's now a decade since the career leader in most NFL passing categories has been to the big game.
Manning went 21-for-40 for 254 yards and was the best quarterback on the tundra Sunday. Next, he'll go up against league MVP Tom Brady in the ultimate test. Considering what the Giants have achieved in the past month, who is to doubt the baby brother quarterback?
Just a month ago, Eli's moxie was being questioned as the Giants struggled to clinch a wild-card berth. He responded with the best work of his four-year career. He must sustain it against an opponent seeking its fourth Super Bowl title in seven years, as well as the league's first perfect season since Miami went 17-0 in 1972.
"Heck, they could win two weeks from now", Favre said. "I wouldn't put it past them."
Tynes made two first-half field goals, but the bomb to Driver and rookie Mason Crosby's 36-yard field goal gave the Packers a 10-6 halftime lead.
The longest pass in team playoff history came when the cagey veteran receiver shook off a bump by Webster to break free as Favre double-pumped. Driver caught the ball at the 29 and raced the final 71 yards being chased by three Giants. None came close to preventing Driver's first touchdown in four months.
Favre extended his NFL record with his 18th straight postseason game with a TD pass. Few have been so spectacular.
New York went on top 13-10 on the opening drive of the second half, aided greatly by four penalties against the Packers. Brandon Jacobs bolted in from about an inch out following successive offside calls just moments after his third-down fumble was recovered by tight end Kevin Boss. But the biggest miscue was Nick Collins' 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Manning, whose throw was blocked on a third-down play.
Jacobs faked a Lambeau Leap after his score, incensing the hardy souls in the full house of 72,470.
They were stamping their frozen feet in delight seconds later when Tramon Williams, seemingly trapped along the left sideline, cut right and returned the kickoff 49 yards to the New York 39. Then it was the Giants' turn to commit a costly, senseless penalty when Sam Madison negated a third-down stop with a personal foul against Vernand Morency.
Favre immediately pounced with a brilliant play-fake that sprung tight end Donald Lee free in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard TD reception and a 17-13 lead.
Then, Manning kept picking apart the Packers' staple man coverage, a 23-yard diving catch by Amani Toomer setting up rookie Ahmad Bradshaw's 4-yard TD run.
Crosby's 37-yard field goal tied it 20-20 after a huge break for the Packers. Favre's desperation heave was intercepted by R.W. McQuarters deep in New York territory, but he fumbled when he was hit by Ryan Grant on his return. Tackle Mark Tauscher recovered, giving the Packers another life.
It was a temporary reprieve.
"Ten straight, looking at 11", linebacker Antonio Pierce said of the road success -- and the challenge ahead. "All them experts, please continue the jobs that you've been doing. It's excellent for us." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Related News Topics:
Coverage of the National Football League
NFL previews, recaps, box scores
Top sports stories
News of football
The top news stories of the day