Something Special About The Giants

Eli Manning threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns, but if not for some great special teams work, the Giants wouldn't have gotten past San Francisco and reached their Super Bowl XLVI matchup with New England.

Jacquian Williams and Steve Weatherford.

Not exactly household names, right? A rookie linebacker and a punter/holder.

But without the contributions of those two, the Giants may well have lost Sunday's 20-17 overtime decision to San Francisco and watched Super Bowl XLVI from the comforts of their offseason lodges.

Williams, a sixth-round pick with seemingly boundless energy, made the fateful strip of returner Kyle Williams in overtime to position the Giants for their game-winning field goal drive.

Weatherford, ever sure-handed despite a wet ball, fielded Zak DeOssie's faulty snap, got the placement down, and gave Lawrence Tynes an easy task in hitting the 31-yard field goal that ended the game and propelled the Giants into their second Super Bowl in the Tom Coughlin era.

Not coincidentally, Coughlin had high praise for both men hours after the raucous homecoming charter landed at Newark Airport.

"You pray all year long for some type of big play, a special teams play that would give you an opportunity to win the game," Coughlin said. "Of course, they occurred twice."

Coughlin went on to praise Williams.

"Jacquian Williams made that incredible strip play as the returnman made an excellent cut and was really trying to avoid Jacquian," Coughlin said. "His reaction with long arms was really quite a feat."

Then, after Ahmad Bradshaw moved it to the Giants' 6 and Eli Manning centered it between the hashmarks, it was up to Weatherford to get the ball down for Tynes. As it happened, it was very nearly a replay of the 2002 wildcard meltdown in Candlestick Park, where longtime veteran Trey Junkin bounced a potential game-winning field goal snap, resulting it utter disaster.

Weatherford handled the wet ball.

"I thought Steve did a great job," Coughlin said. "He was so excited about telling Lawrence, 'Keep your head down, make this field goal, we're going to the Super Bowl,'" Coughlin said. "He was all about that. But he did make a very good catch-and-put.

"He did a nice job with catching a wet ball in punting situations. We did punt the ball 12 times, and when he was a holder, he did a nice job on that as well."

With all that went on, it might have been understandable if Coughlin hadn't let it sink in that his 9-7 team, winners of five straight now, is going to Indianapolis.

But it has. In fact, he had been preparing his Giants mentally for this, recalling the fateful kicks of Matt Bahr in 1990, right there in Candlestick Park, and Tynes in 2007 in Green Bay.

"It sunk in, as it always takes place, with the field goal," Coughlin said. "You don't stop and say to yourself, 'We won this game.' You say, 'We're going to go to the Super Bowl.'

"I tried to explain to the players when we looked at the field goal that we had a field goal in 1991, and Lawrence Tynes' kick back in 2008, indicated right away we were going to the Super Bowl. So that was first and foremost on my mind.

"To be in a very, very physical game, you're very grateful to be in a position to win a game like that. It's humbling as well to realize that as you fought your way back into respect, if nothing else, our players have won five single-elimination games in a row."

This one couldn't have been achieved without the work of special teams.

And for that, perhaps that makes this the most special conference title of them all.

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