Giants ice Packers 23-20 in overtime

Lawrence Tynes redeemed himself after missing two field goals in regulation by making a 47-yard attempt in overtime to lift the New York Giants to a 23-20 NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers in sub-zero temperatures at Lambeau Field on Sunday evening. The stunned Packers, favored by many to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLII, simply were overpowered by the red-hot Giants.

Green Bay's offense never found a rhythm, especially on the ground, and blew golden opportunities late in the game to take the lead. Meanwhile, New York's Eli Manning put the Giants in position to take the lead and win the game at the end of regulation, but Tynes missed a field goal attempt from 43 yards with final 6 minutes, 49 seconds left, and from 36 yards as time expired at the end of regulation.

Still, the Packers won the coin toss in overtime only to see Brett Favre, who struggled in the second half, get intercepted by cornerback Corey Webster on the second play from scrimmage in the extra period at the Packers' 34. Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 63 yards on 16 attempts, gained five yards on two attempts to the 29 before Tynes stunned the record crowd of 72,740 by splitting the uprights.

It was the second NFC title game to go to overtime. Atlanta beat Minnesota 30-27 in 1999. The Giants now play the New England Patriots, who advanced to Super Bowl XLII by beating the San Diego Chargers 21-12 in the AFC Championship Game Sunday.

The Packers, favored by 7 ½ points entering the game, finished the season with a 14-4 record. The Giants improved to 13-6 by winning their 10th straight game on the road. The Giants won their first NFC Championship in seven years.

"They were the better team," said Packers cornerback Al Harris, "no matter if it was by one point, three points, or whatever. They won the game."

The temperature at the start of the game was minus-1 degree with a wind chill of minus-23. Near the end of the game, the temperature dipped to minus-3 degrees. The cold weather never seemed to have an effect on the Giants, who slammed the door shut on Green Bay's rushing attack and forced Favre into making a costly mistake in overtime. The Packers finished with just 28 yards rushing, one week after piling up 235 yards on the ground in a 42-20 NFC Divisional playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks at snowy Lambeau Field.

For an offense that scored on six straight drives against the Seahawks, the Packers sputtered in the frigid conditions against the Giants. The Packers were just 1 of 10 on third down conversions and all but abandoned the rushing attack in the second half. Ryan Grant, who rushed for 201 yards against the Seahawks in the snow, finished with 29 yards on 13 carries.

Favre, also coming off a big game against Seattle, was effective in the first two quarters against the Giants, completing 10 of 18 passes for 163 yards and a 90-yard touchdown that gave Green Bay an early 7-6 lead. But Favre was intercepted twice in regulation and overtime and only passed for 73 yards in the final two quarters and overtime.

"We hit a couple of big plays, but we didn't have a very good rhythm or tempo out there," said Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. "Part of it, obviously, is our execution and part of it is you have to credit the Giants for coming in here and playing a good football game. They played good on both sides of the ball. Certainly there are some things we could have done better, but we've got to give them credit."

Manning, who threw for 254 yards, led the Giants on two scoring drives at the start of the game and start of the third quarter that consumed more than 7 minutes and produced 10 points. Though Manning did not throw any touchdown passes, he also did not throw any interceptions.

Manning went to 6-foot-5 wide receiver Plaxico Burress from the get-go, exploiting Harris. Burress finished with 11 catches for 154 yards and had his way with Harris, who was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl in February.

"We knew coming into the game they liked to play a lot of man to man coverage, they feel very confident with their corners and they were doing that at the beginning of the game," Manning said. "There was a lot of single high man to man coverage and we had some big plays. We hit a couple we call it ‘fade stops,' where he goes outside and you just make a read. If he gets on top, you throw the read and if not, you throw it up high and let him use his body. A couple times we threw it down the field on them and they didn't know what to do.

The Giants gave the Packers a handful of opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes of regulation, but the Packers were forced to punt the ball away twice, then thank their lucky stars that Tynes was wide left from 36 yards as time expired at the end of regulation.

"We had opportunities to win the football game," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "I would first like to congratulate the New York Giants and Tom Coughlin. I thought they played very well this evening. We had a number of opportunities we didn't take advantage of, clearly ending with the series there in overtime. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be in a number of segments. It was a very disappointing loss."

Starting at their own 28 in overtime, Grant rushed for two yards to the 28. On the next play, under a blitz, Favre underthrew a pass toward the Packers' sideline toward Driver, who led the Packers with five catches for 141 yards, but the pass was inside toward Webster for an easy pickoff.

"I just didn't throw it outside enough," Favre said. "It was what we call a shake route. Donald (Driver) had slipped him more like an out route, which was fine. I just didn't get it out far enough. It's too bad."

The Giants led the Packers in time of possession by nearly a 2-to-1 margin through the first quarter and into the second, taking a 6-0 lead on two Tynes' field goals. But Favre found Driver wide open beyond Webster for a 90-yard touchdown, the longest pass completion for a touchdown in Packers playoff history, with 11:18 left in the second quarter. Driver threw Webster aside a few yards off the line of scrimmage, then caught Favre's pass in stride and out-ran safeties James Butler and Gibril Wilson to the end zone for his first touchdown since Sept. 23 in a win over the San Diego Chargers.

Mason Crosby's 36-yard field goal with 1:30 left in the first half stretched Green Bay's lead to 10-6. Favre's 20-yard strike over the middle to Driver got the Packers to the Giants' 21, but a botched screen pass to Brandon Jackson only got the Packers a yard on third-and-8, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal.

While Favre threw a touchdown pass for his NFL-record 18th straight playoff game, the Giants kept Grant in check, holding him to 12 yards on 7 carries in the first half.

"They were solid in lanes, they were solid up front," said Grant. "They did a good job of filling holes."

The Giants used nearly half of the first half of the third quarter for a 12-play, 69-yard drive that was highlighted by Brandon Jacobs' 1-yard touchdown. Safety Nick Collins' roughing the passer penalty on Manning on third down kept the drive alive. Burress, who had 105 yards receiving on seven receptions in the first half, caught an 18-yard pass from Manning on Green Bay's 11, and a pair of off-sides penalties on the Packers moved the ball to an inch away from the goal line before Jacobs gave the Giants a 13-10 lead.

The Giants finished with 134 yards rushing, led by Jacobs' 67 yards on 21 attempts.

Tramon Williams ran the ensuing kickoff back 49 yards to New York's 39. Green Bay caught a major break when Giants veteran cornerback Sam Madison was penalized for unnecessary roughness on Vernand Morency as the two were standing about 10 yards away from a three-yard completion from Favre to Driver. With the ball on the 12 and Madison yanked from the game by Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Favre found tight end Donald Lee alone in the back of the end zone as the Packers took a 17-13 lead.

"Coach (McCarthy) put that play in on Thursday and we practiced it," said Lee, who caught three passes for 35 yards. "I was hoping it would be called because I was very excited."

Green Bay's lead didn't last for long, however, as the Giants motored 57 yards on seven plays before Bradshaw scored on a four-yard touchdown run. Wide receiver Amani Toomer's diving, 23-yard catch at Green Bay's 12 set up the score.

Crosby's 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter tied the game at 20-20 as the Packers dodged a bullet in the drive. After Favre completed a 20-yard pass over the middle to Driver to the Giants' 31, cornerback R.W. McQuarters picked off Favre's pass before Grant forced a fumble that was recovered by offensive tackle Mark Tauscher at the Giants' 19.

Tynes missed wide left by less than two feet on a 43-yard attempt with 6:49 left in the game and, as he came off the field, was chided by Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

"I felt good about all the kicks," Tynes said. "Obviously the operation on the second one was not what it should be, and I didn't make a very good attempt at it. So I didn't feel bad about it. I knew if everything worked out that I could make the kick. The last one was good snap, good hold. A little bit further, but there was a little bit of wind helping us that way."

Tynes' 29-yard field goal with 4:50 left in the first quarter capped a 14-play, 71-yard opening drive by Giants for a 3-0 lead. Manning completed passes of 7, 19 and 9 yards to Burress in the 7 minute, 48-second drive. Manning's 12-yard pass to tight end Kevin Boss moved the Giants to the 11. Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins knocked down Manning's third-down pass to force the Giants to attempt a field goal.

Tynes' 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave the Giants a 6-0 lead. Manning connected with Burress on passes of 7 and 21 yards to the Packers' 17, but the Giants had to settle for a field goal when Packers cornerback Tramon Williams broke up a pass to wide receiver David Tyree near the end zone.


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