(9-7, 5-3 away) New York Giants 20 vs. 17 San Francisco 49ers (13-3, 7-1 home)
Football can sometimes be the cruelest sport on Earth. You may be the sensation for the whole season, and with just two plays, you can have the worst day in your sporting career. For the 49ers’ second-year wide receiver Kyle Williams, the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game was possibly the longest in his young career. Five plays after Williams fumbled a punt return, New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime to send the Giants to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 victory over San Francisco.
In another tight battle between this decades-old postseason rivalry, both defenses made stellar key stops before New York capitalized on a rare mistake by the 49ers, and thus ending San Francisco’s Cinderella-like run of a season. Williams’s blunder put the Giants in the perfect position for another sensational finish in a season full of them. “That was a tough game. We had to fight for every yard that we got,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said, “defense was outstanding; special teams getting us two turnovers was huge. That led to 10 points.”
The first three overtime plays ended in punts before Williams fumbled a punt return. The Giants would win it moments later and silence the rowdy, towel-waving sellout crowd at the rain-drenched Candlestick Park. “It was one of those situations where I tried to turn it upfield and it just didn’t work out,” Williams said. New York’s wide receiver Devin Thomas put the Giants at the perfect position for victory after recovering his second fumble of the game after fellow teammate and linebacker Jacquian William stripped the ball from Williams, who also had a fumble earlier that set up a New York touchdown.
Eli Manning and his Giants will be heading to their fifth Super Bowl in the Super Bowl era. The last time the Giants were in the big game, they met up with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and New York ended the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season. “It’s my second NFC Championship Game, my second game-winner,” kicker Tynes said of his kick 7:54 into overtime. “It’s amazing. I had dreams about this last night. It was from 42, not 31, but I was so nervous today before the game just anticipating this kind of game. I’m usually pretty cool, but there was something about tonight where I knew I was going to have to make a kick. Hats off to Eli [Manning], offense, defense. Great win.”
The Giants became the first team in NFL history with a negative point differential in the regular season to make it into the Super Bowl. They beat out the 2008 Arizona Cardinals who had a plus-1 point differential.