AFTER GIANTS' VICTORY, ANN MARA CHIDES FOX ANALYST TERRY BRADSHAW
"Perhaps some of the pugnacity the Giants have shown during their run to the
Super Bowl has rubbed off from Ann Mara, the wife of late Giants owner
In the Giants locker room after Sunday's
victory over the San Francisco 49ers
in the NFC Championship Game, Ann Mara
chided Fox analyst (and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback) Terry Bradshaw
for not picking the Giants during the network's pregame show.
As Bradshaw is about to interview wide receiver Victor Cruz, Mara steals the
show, tapping Bradshaw on the arm, then saying, "You never pick the Giants."
Cruz laughs, and Bradshaw chuckles too, then says, "I'm sorry. I'm getting
hammered for not picking the Giants."
Bradshaw won't have a chance to redeem himself in Mara's eyes this season.
NBC will broadcast the Feb.
5 rematch between the Giants and New England Patriots in Super Bowl
GIANTS VS. NINERS GAME REVIEW: ELI MANNING, TOM COUGHLIN LIFT GIANTS INTO SUPER BOWL
Excerpt: "It’s kind of weird to say this because the 2007 run was just so magical, but
seems to be having more fun this time around.
John Mara sees it, which is why he just can’t see the 65-year-old Coughlin
stepping down anytime soon. Heck, anybody who saw Coughlin’s
press conference on Friday, in which he was joking with reporters
how much fun Coughlin was having.
“At times it was very difficult to contain yourself,” he said after
Sunday’s NFC Championship Game victory. “Even this past week, when the
excitement of this thing was building up, the days seemed to be flying by and I
was nervous we were doing all we could possibly do to put ourselves in a
position to win. But these guys have gone out and done it against the best we’ve
That’s a guy having fun right there.
“When you’re not in the playoffs, it hurts a lot,” Coughlin said. “Those are
the times when you think, ‘My goodness, what are we missing here? How are we
denying ourselves such an incredible, enjoyable experience? What can we do about
“It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been in the playoffs, a few years
since the Super Bowl, and now that we have this experience again, we’re humble
about it, knowing full well a game of this nature could’ve gone either way.
Thank God it went our way, but we’re excited about it.”
* * * *
One quick note: I did this as soon as I got back to my hotel Sunday night and
worked through the night. I had a 6 a.m. flight that doesn’t land until 2:30
p.m. or so. I sent this to the desk to post for me.
That’s a long way of me saying I’ll get to any corrections and additions when
I can. In the meantime, you know where to put your feedback down below.
* * * *
Coughlin. See above.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell
and his staff. CBS
analyst Charlie Casserly
reported Sunday the Colts
wanted to interview Fewell but couldn’t
. Given this defensive turnaround
and the good
vibes from the players who credited his ability to listen
, they might be
asking to talk to him this week. By rule, they can. We’ll keep an ear out for
this situation and let you know what we hear.
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn
. Suddenly, special teams is a strength of this team.
And by the way, nobody on the front line budged early on any of the kick
returns. The Niners weren’t going to sneak in a surprise onside kick on these
General manager Jerry Reese
and the rest of the front
office. He was laughing at the idea of what he called the “murderer’s row”
schedule the Giants faced late in the season because there are no gimmes in this
league. Now, he’s very happy his team went through it. “The schedule was brutal
and we took advantage of the brutal schedule,” he said. “I like the tough
schedule. You win these kinds of games when you play a brutal, physical schedule
like we play, when you’re battle tested and you come out on top.”
QB Eli Manning
. The touchdown pass to WR Mario
was a dart. That’s such a great throw right there. He had
plenty of others and did
a great job of not trying to do too much
. But in another example of how calm
he is in pressure situations, his presence of mind to see the field-goal unit
running on the field at the end of the second quarter and to wait for them to
get back to the sideline before snapping it was huge. If he snaps the ball
there, that’s a penalty, as Troy Aikman
told you. The part they left out is it’s also a 10-second runoff
because they didn’t have any timeouts. So had they been flagged for too many men
on the field, it would’ve been the end of the half. No field-goal attempt, no
LB Jacquian Williams
. We’ve covered
the forced fumble at length
, so let’s take a moment here to highlight a
couple of fine third-down plays earlier in the second half: a pass defensed on a
scramble by Niners QB Alex Smith
and a tackle on RB
in the open field late in the third quarter.
Williams closed on Gore extremely quickly on that one.
WR Devin Thomas
. Sometimes fumble recoveries are a matter of
luck, hustle and/or awareness, as was the case with his first recovery. And
sometimes, there’s skill involved like on the big one. That ball took only one
bounce before it popped up to a falling Thomas. He was ready and showed great
hands to make that play.
P Steve Weatherford
. He deftly handled a low snap on the
game-winning field goal and also on a punt with 27 seconds left in the fourth
quarter. Nearly five months later, I think we can safety say the Giants made the
right call keeping him over Matt Dodge
K Lawrence Tynes
. There was a lot of stuff that could’ve
broken his rhythm, and Billy
Cundiff’s miss earlier in the day
could’ve gotten in his head as well. But
WR Victor Cruz
. Eight of his 10 catches were for first
downs. The first time he didn’t get a first down was a 13-yard catch on a
second-and-15 on the third-to-last play of the second quarter to set up a field
goal. The other one that didn’t go for a first down was a 6-yard catch in the
third quarter. On the next play, he caught a ball for 11 yards … and a first
down. I didn’t realize until today he didn’t have a catch after that 11-yarder,
which came with just under 9 minutes left in the third quarter. He
finished with 10 catches for 142 yards
and could’ve easily cracked the
WR Hakeem Nicks
. I forgot to ask what happened with his
shoulder early on. Given his threshold for pain and the way he reacted, I’m sure
he played through something painful.
Manningham. I wish I’d heard the TV feed during the game because Cruz was
yelling, “I told you! I told you!” and then turned to Nicks and screamed, “You
called it! You called it!” I’d love to know what they saw and what Nicks
CBs Aaron Ross
and Corey Webster
. Yeah, I’d
say one catch for the other team’s receivers is a sign the corners played
TE Bear Pascoe
. I had no clue while watching live what
happened on his touchdown. After watching a few times on the replay, it looks
like Niners LB NaVorro Bowman
was supposed to pick him up on
the crossing route. In any event, that was a great time for Pascoe to catch his
first NFL touchdown. The last time the Giants had played here, there were a
bunch of Cowboy hats waiting in the postgame meet-and-greet area. I had a
feeling they were there for the California native, whose family owns a ranch,
and they were. I didn’t get out to that area after this game, but I’m sure they
were waiting proudly once again.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
Among other moments, his tackle of
Smith a yard short of the stick on a scramble in the second quarter was a fine,
fine play. He got upfield on LT Joe Staley
and then peeled off
to get Smith. After a delay-of-game penalty, San Fran punted. One other
Pierre-Paul moment of note was when he got his hands up on third-and-5 with 6:03
left in the fourth quarter. That forced Smith to throw high for WR
, who didn’t get the chance to get any yards
after the catch. A throw in stride there might’ve allowed him to get upfield and
get the first down inside the 5-yard line. Instead, the Niners settled for a
field goal and a tie game.
DE Justin Tuck
. His closing speed on a sack of Smith in the
third quarter was reminiscent of the old Tuck. After
a trying regular season
, he’s back.
LB Mathias Kiwanuka
. Okay, so it was a defensive lineman
trying to block him on third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. But that’s still
DT Justin Smith
, who’s a big, strong guy. So for Kiwanuka to
chuck him so quickly and create a pileup is another impressive play against the
run. Oh, and as his sack proved, he can still rush the passer when needed.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw
. He wanted to “hit my head on the
goalpost” while scoring the game-winning touchdown. He didn’t get to do it but
he hit his head on plenty of opponents while going for 126 total yards." Read more...PATRIOTS' TOM BRADY STILL CAN'T WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FORM SB XLII
"Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the feeling of losing a Super Bowl leaves
"an awful feeling in your stomach for a lot of years." His last Super Bowl was
four years ago, a loss to the Giants, and he admits he still hasn't completely
gotten over it.
"As time goes on, I still can’t watch highlights from that game," Brady said
this morning in his weekly spot on Boston's WEEI radio. "I think that’s just the
way it is. You get to the end, and we had a great opportunity there and really
squandered it, because we didn’t play our very best. You realize in this game,
you're playing the best competition in the league, and everything is on the
table. So it’s a great chance to be here, and this team has deserved it."
Brady and his Patriots will have another crack at the Giants in Super Bowl
XLVI in two weeks. He said they will dissect tape from a more recent meeting,
their 24-20 Week 9 loss to the Giants. In that game, Giants quarterback Eli
Manning drove his team to a last-second touchdown that won the game.
"We'll certainly look at that game, several times," Brady said. "You see
matchups, you see how your guys match up against their guys, route-running, and
blocking and so forth. It will have absolutely zero impact on the game, but at
the same time hopefully we can learn some lessons from that game. We really lost
the turnover battle in that game, which really hurt us."
He added: "It was a great game and sets up for a great rematch between two
teams who have earned the right to represent their conferences in the Super
Bowl. It's a great feeling for all of us players."
Brady praised the Giants defense as a physical group with as "one of the best
pass rushes you'll face in the league."
Brady has been critical of his play in yesterday's 23-20 win against the
Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. He said his second interception, on a deep
bomb intended for Matthew Slater in the fourth quarter, kept him up last night.
But he is ready for, and appreciative of, the chance to play one more game.
“It’s been pedal to the metal for five months now," Brady said. "There's
light at the end of the tunnel for all of us. There's one game to play, and it
means everything. I can’t wait; I’m excited. I really enjoyed yesterday's win,
and like I said, I wish I’d done a better job yesterday. But I’m thrilled to be
a part of this team and lead our team onto the field in Indy.”
GIANTS VS. 49ERS: JACQUIAN WILLIAMS, DEVIN THOMAS BECOME UNLIKELY HEROES FOR GIANTS
"Add the names Jacquian Williams and Devin Thomas to the list of improbable
postseason heroes for the Giants.
It was Williams who stripped the ball from San
Francisco 49ers punt returner Kyle William
s in overtime, the play that
finally tilted field position in the Giants
favor. And it was Thomas who pounced
on the football, which allowed Lawrence Tynes to kick the Giants to the Super
Bowl for a second time.
So with an NFC Championship on the line, it wasn’t Eli Manning or Justin Tuck
who made the biggest play. It was a rookie linebacker who was drafted in the
sixth-round draft and reserve wide receiver who was unceremoniously cut by the
Washington Redskins last season.
“I had a vision in my mind that I was going to make some type of big play to
help us win the game,” Thomas said after the
“I thought it was just going to be that first fumble (when he
set up a Giants touchdown in the fourth quarter), but I got another opportunity
and I jumped on that.”
Thomas said the game plan for Kyle Williams, who was forced into the job in
the absence of regular kick returner Ted Ginn, was simple: Make sure to hit him
“He’s had a lot of concussions. We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on
that guy,’?” Thomas said. “(Tyler) Sash did a great job hitting him early and he
looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he
coughed it up.”
But it was Jacquian Williams who knocked the ball loose, not with a tackle
but with his open hand. The Giants sideline erupted as the ball hit the ground,
and Thomas barely had to do anything but fall on top of it.
“It was like, ‘I can’t believe he just fumbled,’?” Thomas said. “Then I’m
like, ‘Okay, I’m right here.’ So I just made sure no one would take it from
From the losing locker room, Kyle Williams saw it this way: “It was just one
of those situations where I caught the ball, tried to head up field, tried to
make a play and it ended up for the worse.”
That’s for the 49ers. For the Giants, it ended up with a fifth NFC
Championship in five title-game appearance. Jacquian Williams and Devin Thomas
join a list with names like David Tyree and Jeff Hostetler, players who emerged
from the shadows to make an impact for this franchise in the postseason.
GM Jerry Reese, the man who acquired both players, wasn’t surprise that they
turned the game in the Giants favor. He knows, in games like this, it isn’t
always the big names that make the biggest impact.
“Somebody’s got to make a play,” Reese said. “Somebody steps out of the
shadow and makes a play. Devin Thomas made a couple if big plays, jumped on a
couple of fumbles. Jacquian knocked that ball out.
“Some guys you don’t expect to make big plays. That’s the way you win
championships.”GIANTS' DEFENSE COMES UP BIG ON THIRD DOWNS AGAINST 49ERS
"The San Francisco 49ers, on their 38-yard line, were just 20 to 25 yards away
from David Akers territory. With four minutes remaining and the game tied at 17,
they were that close to giving their All-Pro kicker an opportunity to take the
And in what had become a defensive struggle, a three-point difference almost
certainly would’ve been enough at wet Candlestick Park where the offenses had
stalled when the rain wouldn’t.
On third-and-7, Alex Smith dropped back to pass and before he could survey
the field, Giants
Kiwanuka blitzed through the offensive line to maul him.
With Kiwanuka clinging on to the quarterback, Osi Umenyiora joined in and the
two combined for the 10-yard sack. It was another 49ers’ third down and another
failed attempt to convert — 10 in a row to be exact.
The 49ers would finish 1-for-13 in that situation, the lone conversion coming
on a meaningless play with the Giants in prevent as time expired in
“That’s what we do,” defensive end Dave Tollefson said after the
Giants' 20-17 overtime victory
in the NFC Championship Game tonight. “On
third down it’s party time for the defensive line. We get after the
Third downs weren’t as festive an occasion during the season for a Giants
defense that at one point allowed opponents to convert at least 50 percent of
their third downs an NFL-record five consecutive weeks, from Week 11 to Week 15.
The ability — or inability — to force an offense off the field on a
three-and-out has a domino effect.
“It’s very important. It wore their defense down a little bit,” defensive end
Justin Tuck said.
“Obviously, they still played a great football game, but anytime you can get
their offense off the field and get the ball back in Eli [Manning’s] hands, you
stand a great chance.”
The Giants were able to have success by stuffing the 49ers on first and
second down to force third-and-longs — the exact situation the Giants’ daunted
pass rush feasts on. In obvious passing situations, the Giants put in their four
defensive ends on the line — known as their NASCAR package — and tell them one
thing: get to the quarterback and hit him.
“That’s always our goal: get
three-and-outs,” Tuck said. “Make sure that they can’t get into any rhythm there
and most of the time it flows downhill from there.”
Third-down defense has become another vast improved area for the Giants over
the course of the last month, a product of improved play from not only the line,
but the back seven as well.
“It’s just testament to the guys in here and the coaches,” Tollefson said.
“We never gave up. And it’s going to stay like that way for another two
weeks. We’re going to keep playing as long as they’re going to let us play.”
FOR GIANTS' LAWRENCE TYNES, WINNING FIELD GOAL AGAINST 49ERS IS A DREAM COME TRUE
kicker Lawrence Tynes gave a
little fist pump before he headed out to kick the winning field goal in
tonight’s 20-17 overtime victory over
the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Usually, a picture of calm, even before his kick at frozen Lambeau Field four
years ago, Tynes was a bit more animated before this 31-yarder, and this game as
a whole, frankly.
It was that kind of lead-up on a wet, windy day here at Candlestick Park.
“I was a little more full of anxiety today for some reason. I’m not usually
that nervous before a game,” Tynes said. “I think a lot of it had to do with the
conditions. I don’t know why.
“Who knows why I dreamed last night I would kick a game-winner? I don’t
Tynes did dream it, and that’s why he wanted that chance. As much as a
touchdown would’ve made things easier for the Giants after Devin Thomas covered
a fumble to give the Giants the ball at the 49ers’ 24-yard line, Tynes was
hoping for a field-goal attempt.
It was originally a 26-yarder, but it was pushed back another 5 yards by a
delay-of-game penalty. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh then tried to ice him with a
timeout, but he didn’t even kick the ball, so he clearly heard the whistle very
Finally, with the wind playing tricks at that moment, he decided to stick by
the reads he had made earlier when he made a 53-yarder in pre game.
The snap was a bit low but Steve Weatherford scooped it and put it down,
unlike eight years ago when Trey Junkin skipped one along the grass and holder
Matt Allen chucked a desperation pass that fell incomplete.
“We exorcised some demons from the Giants from the 2002 postseason game, so
I’ll be happy to call Matt because he’s a good friend of mine and he was
involved in that play,” Tynes said. “Me and Matt played college ball together, I
thought about him today before we played so, you know, we exorcised some demons
tonight so that was cool.”
When asked about
an extension for coach Tom Coughlin, Giants
CEO John Mara said there would be time for that after the Super Bowl.
“We’ll talk about that at the end of the season,” Mara said.
Mara was also asked if he thought Coughlin might make this his last
“I don’t think so,” Mara said. “I think he’s having too much fun.”
Every time a comparison
has been made between the current
Giants team and the ’07 squad, LT David Diehl has been among the staunch
opponents of such talk.
Until tonight when he stood in the visitors’ locker room and realized Tynes
had just kicked them to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“Talk about crazy,” a smiling Diehl said. “You think about it, everybody kept
saying ’07 comparisons and all of us kept saying this is a different year and a
different season and it’s unbelievable how it’s played out just like that.”
Former Giants OL Rich Seubert,
who now lives in California,
was an honorary captain along with retired DE Michael Strahan and TE Mark
Safety Tyler Sash
left the game with a concussion as a
result of a hit near the sideline that didn’t please the Giants."
49ERS KYLE WILLIAMS FACES BACKLASH FORM 49ERS FANS AFTER MUFFING TWO CRITICAL PUNTS
Excerpt: "Each of the players leaving the San Francisco 49ers' locker room spent a moment
to lay a hand on Kyle Williams’ shoulder.
The 23-year-old who fumbled away a punt return in overtime, and with it the
49ers’ chances of a Super Bowl, nodded his head and assured them that he was
fine. His fellow receivers Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn offered him protection and
solace from the throng of cameras and reporters that enveloped his locker, but
he stood up, dry eyed, to explain why the 49ers weren’t playing another game
“Everybody in here has come to me and told me to keep my head up, told me
it’s not on me,” a composed Williams said after tonight’s 20-17 Giants
the NFC Championship Game.
“It’s just one of those things, you hate to be
the last guy to have the ball and to give it away in that fashion and to lose a
game of this magnitude but, it is what it is.”
Twice in the game Williams mishandled punts in crucial situations, leading to
half of his opponents’ total score. In an overtime between two offenses in a
deadlock, it was his fumble on the 49ers’ own 24-yard line that led to Lawrence
Tynes’ winning field goal.
On the play, Jacquian Williams knocked the ball loose from Williams with a
swinging right hand and Devin Thomas made the recovery. Williams buried his gold
helmet into two gloved hands and let out a long sigh. Soon, it would be
He made the long, cold walk to the team bus alone, a dark hoodie perched over
his head. Nearby, the Giants locker room was thumping in celebration.
A horde of 49ers fans exiting the stadium sandwiched his name between a
string of swear words. On Twitter, one user messaged Williams and wrote: “I hope
you, your wife, kids and family die, you deserve it.” Offensive lineman Anthony
Davis, several other teammates, and players around the league immediately came
to Williams’ defense." Read more...
D'ALESSANDRO: GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN ALWAYS BELIEVED IN HIS TEAM
"There was plenty to talk about after a night like this. He could have
rhapsodized about the defense, which proved, once and for all, that it is the
best in the NFL tonight. He could have gushed about the special teams, which
came up with plays that resulted in 10 points and helped win the field-position
tug-of-war. He could have thrown more rose petals at his quarterback, who took
the hits and kept coming back for more, as boringly brilliant as he has become.
He could have even talked about the weather, because everyone still felt
soaked by the 68-minute pelting they endured in the bog at Candlestick Point.
But John Mara kept coming back to one thing after his Giants
’ 20-17 win over the
San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game
tonight, and at rough count
he raised the subject four times: Tom Coughlin.
“Tom Coughlin deserves a lot of credit,” the Giants owner said, as he was
pinned against a wall of a jubilant locker room. “Hopefully our fans and people
in the New York and New Jersey area appreciate him a little more.”
Change the perceptions of New Yorkers and Jerseyans? It is to laugh.
“But I hope so,” Mara replied. “I mean, what more does he have to do? So I
You look back at the last five weeks and still shake your head. How does a
7-7 team earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis in two weeks? By having
faith, is our guess. By listening to a remarkable, indomitable coach. At least
that’s what the owner thinks.
His coach is a man who feels certitude when others feel doubt, even when
there was a gong watch for his job back in Week 15 or so. Now, in the stunning
aftermath of the Giants’ triumph, you have to wonder whether Coughlin himself is
almost as stunned as the rest of us.
The answer is no. As far back as 7-7, he saw the possibilities.
“How? By just staying the course. By never saying never. By trying to
encourage at every point throughout the season, whether it was good or bad,”
Coughlin explained. “Not denying any of the facts, but still nevertheless seeing
that we had a talented team, believing in that team, thinking that if we could
get all these pieces together that maybe we’d have a chance to make ourselves
And somehow, it has evolved into his kind of team, playing his brand of
football — if you just walked the field before this one, you’d understand it.
You could hear an audible squish with each footstep. It was a grimy, sloppy
mess, a game of precision played in a big gooey bog, and it made for an
entertaining show if you happen to like defense.
As physics experiments go, this irresistible-force-vs.-immobile-object has
been regarded by most scientists as a waste of time. Coughlin thought
differently, of course: “A classic football game,” he said, more than once. “It
looked like no one was going to put themselves in position to win.”
By the time the overtime began, the offensive line was slowly but surely
starting to deteriorate like a two-ton block of papier-mache left out in a
flood, the center snaps were starting to get a little slippery, and Eli Manning
was starting to take some serious hits.
But something had to give, and as it turned out, it was 49ers return
specialist Kyle Williams.
Coughlin predicted it: “We knew going in and we talked about it; it felt some
(upstart) is going to be the difference-maker in the game,” the coach said, and
that player ended up being gunner Devin Thomas.
So off they go, gunning the accelerator. Again, how does this happen? Five
weeks after it seemed they were headed for the NFC East dumpster, after losing
for the second time to the last-place Washington Redskins? Maybe they were
inspired by the jowly foghorn from Florham Park, or maybe the team ahead of them
in the standings decided it didn’t want to play anymore when its quarterback
suffered a hand injury. Or maybe they just started to share the coach’s faith,
judging by the way they smashed their next four opponents by an average count of
Now comes Game 20. The NFL is happy, because it has a Manning-Brady matchup
instead of (gasp) Flacco-Smith. The fans are happy, because it includes two
enormously popular teams.
“I’m not surprised,” Coughlin said of reaching XLVI. “I’m delighted. I’m
excited. But these guys have done it against the best. We’ve played a lot of
superior teams this year, especially down the stretch, and that certainly has
Indeed, the Giants have to be very happy for a few reasons: They remember
what happened back in Week 9 when the beat the Patriots, and they have made it
abundantly clear what only Coughlin has told them for months now — that they are
richly endowed in all the areas that separate the second weekend of December
from the first week in February.
“We’re going to play our best game,” Justin Tuck said.
We don’t doubt it for a minute. Because they have a coach who will insist on
“Nobody works harder than he does,” Mara said. “Nobody wants to win more than
he does. And he knows how
to win. Nobody could have predicted that we’d
be here right now in early November, and Tom deserves most of the credit — he
and No. 10.”
Coughlin himself could only laugh at it. He said Osi Umenyiora sidled up to
him in the postgame tumult and nudged him, exulting, “Have you thought about the
way this is coming down? Do you realize this is scary because of the way it’s
Another laugh, short but genuine.
“Ah, that’s a little deep for me, I guess,” he said."GIANTS' VICTOR CRUZ MAKES HIS POINT AGAINST 49ERS, EVEN WITHOUT A TOUCHDOWN
"All week, Victor Cruz said he had been looking forward to matching
up with Carlos Rogers again.
It was personal and he wasn’t reluctant to admit it. Not after Rogers dealt
various verbal jabs, instigating Cruz — normally conservative in his trash
talking — to respond back in their Week 10 meeting, a Giants
’ 27-20 loss. And certainly not after
the cornerback mocked the receiver’s signature salsa touchdown dance following
his interception, the boiling point of a heated battle between the two.
Cruz said he won the duel in the first meeting when he caught six balls for
84 yards. Tonight, he won it again — emphatically.
The second-year receiver torched Rogers and the rest of the San Francisco
49ers' secondary with 10 catches for 142 yards, continuing what has become a
surreal breakout season.
That it came against Rogers was just a bonus.
“It’s a matchup that I knew that I had a pretty good shot against him,” Cruz
said after the
Giants' 20-17 overtime victory in the NFC Championship Game.
the last game (against him), I did some pretty good things. I knew that the key
to this game was going to be getting open by any means necessary, no matter who
was guarding me. It just so happened to be him and I as able to do some positive
And he was able to do plenty at soggy Candlestick Park. By halftime, Cruz had
eight catches for 125 yards. When he caught his tenth and final pass in the
third quarter, nobody in the 49ers’ wide receiver corps had a single reception.
He did it in a variety of ways — over the middle, along the sideline and down
the field. He provided his weekly big gain — this week’s was for 36 yards — and
was Eli Manning’s security blanket for several first down catches.
He was instrumental in the Giants’ scoring drive just before halftime,
catching four out of five passes that came his way on the 10-play drive that
culminated with a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes to give the Giants a 10-7
In all, Manning targeted Cruz with 17 passes, testament to both the high
level of confidence Manning has in Cruz and the receiver’s ability to find ways
to get open even with opponents putting a bull’s-eye on his back. Even though he
didn’t come up with a catch after midway through the third quarter, he remained
a threat, nearly coming up with a couple of miraculous catches on overthrown
“He has confidence in me and he trusts that I’ll be there at the right time
when my number’s called,” Cruz said. “It just felt good.”
He was held out of the end zone so he wasn’t able to retaliate with a salsa
dance at Rogers’ expense, but after two weeks of being lost in the shuffle —
even five catches for 84 yards last week against the Green Bay Packers didn’t
live up to the lofty expectations Cruz established for himself — he was in a
groove when it mattered most.
“I was in a position to make those grabs and come down and help my team and
put ourselves ahead when we had to,” he said."GIANTS VS. 49ERS: QUARTER BY QUARTER
beat the San Francisco
in overtime in the NFC Championship Game
at Candlestick Park tonight to
advance to the Super Bowl. Here's how it happened:
A strong start, save 13 seconds
It’s hard for the Giants
to look at some of the key numbers of the first quarter and not be exceptionally
pleased. They twice held the ball on sustained drives, eating up more than 10 of
the first 15 minutes. But it’s also hard for the Giants to not be maddened by
the first quarter, having nothing to show for either time they had the ball —
and watching Vernon Davis get behind Antrel Rolle for a 73-yard touchdown that
gave the 49ers an early lead. That 13-second possession outweighed the rest.
GIANTS EDGE 49ERS, 20 - 17, AS LAWRENCE TYNES OT FIELD GOAL SETS UP SUPER BOWL REMATCH WITH PATRIOTS
A good idea: Noticing Cruz
A curious defensive game plan
from the 49ers bit them in the second quarter. Eli Manning found Victor Cruz for
36 yards down the right sideline on the first play, and again for 6 yards to
convert a third down. And then, once the 49ers decided to pay attention to Cruz,
Manning hit Bear Pascoe for a 6-yard touchdown. But Manning and Cruz closed the
quarter in the same fashion, connecting for 56 yards on a drive that netted
Lawrence Tynes’ first 31-yard field goal of the night.
Trading blows, and one big jab
When the teams returned
for the second half is when this contest became a full-fledged brawl. The Giants
immediately turned up the pressure on Alex Smith, sacking him on the 49ers’
first drive. And San Francisco stymied what had been a thriving offense before
halftime into a largely ineffective bunch that ended all four of its drives with
a punt. Again, the quick strike from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis — this time over
Kenny Phillips and in front of Corey Webster — gave the 49ers the lead.
Tension wins, but yet no end
Imagine the nails gnawed and
the edges of seats worn out during the final 15 minutes. Eli Manning had his
seventh fourth-quarter comeback in line when he took advantage of a short field
— Kyle Williams’ first gaffe — and threaded a 17-yard touchdown to Mario
Manningham. But Williams’ kickoff return to the 45 set the 49ers on their way to
a tying field goal. The teams then spent the final 5:39 of regulation getting
three cracks apiece — but falling short. Overtime was only fitting.
Hearts break, leap
You can’t help but feel for Kyle
Williams. The 49ers had stuffed the Giants, sacking Eli Manning for a 10-yard
loss and forcing a punt. And Williams looked to head upfield before Jacquain
Williams stripped the ball — and Devin Thomas fell on it. Three runs by Ahmad
Bradshaw, a kneeldown in the center of the field, a delay of game and a 31-yard
field goal for the win. Routine."
"Steve Weatherford, having fielded a low snap and put down the most important
hold of his life, was now celebrating inside the cramped, joyous visitors’
locker room at Candlestick Park.
Wearing only a towel, he climbed the short wall next to his locker and looked
like a wrestler going off the top ropes.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl!” the Giants
’ punter yelled as he landed on
screaming, somewhat-frightened equipment manager Joe Skiba.
It was that kind of scene inside this throwback locker room, in this
throwback stadium, after a throwback game the Giants won, 20-17, tonight on
another overtime field goal by Lawrence Tynes. This one, set up by a clutch
forced fumble by rookie Jacquian Williams, was a 31-yarder that sailed through
the uprights with 7:06 left in the extra session, giving the Giants their fifth
NFC Championship Game victory in as many tries and sending them to Indianapolis
in 13 days for a rematch with the
New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Justin Tuck couldn’t bring himself to watch the kick after a delay-of-game
penalty pushed Tynes back 5 yards and a timeout made this excruciatingly tight
game that much more riveting — or gut-wrenching.
“I couldn’t take it,” the defensive captain said. “I had to turn around and
look, and I was glad to see what I saw.”
What he saw was bedlam on the field: Weatherford running toward the sideline
and yelling, “Super Bowl!” with a few choice words tucked in there, Tynes
looking for his wife Amanda, players embracing, and the tightest squeeze toward
a locker room in the NFL.
In that hallway in the southeast end of the stadium, in which Eli Manning had
only slightly more room to operate than he did in his own backfield all night
long, the Giants quarterback bumped into misty-eyed San Francisco 49ers coach
“Congratulations,” Harbaugh said. “Go win it. Go win it.”
They won this one, thanks to the kind of things Tom Coughlin preached from
the first day of training camp through the final practice before this one:
protect the football, win the turnover battle and don’t make mental
With these offenses stuck in neutral for the final 5:39 of regulation,
following a 25-yard field goal by David Akers that tied the game, it was pretty
clear a mistake would be the difference. The Giants hadn’t turned the ball over
all game, so they were confident their style of football would prevail.
“That was the thing I kept telling myself, ‘Be patient, don’t force anything,
don’t give them anything, our defense is playing well,’” said Manning, who shook
off six sacks to go 32-for-58 for 316 yards with two touchdowns, including a
beauty to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter that gave the Giants a 17-14
lead. “We stuck with that and got some turnovers.”
None bigger than Williams’ strip of another Williams — 49ers returner Kyle
Williams was taking the place of injured Ted Ginn Jr. — that was recovered by
veteran Devin Thomas at the 49ers’ 24-yard line.
Earlier, Kyle Williams had a bouncing punt barely nick his knee. A replay
challenge by the Giants confirmed as much, and Thomas’ recovery on that one set
up Manningham’s touchdown.
Perhaps rattled, the Giants had a feeling they could force Williams to make a
mistake, especially while carrying a slick ball.
“He’s had a lot of concussions. We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on
that guy,’” Thomas said. “(Tyler) Sash did a great job hitting him early and he
looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he
coughed it up.”
Coughlin had reminded the players “pretty much the entire week” about
protecting the ball (offense) and trying to take it away (defense). He had a
brief lump-in-throat moment, for sure, when Ahmad Bradshaw coughed it up at the
Giants’ 21-yard line with slightly more than 2 minutes left in regulation.
But the officials ruled Bradshaw’s forward progress was stopped at the end of
a 6-yard gain on second-and-21 before the ball was pried loose. The Niners
recovered but it didn’t matter because it’s a judgment call and it can’t be
It’s the second time the Giants benefitted from that rule in this building
this season. Back in Week 10, Victor Cruz’s progress was stopped before a
Not so for the Williams-on-Williams fumble in overtime.
Jacquian said, at first, he was trying to make a tackle. But once Kyle made a
cut, he took a shot at the ball.
And got all of it.
“I always dreamed of making a big play,” Jacquian said.
Funny, because Tynes dreamed of making the winning kick the night before. So
while Ahmad Bradshaw was trying to “hit my head on the goalpost,” meaning score
a touchdown instead of settling for a field goal, Tynes knew it would come down
Weatherford, meanwhile, was steaming. At least, Coughlin thought he was.
“He looked like he was upset. I was trying to figure out what was wrong,”
Coughlin said of Weatherford, who had been on the losing side of the previous
two AFC Championship games with the Jets. “And he said, ‘I want to get this
field goal kicked and go to the Super Bowl.’ I said, ‘That sounds like a good
idea to me.’?”
From idea to execution, it happened, thanks in part to Weatherford’s scoop of
the low snap by Zak DeOssie.
“I knew if I got the ball down and the laces out, Lawrence Tynes was going to
make the kick and we were going to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl,” Weatherford
said. “We did it.”
POLITI: ELI MANNING EARNS PEYTON'S PRIDE AS GIANTS HEAD BACK TO SUPER BOWL
Excerpt: "The two brothers found each other on a loading dock just outside Candlestick
Park, surrounded by security guards, family members and a few misplaced fans who
couldn’t believe their good luck.
Eli Manning initiated the bro hug, leaning in to embrace his older brother
with his right arm. Peyton Manning pulled him close as the cell phone cameras
snapped, patting him three times on his freshly minted NFC Championship T-shirt
before he said what every Giants
to be feeling.
“I’m proud of you.”
They spent just two minutes talking about this incredible NFC Championship
Game that put the younger brother back in the Super Bowl — in, of all places,
the city where the older brother became a star.
It was a
tough 20-17 victory over San Francisco 49ers
tonight, an overtime game won
on a devastating mistake and a chip-shot field goal, not just the heroics of the
Still: There was no masking the pride from Peyton Manning. He could see this
season unfold from afar because of the neck surgery that wrecked his own season,
watching how the Giants went from 7-7 to the brink of another championship for
his family. How could he not love what he saw?
As a quarterback. As a brother.
As a Manning.
“The Giants have had a great run here the last few weeks, and I couldn’t be
more proud of Eli and how he’s played all year,” Peyton said. “He really worked
hard this offseason. He really wanted to have a good year and he sure has.
Indianapolis is lucky to have this kind of game.” Read more...
SUPER BOWL 2012: GIANTS VS. PATRIOTS PREVIEW
Excerpt: "Super Bowl XLVI
Giants vs. New England
Sunday, Feb. 5
Lucas Oil Stadium,
Until the evening of Feb. 3, 2008, Tom Brady’s career had been pristine,
featuring three Super Bowl titles, two Super Bowl MVP awards, not a smudge,
scratch or bent corner.
But that evening, facing a merciless Giants pass rush, Brady was sacked five
times and pummeled like never before during his sterling career. Gone was the
Patriots perfect record through 18 games of the 2007 season. Gone, too, was the
smirk from Brady’s face, after he confidently dismissed Plaxico Burress’
prediction the week of the game the Patriots would lose 23-17 in Super Bowl
“We’re only going to score 17 points?” Brady chuckled. As it turned out,
Burress underestimated his defense.
The Giants’ thrilling postseason run culminated in a 17-14 victory over the
Patriots that night in Glendale, Ariz., and Brady’s fortunes dipped. He missed
all but two quarters of the 2008 season with a knee injury and despite winning
the NFL’s MVP award in 2010, the second of his career, the once-assured Patriots
struggled in the postseason. Entering the playoffs this season, they had lost
three straight games dating back to that loss to the Giants.
Only now, nearly four years later, Brady has returned to the game that once
seemed his birthright.
Brady is still the conductor of a well-tuned, potent passing game. The
Patriots finished second in the NFL with an average 317.8 yards per game through
the regular season, but the unit’s approach to dismantling defenses has
In 2007, the Patriots heaved passes downfield. Randy Moss, alone, caught 23
touchdown passes as he glided past defenders. But this season, Brady threw for
the second-most yards in NFL history (5,235) while using his receivers like a
master carpenter uses every instrument in his toolbox.
Wes Welker, the slithery, pocket-sized wide receiver, caught 122 passes
during the regular season, the fourth-highest total in NFL history.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ versatile tight ends, have
redefined how the position is employed offensively.
In the divisional round victory over the Denver Broncos, Brady tied an NFL
postseason record with six touchdown passes, three to the hands of Gronkowski.
But the quarterback, now in his 12th season, is more interested in redemption
than the record book." Read more...