Game Review: NFC Title Slips Away

How long this one will sting, no one could answer after the game. The Packers saw their remarkable season come to an all-too-abrupt end as Lawrence Tynes’ 47-yard field goal 2 minutes and 35 seconds into overtime gave the New York Giants a 23-20 upset and the NFC Championship at a frigid Lambeau Field. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Giants Game Center


New York Giants K Lawrence Tynes hits a 47-yard field goal in overtime to defeat the Packers 23-20 for the NFC Championship on Sunday.

How long this one will sting, no one could answer after the game.

The Packers saw their remarkable season come to an all-too-abrupt end as Lawrence Tynes' 47-yard field goal 2 minutes and 35 seconds into overtime gave the New York Giants a 23-20 upset and the NFC Championship at a frigid Lambeau Field.

"We were that close," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "One play away, one drive away, one series away, one game away from the big one, ... from what you dream about."

Up until Sunday night, the Packers seemingly had everything going their way. They had put together a superb 13-3 regular season and had earned the right to host the conference title game with perhaps their best performance of the season a week ago against Seattle, coupled with the Giants knocking off top-seeded Dallas.

But New York apparently wasn't done surprising the football world as a No. 5 seed. The Giants became the second team in three years (Pittsburgh, 2005) to win three consecutive road playoff games to advance to the Super Bowl, this one coming in the Green Bay cold topped only by the Ice Bowl, with minus-1 temperatures and minus-23 wind chills at kickoff.

"This game, even when it was going back and forth, you just had a sense it was going to fall in place for us again," quarterback Brett Favre said. "But that wasn't the case."

That sense came from the Giants' missed opportunities. With the score tied at 20, Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal wide left with 6:49 left in the fourth quarter. Then the Giants drove into position again in the final two minutes, only to have a high snap lead to another shank by Tynes, from 36 yards on the final play of regulation to send the game to overtime.

But it turned out the Packers were only delaying defeat. They even won the coin toss to start the overtime, but symptomatic of an offense that was struggling mightily down the stretch, with back-to-back three-and-outs with the score tied late, the Packers never even gave themselves a chance to win.

Favre was intercepted by Corey Webster when he underthrew an out route to Donald Driver on the second snap of overtime, and the Giants needed to drive just 5 yards to set up a third try for Tynes. This time he was true, stunning and saddening the record crowd of 72,740 at Lambeau.

"We've come so far, and we had such a good season," offensive tackle Chad Clifton said. "You want to be able to finish it."

The game-changing play by Webster was a big-time atonement for an early mistake. With the Giants leading 6-0, Webster was beaten badly off the jam at the line of scrimmage by Driver, who hauled in Favre's pass in stride and outran Webster and safety Gibril Wilson to the end zone for a 90-yard touchdown, the longest play from scrimmage in a postseason game in franchise history.

Driver (5 catches, 141 yards) hauled in another 20-yard pass to set up a field goal before halftime, but that 10-6 advantage quickly vanished.

Two third-down penalties on the first Giants' drive of the second half - an illegal contact on Al Harris that negated his own interception, and a roughing-the-passer call on Nick Collins after a pass had been batted down at the line - gave New York life, not only on that possession but seemingly the rest of the game.

"The reality is we've been in some games like that where that's happened and we've bounced back and came through it," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "We didn't do that tonight, for whatever reason."

A 1-yard TD run by Brandon Jacobs (21 carries, 67 yards) gave the Giants the lead back. The Packers answered with their own touchdown, helped by Tramon Williams' 49-yard kickoff return and a crucial New York penalty, as cornerback Sam Madison was called for unnecessary roughness after a third-down stop. Favre (19-of-35, 236 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 70.7 rating) found Donald Lee from 12 yards out for another score and a 17-13 edge, but the Giants came right back again.

Hitting throws to Plaxico Burress (11 catches, 151 yards) and Amani Toomer (4 catches, 42 yards), who gave the Packers' defensive backs fits all night, Eli Manning moved the Giants in position again. Rookie Ahmad Bradshaw (16 carries, 63 yards) ran it in from 4 yards out, and New York never trailed again. Manning, whose cold-weather abilities were questioned coming into the game, was a mistake-free 21-of-40 for 251 yards (72.3 rating).

(Note: Manning was initially credited with 254 yards passing and Burress with 154 yards receiving, but a post-game scoring change erased 3 yards from both players' totals.)

The Packers had one last shot to regain the lead but didn't take advantage of a huge break. Early in the fourth quarter, Favre spun away from pressure and threw an ill-advised pass into coverage that was picked off by R.W. McQuarters. Ryan Grant stripped the ball from McQuarters on the return, and it flew right into the bread-basket of Mark Tauscher at the New York 19-yard line.

But the Packers stalled, settling for a game-tying field goal with 11:46 left in the fourth, and never gained another first down. Grant, one week after setting a franchise playoff rushing record with 201 yards, had just 29 on 13 carries, and 20 of those yards came on two plays on the same drive.

The Packers were just 1-for-10 on third downs and as a result were dominated in time of possession, 40:01 to 22:34.

{sportsad300}"We didn't make a play," Tauscher said. "We made one play all day that I can think of. They kept the chains moving and we had no rhythm offensively. I give that team a lot of credit. We didn't play our best game, but they earned it. They went out and decided they were going to take this game. We didn't do that."

It took a while, with the two Tynes misses and the Packers getting yet another chance in overtime, but the home team never seized the moment.

"It was definitely a roller coaster," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "It's tough man, it's just tough having it right there in front of us and we didn't have enough to take it."

The Giants did with their steady play on both sides of the ball, and now get another chance to knock off the unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That will come a little more than a month after the Giants took the Patriots to the wire in a 38-35 decision in the regular-season finale.

But that's all talk for Super Bowl week, of which the Packers won't be a part. Instead they'll have to let time heal the wounds, but how long that will take is impossible to say.

"To know they're getting a trophy on our field," defensive end Aaron Kampman said, "is a tough pill to swallow."

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