Eli only Manning left in playoff hunt
By: By BEN WALKER, AP National Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Beaten at Dallas and trounced by Green Bay, the New York Giants seemed headed to a lost season after only two games.
Well, guess what?
Eli Manning and the guys are a game away from the Super Bowl now, following a path filled with vengeance.
Having ousted the Cowboys 21-17 on Sunday, the Giants are headed to Lambeau Field aiming to knock off Brett Favre and the Packers in the NFC championship game.
“We stay with it,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “When everybody jumped on our backs after the first two games we didn’t fold. I don’t know what the team would have done in years past, but this year we didn’t.”
Maybe because Manning didn’t let them. And, yes, we’re talking about Eli, not Peyton.
A few hours after reigning Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated from the playoffs, the less-heralded, often-criticized member of football’s most famous family got the biggest victory of his career.
Eli threw two touchdown passes to Amani Toomer and led another scoring drive early in the fourth quarter to give New York its ninth straight road victory.
It’s the furthest New York has advanced since the 2000 season — and it’s a huge disappointment for a Dallas team that tied a club record with 13 regular-season wins.
The Giants are a rare No. 5 seed to make the NFC title game — mainly because those clubs usually wind up playing the No. 1 seed.
And the top teams in the NFC had been never lost a division-round game under the current playoff format, which began in 1990.
Next up for New York is a chance to show Green Bay how much it has improved since a 35-13 loss at Giants Stadium on Sept. 16. The Packers led 14-13 going into the fourth quarter, then ran away with the game, sending New York to its first 0-2 start since 1996.
Packers 42, Seahawks 20
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Brett Favre somehow spun free from the Seahawks’ clutches and stumbled ahead in the snow.
Ever the gambler, he flipped a wobbly, underhanded pass that he had no business trying, let alone completing.
“That’s right!” he shouted.
Sure was, for Favre and the NFC championship-bound Green Bay Packers.
With Lambeau Field looking like a snow globe, Favre frolicked in the flurries, throwing three touchdown passes as the Packers beat Seattle 42-20 Saturday, the highest-scoring postseason game in Green Bay history.
This must have been the scene the 38-year-old three-time NFL MVP imagined when he decided to postpone retirement and try for another Super Bowl ring.
“It does make you appreciate it,” Favre said. “We could be 3-13 next year. Who knows? So enjoy it and try to get the most out of it.”
Ryan Grant made history, too, recovering from two fumbles that put the Packers down 14-0 after only four minutes of football.
He set a team postseason record by running for 201 yards, and scored three times. After its early slips, Green Bay scored touchdowns on six straight possessions.
“I appreciate everyone sticking with it, staying with me,” Grant said.
In the months ahead, Wisconsin might again become a wonder-land — will Favre come back again? — but for now, fans are guaranteed at least one more game.
The Packers reached the NFC title game for the first time since the 1997 season, and the largest crowd ever at Lambeau partied. Favre and favorite receiver Donald Driver started the celebration early, tossing snowballs at each other.
Favre tied his personal best for TD strikes in a postseason game, twice hitting Greg Jennings during the victory.
Favre extended his own record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 17th straight postseason game.
But his most memorable effort was the crazy toss to Donald Lee that set up another score right before halftime.
“I’m not quite as nimble as I once was,” Favre said.
Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks (11-7) hoped to reverse what happened the last time they were in town for the playoffs. In January 2004, the teams went to overtime and, after winning the coin toss, Hasselbeck boldly proclaimed: “We want the ball and we’re going to score!”
It didn’t quite work out that way as Al Harris soon intercepted Hasselbeck’s pass and returned it for a 52-yard TD. In fact, a picture of the play is posted right outside the Packers’ locker room.
Coming off their 35-14 win over Washington last week in the wild-card round, the Seahawks seemed primed for an upset.
“Great start,” Hasselbeck said. “But that’s just the start of the game. You’ve got to finish it.”
On Green Bay’s first play, Grant caught a pass and fumbled. Then on Seattle’s first play, Shaun Alexander plunged in from the 1.
Grant didn’t do any better a minute later, when another fumble set up Hasselbeck’s 11-yard TD strike to Bobby Engram.
“When we were down 14-0, I have to admit I was not very optimistic,” Favre said.
“I thought, ‘Oh boy, this ain’t too good,’” he said. “This is the exact game I didn’t want to be in.”
At that point, it seemed as if only a Lambeau leap of faith would bring back Green Bay. But when the snow started to pile up, so did the points for the Packers.
It was 14-all after the first quarter, and Green Bay led 28-17 at halftime.