Giants, Pats not slowed by cold; Super Bowl showdown is next
By: By The Associated Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Eli Manning kept making plays. So did the Giants’ defense.
Finally, Lawrence Tynes got in the act, kicking New York into the Super Bowl.
For anyone who has doubted Peyton’s little brother or thought the Giants had no business in the NFC championship game at frostbitten Lambeau Field, chew on this: A Manning is going back to the Super Bowl riding a wave of road wizardry.
Manning repeatedly put the Giants in position to win Sunday, and when Tynes came through at last with a 47-yard field goal in overtime, New York had itself an improbable 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Now comes Mission Impossible: beating the undefeated New England Patriots in two weeks in a Super Bowl matchup hardly anyone saw coming.
What will be thrown at the Giants (13-6) in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3 is perfection. The 18-0 Patriots, who finished their unblemished regular season with a 38-35 victory over New York, are partly responsible for Manning and his team making a remarkable turnaround.
With nothing to gain in that game, New York played its regulars and went all out. Manning was sensational with four touchdown passes, the beginning of a renaissance that has seen him go from unpredictable to, well, Peytonesque.
It’s also seen him lead the Giants to three consecutive road playoff wins without committing a turnover; the Giants have won 10 straight away from home overall.
And this one, in minus-3 degrees (wind chill of minus-24) earned New York its first Super Bowl trip in seven years.
A win in two weeks and Eli will match Peyton for NFL titles — and the Manning family will have consecutive championships.
“I saw on TV earlier this week nobody picked us to win this game,” said Plaxico Burress, who had a career-high 11 catches for 154 yards. “It was kind of funny that we won nine straight games on the road and still, coming in here everybody was talking about how cold it was going to be, the weather, the wind chill, coming to Lambeau — we didn’t even have a shot. Watching it on TV, all you were doing is you were laughing.
“We came here, got the job done when nobody expected us to, and came up with a win.”
A win the hard way, for sure.
Tynes had two misses — a 36-yarder at the end of regulation following a bad snap, and a 43-yarder with 6:49 to go — before nailing his long winner 2:35 into OT.
He got another chance in overtime after Corey Webster intercepted a struggling Brett Favre, the kind of mistake Manning often made before his recent turnaround.
Patriots 21, Chargers 12
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady bounced a couple of passes, sailed a few more and threw three to the wrong team.
Hardly perfect. Hardly mattered, either.
The New England Patriots still were too good for the banged-up San Diego Chargers. A far-from-vintage 21-12 victory Sunday in the AFC championship game sent the Brady Bunch back to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven seasons.
Next up is another date with the New York Giants, and a chance for the Patriots to give their 18-0 record a whole new meaning.
“I think you enter the season and you’re hoping to put together a bunch of great wins and you realize there’s challenges every step of the way,” Brady said. “And to not have a letdown like most teams have — we had a few letdowns or times where we didn’t play our best, but we overcame them.”
Yet for everything the Patriots have accomplished — they’re the only team in NFL history to start out with 18 straight victories — they’re well aware they must win that final matchup to avoid being relegated to a footnote.
“We’ll try to elevate our game for one last performance,” said Brady, MVP in two of the three Super Bowls he’s won.
All season long, coach Bill Belichick focused solely on the upcoming opponent. Showered by confetti on a postgame platform, the man of few words gave his team the OK to talk about the biggest game of all.
“Now we can look ahead,” he said.
And prepare to see a familiar face in Eli Manning and the Giants on Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz. The Patriots finished off their exhibition schedule by beating the Giants, then wrapped up the regular season by defeating them in a 38-35 thriller.
The Chargers seemed to stand little chance, especially with star LaDainian Tomlinson injured.
Nursing a bad left knee, Tomlinson did not get off on the right foot and watched most of the game in a parka. San Diego kept it close by intercepting Brady a season-high three times, and trailed 14-12 going into the fourth quarter.
Brady made several stunningly poor throws that fluttered in the wind, Randy Moss was a non-factor for the second straight game and the highest-scoring team in NFL history sputtered all afternoon. Instead, the Patriots relied on Laurence Maroney’s spins, cuts and helmet-rattling runs.
Brady, coming off a record-setting 50 TD passes, threw for two scores. His six-yard strike to Wes Welker early in the fourth quarter let the Patriots pull away.
New England took care of the nuts and Bolts on a most chilly day. The sellout crowd at Gillette Stadium chanted “Super Bowl! Super Bowl!” in the closing minutes, anticipating the Pats’ first appearance in the big game since the 2004 season.
Belichick’s team eclipsed the 17-0 mark of the champion 1972 Miami Dolphins, and he’ll soon try for his fourth NFL title.
“I think there will be a time to sit back and reflect,” Belichick said. “We’ll certainly enjoy this for a few days.”
A model of success in the late season, the Chargers (13-6) fell short minus Tomlinson. He was hurt last week in the playoff upset of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, and was mostly a spectator as San Diego’s eight-game winning streak ended.
Tomlinson carried on the first two San Diego plays, but did not run it again. Quarterback Philip Rivers hung in despite a torn ligament in his knee and star tight end Antonio Gates did his best with a dislocated toe.
“From getting it reinjured the first play, I just knew I didn’t have it,” Tomlinson said. “I’m kind of at a loss for words.”
The Chargers never could get into the end zone and had to settle for four field goals by Nate Kaeding.
“LT tried to go and he just couldn’t go,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said.