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Manning Leads Giants to Unlikely Win Over Packers In OT, 23-20

         New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning celebrates after his team’s 23-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, played Sunday. 

The New England Patriots get to face a Manning again – only this time it is Peyton’s brother Eli.  And Eli managed to do the improbable Sunday as he, despite some missed field goal opportunities, led the New York Giants to a date with the Patriots in the Super Bowl, edging the Green Bay Packers in overtime 23-20.

Manning braved below-zero temperatures and often put the Giants in position to win. Afdter the Giants’ Tynes nailed a 37-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead, The Packers’ Koren Robinson nearly lost a kickoff return as he overran the ball, but recovered at the Green Bay 10. But Packers quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Donald Driver had other plans in mind; after shaking off a bump by Giants cornerback Corey Webster, Driver caught the pass by Favre at the Packers’ 29 and raced 71 yards to the end zone for the score. Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby would add a 36-yard field goal, making it 10-6 Green Bay going into halftime.

The Giants would then go on a 7-minute, 69-yard march down the field to begin the third period; penalties during that drive hurt the Packers, including 2 offside calls and a roughing the passer penalty whistled on Green Bay safety Nick Collins. New York running back Brandon Jacobs bolted in from the 1-yard line, giving the Giants a 13-10 lead. The Lambeau crowd finally had something to cheer about when kick returner Tramon Williams returned the kickoff 49 yards to the New York 39. The Giants would commit a costly mistake when cornerback Sam Madison was whistled for a 15-yard personal foul for hitting Green Bay late.

Favre would capitalize on that mistake by throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee in the back of the end zone, giving Green Bay a 17-13 edge. Kick returner Domenick Hixon got the Giants going with a 33-yard kick return, then Manning would pick apart the Packers’ secondary, the key pass in the drive being a 23-yarder to Amani Toomer; this set up a 4-yard TD run by RB Ahmad Bradshaw, making it 20-17 New York. The Packers would get a break when Favre threw a clear interception to Giants CB R.W. McQuarters; however, McQuarters fumbled when hit by Green Bay RB Ryan Grant. The ball would be recovered by Packers OT Mark Tauscher, allowing the Packers’ Crosby to kick a 37-yard field goal, tying the game at 20.

After the Giants’ Tynes missed a 36-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation, he would get a chance at redemption as the Giants’ Webster would intercept a Favre pass. Manning would calmly move the Giants down the field; Tynes would nail a 47-yard field goal with 12:25 left in overtime, punching New York’s ticket to the Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ. Manning, despite throwing no TD passes, did not turn the ball over as he went 21-of-40 for 254 yards. The Giants had an OK effort with their running attack, led by Jacobs with 67 yards on 21 carries and a rushing touchdown, while Bradshaw added 63 yards on 16 carries and a score. The unsung hero, Plaxico Burress, led all Giants receivers with 11 receptions and 154 yards; Amani Toomer pitched in with 4 catches for 42 yards.

Favre had a mediocre outing, going 19-of-35 for 236 yards, with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s. Grant had a miserable rushing day, carrying the ball 13 times for only 29 yards; Driver led all Green Bay receivers with 5 receptions for 141 and a TD, while Lee added 3 catches for 35 and a score. Manning and the giants will have their hands full when in 2 weeks they will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

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