20 - 17 Final - OT
  for this game

Giants top 49ers on FG in OT, win NFC title

Jan 23, 2012 - 4:55 AM San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) - For the second time in five seasons, New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes got a chance to win the NFC Championship in overtime.

He's 2-for-2.

The extra minutes at Candlestick Park provided a crueler dose of deja vu for the San Francisco 49ers.

Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal after the 49ers fumbled a punt in overtime, lifting the Giants to a 20-17 victory on Sunday and sending them to Super Bowl XLVI to face the New England Patriots.

"A classic football game," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who had seen a similar finish from the sideline before.

In 2008, Tynes kicked a 47-yarder in overtime to beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game and the Giants went on to down the Patriots in a memorable Super Bowl, ending New England's perfect season.

This time, the Giants were gifted a chance to kick the game-winner after 49ers return man Kyle Williams fumbled a punt deep in San Francisco territory when he was stripped by Jacquian Williams.

The ball was recovered by New York's Devin Thomas, his second such heads-up play of the game. In the fourth quarter, Thomas jumped on a ball that hit off Williams' knee in a muffed punt that led to a Giants touchdown.

"You hate to be the last guy to have the ball and give it up and lose the game that way," Williams said in the locker room. "But everyone in here has had my back and patted me on the shoulder and said it's not on me."

Eli Manning, who has played years his older brother's shadow, passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns and will get a chance to beat Tom Brady's Patriots yet again on February 5 in Indianapolis.

It won't just be a rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl, but also of New York's 24-20 win over the Patriots on November 6 this past season -- New England's last loss before rattling off 10 straight wins up to Sunday.

"It feels great," Manning said after a tough game against the 49ers on a rain- soaked field. "We had to fight for every yard we got. They're a good team. Their defense is stout."

Alex Smith threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns for the 49ers, but the NFC West champions couldn't overcome two crippling special teams mistakes in their bid to make the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.

Both of Smith's touchdown passes Sunday went to last week's hero Vernon Davis, including a 73-yarder down the right sideline in the first quarter that had second-seeded San Francisco on top in front of its home crowd.

Williams' muffed punt in the fourth quarter led to Mario Manningham's 17-yard touchdown catch for a 17-14 Giants lead. Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards and the 49ers tied the game on David Akers' 25-yard field goal.

Both teams punted on their first overtime possessions, giving the Giants a chance to win in sudden-death.

Tynes' game-winning kick -- on a low snap handled by punter Steve Weatherford -- moved the NFC East-champion Giants to 5-0 all-time in the NFC title game. They made the playoffs on the last day of the season by beating Dallas.

"A tremendous football game for those who enjoy football at it's basic level," Coughlin said Sunday. "It was a very physical game. It was very difficult for any team to muster any offense consistently."

New York returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence and is 3-1 in the Super Bowl, their last championship coming over New England on a game-winning drive orchestrated by Manning.

Earlier Sunday, the Patriots held on to beat Baltimore, 23-20, for the AFC title after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal that could have tied the game.

The 49ers, under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, won their division with a 13-3 record and knocked off the New Orleans Saints in a divisional round thriller that featured four touchdowns in the last four minutes.

Their ouster means neither Harbaugh brother will reach the Super Bowl after there was a chance both would get there. John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.

"In a lot of ways we played well enough to win," said Jim Harbaugh. "It'll probably take a while to get over it, but we'll get over it."

Victor Cruz had 10 catches for 142 yards for New York and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed 20 times for 74 yards. Davis had three receptions totaling 112 yards.

For his second touchdown, Davis raced past safety Kenny Phillips and caught Smith's 28-yard pass in the left side of the end zone to give the 49ers a 14-10 with around five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Williams' muffed punt was revealed after a review and the Giants took over at the San Francisco 29. Six plays later, Manning found Manningham free of cornerback Tramaine Brock in the middle of the end zone for a 17-yard TD and 17-14 lead with 8:34 remaining in regulation.

It took the 49ers just six snaps to tie the game on Akers' field goal at the other end. In a small measure of redemption, Williams helped set up the score with a 40-yard kickoff return.

Manning is the more experienced playoff quarterback, but Smith made the best pass of the first half, dropping a ball into Davis' hands near the Giants 40- yard line.

Davis tip-toed to stay in bounds -- at least according to the replay, which didn't show enough evidence that he stepped on the line -- and raced the last 40 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Manning and the Giants tied the game on Bear Pascoe's first NFL touchdown, a six-yard catch early in the second quarter. The key play on the 69-yard drive was Cruz's 36-yard catch on 3rd-and-6.

Later, Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the Giants a 10-7 lead at halftime.

Game Notes

It was the third time in five years the NFC Championship Game went to overtime...The Giants beat Atlanta in the wild card round and upset the top- seeded Packers last week in Green Bay...49ers cornerback Tarell Brown left the game in the third quarter after colliding with teammate Dashon Goldson.