No Super Bowl for the Packers
A suddenly matured Manning guided the Giants to their 10th straight road win Sunday, a frostbitten 23-20 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers for the NFC championship.
Now comes Mission Impossible for Manning and the Giants, who will play the unbeaten New England Patriots in two weeks for the NFL title.
After Lawrence Tynes missed a 36-yard field goal at the end of regulation following a bad snap, he got a reprieve in overtime following Corey Webster's interception of a struggling Brett Favre. He nailed a 47-yarder on his third attempt to win it, then sprinted directly to the locker room as the rest of his frozen teammates celebrated on the field.
The Giants grabbed their first NFC championship in seven years, capping a monthlong surge that reversed a trend of mediocrity built around Manning's inconsistency. He has been a revelation in the playoffs, however, and his calm leadership keyed New York's turnaround.
Manning shook off below-zero temperatures and a wind chill that would make a Siberian husky shiver. He repeatedly put the Giants (13-6) in position to win in the third-coldest championship game ever — and certainly the most frigid of his young career.
And then he saw Tynes make his first game-winning field goal of the season in the first OT title game in nine years.
It was the second NFC title game to go to overtime. Atlanta beat Minnesota 30-27 in 1999.
One year after older brother Peyton finally won a Super Bowl, earning MVP honors to boot, here comes Eli.
Just a month ago, Eli's moxie was being questioned as the Giants struggled to clinch a wild-card berth. He responded with the best work of his four-year career, including four touchdown passes in the season finale against the Patriots.
He and the Giants are getting another shot at New England, the first team to go 18-0. The Patriots will be after their fourth Super Bowl title in seven years on Feb. 3 at Glendale, Ariz., as well as the first completely perfect season since Miami went 17-0 in 1972.
But don't discount New York, which led the Patriots by 12 points in the third quarter before falling 38-35 on Dec. 29.
The Giants have won at Tampa and Dallas since, and now at Lambeau Field, where they shut down Brett Favre nearly all game.
Favre, seeking a return to the Super Bowl after a decade's absence, struggled in the minus-3 degree temperature and wind-chills that reached minus-24. He wound up 19-for-35 for 236 yards and two interceptions. The second, by Corey Webster in overtime, set up Tynes' winner.
When Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal with 6:49 remaining, it was just a temporary setback. And when he flopped on the kick that ended regulation, Tynes could only ask for one more try.
Webster gave it to him, and he sent the Giants into the Super Bowl.