SAN FRANCISCO – The New York Giants advanced to their fifth Super Bowl, causing fumble on a punt return and converting it into a field goal five plays later to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, in overtime in the NFC championship game.
Lawrence Tynes delivered the 31-yard kick 7:54 into overtime.
In Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, the Giants will play the New England Patriots, who earlier Sunday defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, for the AFC title.
Tynes’ kick was set up by a second costly mistake by San Francisco punt returner Kyle Williams.
Filling in for injured Ted Ginn Jr., Williams had his overtime return knocked loose by New York’s Jacquian Williams, and Giants teammate Devin Thomas recovered the ball at San Francisco’s 24-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, the Giants took a 17-14 lead with 8:34 remaining in the fourth quarter when quarterback Eli Manning connected with receiver Mario Manningham on a 17-yard touchdown pass.
That score was assisted by Kyle Williams letting a Giants punt softly strike him on the right knee, with Thomas scooping up the loose ball at the 49ers’ 29-yard line.
Manning, who engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season, converted a third-and-seven with a completion to Hakeem Nicks, then let Manningham out-jump defensive back Tramaine Brock for the score on a third-and-15 pass.
Williams achieved some atonement with an ensuing kick return to the 49ers’ 45. A 17-yard scramble by 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and 18-yard run by Kendall Hunter moved the ball inside the Giants’ 20, and kicker David Akers tied the score 17-17 with a 25-yard field goal.
The 49ers believed they recovered a fumble in field-goal range in the final three minutes of regulation, but running back Ahman Bradshaw’s loss of a ball stripped by linebacker NaVorro Bowman before being tackled was ruled instead as stopped forward progress, and New York retained possession at its own 21.
The Giants made it to San Francisco’s thanks to Manning surviving the 49ers’ massive pass rush to find Bradshaw for 30- and four-yard completions, but faced with a fourth-and-three with 27 seconds remaining, Giants Coach Tom Coughlin opted to punt.
Williams earlier slipped on a part of the field left exposed longest to pre-game deluges more than midway through the third quarter, short-changing his 24-yard return.
But with the rain stopped, Smith found running back Frank Gore for 24 yards on an outlet pass
From there, Smith lofted a pass to the left side of the end zone that Vernon Davis ran under, beating safety Kenny Phillips to the spot and hanging on as defensive back Corey Webster hit him for a 14-10 49ers’ lead with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
A light rain turned more intense through the first quarter, with a high-wind alert in effect in the area. Winds were measured at 16-mph inside the stadium.
The early elements didn’t stop Smith from unleashing a long pass up the right sideline to tight end Vernon Davis, who beat defensive back Antrel Rolle by two steps, then narrowly remained in-bounds for a 73-yard touchdown with 7:11 left in the first quarter.
Manning started 6-of-11 passing and his throws appeared to deteriorate because of the heavier rain pellets, but receiver Hakeem Nicks returned from a shoulder injury and got behind a defender for a 40-yard gain to the San Francisco 29.
Two more Manning first-down passes moved the Giants inside the 10, and he then found tight end Bear Pascoe for a six-yard touchdown to tie the score 7-7 with 11:15 left in the second quarter.
By halftime, however, San Francisco gained only three more first downs after the Davis touchdown_all on one series. The 49ers reached the Giants’ 43 and lined up to try to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-1, but instead balked, took a delay-of-game penalty and punted.
Smith completed just two of seven passes for 79 yards in the first half.
Following a three-and-out series, Manning took over at his own 36 and marched the Giants 51 yards in 1:34. Three of the four plays were connections with receiver Victor Cruz, including a leaping grab at the 49ers’ 21 that Manning threw under duress.
Tynes then kicked a 31-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, giving the Giants a 10-7 halftime lead.