Pats to Face Upstart Giants in Final Test

It was a wild Championship Sunday, with both the NFC and AFC Championship games going down to the wire under especially frigid conditions. The outcome was something very few pundits expected. On one hand, one team that everyone expected to move on did just that , but another team that nobody expected to win reached Super Bowl XLII. The underdog New York Football Giants surprised everyone by earning a trip to Arizona and will face the 18-0 New England Patriots, which is a rematch of the close-fought Week 17 game that secured the Pats’ undefeated regular season. Here’s how it all went down.

The early game featured New England and the San Diego Chargers. Everybody knows the Patriots’ story with their record-breaking offense and sly head coach. The surprise was their opponent, as just about every breathing human predicted (and desperately hoped for) a New England versus Indianapolis rematch in the title game. However, the Chargers had dispatched of the reigning Super Bowl champion Colts a week earlier, pulling off a stunning upset in Indy without the services of QB Philip Rivers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates, all of whom were injured for most of the game. So there would be no Brady/Manning Bowl this year, and the banged-up Chargers took the field in New England.

Rivers delivered a heroic performance for San Diego, playing on a knee that had been operated on only six days before. He kept his team in the game until the very end. Ironically, it was Tomlinson who sat on the sidelines after only two carries because of a sprained knee ligament suffered the week before. Even Gates played about half the snaps with a dislocated toe. Tomlinson seems to be catching A-Rod-itis, playing dominantly during the regular season but perennially failing during the playoffs. It is true that the All-Pro running back was injured, but we all know that big players find ways to play in big games (such as his quarterback).

Thus in the end, the Patriots rolled on with a 21-12 victory despite the three picks thrown by QB/stud muffin Tom Brady. Laurence Maroney was the main offensive weapon used by the Pats.The defense made the big plays when they counted, holding the Chargers to field goals from within the ten-yard line on three occasions.

While the temperature was cold in New England (around 20 degrees at game time), it seemed like mid-July compared to the icebox that was Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It was there, with the temperature at -1 at game time, that the Packers and Giants met in one of the most exciting and unpredictable games in postseason history. Green Bay was coming off a monster 13-3 season in which Brett Favre played like it was 1997, and the Packers’ defense morphed into one of the league’s best units. The Giants on the other hand were plagued by inconsistency all year in almost all aspects of their game and entered the playoffs as the fifth seed in the NFC. After beating Tampa Bay handily in the Wild Card round, they pulled off an upset against the first seeded Cowboys in the Divisional round, earning a trip to Lambeau.

Throughout the day, Eli Manning continued his remarkable playoff turnaround, throwing for over 200 yards with no interceptions. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for over 125 yards with no fumbles, while Green Bay’s emerging star Ryan Grant was held to 29 yards rushing on the day. Giants’ WR Plaxico Burress was burning Pro Bowl CB Al Harris, while New York’s banged-up secondary held Brett Favre in check besides one unbelievable 90-yard reception by Donald Driver. Chances are that anyone who saw this play knows that it was more of a Donald Driver reception than a Brett Favre pass.

While all pre-game signs pointed to a blowout win for the Packers, the score stood at 20-20 with four seconds remaining on the game clock. Even more inexplicably, New York kicker Lawrence Tynes was lining up for a 36-yard game-winning field goal to put the Giants into the Super Bowl. But, with the wind whipping around the subzero tundra, Tynes missed the game winning field goal – by a mile. Before anybody knew what was happening, the Packers had won the overtime coin toss and received the kickoff; the momentum of the game had completely shifted. However, there was still one twist in store for Ice Bowl II. In the second play of overtime, Favre threw an ill-advised pass towards the sideline where Giants’ CB Corey Webster intercepted the ball at the Green Bay 35-yard line. After the Giants got to the 30-yard line, Tynes came back on the field to attempt another game-winning field goal. He nailed it, and the Giants were vaulted into the Super Bowl.

In the end, there will be a Brady/Manning Bowl in this year’s playoffs, but it will be Eli representing the Manning Clan instead of big brother Peyton. Storylines seem to be everywhere, including the game being another classic battle between Boston and New York sports teams. In addition, the regular season finale between the teams was the most watched non-playoff game of the decade, so interest in the matchup is certainly high.