Four years later, the Giants and Patriots will meet in the Super Bowl again.
The Giants beat the Patriots at Super Bowl XLII four years ago, and they earned an opportunity to play the Patriots at Super Bowl XLVI by beating the 49ers in overtime of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night, 20-17.
It was a Lawrence Tynes field goal that ended the game, but the special teams player who set up the Giants in field goal range will get even more attention than Tynes in the post-game discussions: The goat for the 49ers, punt returner Kyle Williams.
Williams muffed a punt in the fourth quarter to set up the Giants’ game-tying score and then fumbled a return in overtime to set up the Giants’ game-winning score. Williams was only returning punts for the 49ers because the regular return man, Ted Ginn, missed the game with an injury. That injury may have cost San Francisco a trip to the Super Bowl.
But this game was about more than just Williams. It was about Victor Cruz having a sensational game for the Giants. It was about Eli Manning, who was sacked six times, nonetheless persevering to complete 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And it was about Tom Coughlin once again having his team ready to play its best football at the most important times.
For the 49ers, Vernon Davis caught touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards. But there weren’t enough big plays on offense other than that, and the 49ers’ offense was dreadful on third downs.
Both offenses were dreadful for long stretches of the game, leading to a whopping 22 punts — 12 for the Giants and 10 for the 49ers.
But in the end, it was a fumbled punt by the 49ers that made the difference, and the Giants capitalized and are heading to the Super Bowl.