The Giants had to go to overtime to do it, but thanks to a muffed punt they will now be traveling to Indianapolis for Super Bowl.
What went right ...
1. Wideout Victor Cruz made the most of the single coverage he saw all afternoon, as he tortured the Niners’ secondary for 10 catches for 142 yards. Cruz’s first half alone would be a great full game for most receivers as he registered eight catches for 125 yards. The first-time playoff entrant recorded his first-career 100-yard day following a 17-yard reception with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. The grab set up a Lawrence Tynes 31-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to give the Giants a 10-7 halftime lead.
2. If not for Cruz’s heroics, quarterback Eli Manning’s stats wouldn’t have been as inflated, but what was more impressive was the way Manning managed the game. Manning, who had a career-best playoff run, finished 32-of-58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Although the weather conditions were less than ideal, and the footballs were slick, Manning was efficient in the red zone against the league’s fourth-best red-zone defense, didn’t turn over the ball and played as well as any passer could considering the elements.
3. Punt returner Kyle Williams, who was subbing in for Ted Ginn, Jr., had two key miscues. His first was a muffed punt with 11:08 remaining in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Devin Thomas at the Niners’ 29-yard line. It was the first turnover by either team in the game. It set up a 17-yard touchdown by Mario Manningham with 8:34 remaining. It was Manningham’s first catch of the game. The second was a strip by rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams at the Niners’ 23-yard line, with 9:32 remaining in the extra session, which was also recovered by Thomas to set up Tynes’s 31-yard game-winning field goal with 7:06 remaining in overtime.
What went wrong ...
1. As bad as Cruz torched the Niners’ defense, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis did the same to Big Blue’s secondary. Davis finished with three receptions for 112 yards, including the opening touchdown on San Francisco’s second possession, and another score for 28 yards with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter. Davis’s size and speed were too much for any Big Blue linebacker or safety.
2. The running game was the Achilles’ heel for the Giants’ offense all season, particularly in short-yardage situations, and Sunday was no different. New York had a tough time converting first downs via the ground and were stymied all afternoon. Ahmad Bradshaw led Big Blue with 74 yards, while Brandon Jacobs could only muster a paltry 13. The short-yardage deficiencies cost the Giants at least four points, as head coach Tom Coughlin eschewed a long field goal in favor of calling Jacobs’s number on fourth-and-one at the Niners’ 38-yard line. The Giants didn’t convert and the rugged Niners’ run defense set the tone.
3. It’s a good thing that there is a two-week layoff between Sunday and the Super Bowl, as Manning may need the extra rest. Manning was sacked six times and knocked down 16 times, as the San Francisco pass rush was hellacious.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.