CBSSports.com wire reports
http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/gametracke ... super-bowl
Jan. 22, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady got all the help he needed to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl.
Thank you, Billy Cundiff.
The Baltimore Ravens kicker shanked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 victory in the AFC championship game on Sunday.
Usually, vintage Brady doesn't need much assistance in championship settings, but the Patriots much-maligned defense came through, and Brady's 1-yard touchdown dive with 11:29 left proved to be the winning points.
"Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said after throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. "I'm going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple of weeks, but I'm proud of this team, my teammates."
Brady waited out the final tense minutes on the sideline, and then celebrated with the rest of his team when Cundiff's attempt went wide left. The Ravens looked on in stunned horror.
Cundiff had no excuse.
"It's a kick I've kicked probably a thousand times in my career," Cundiff said. "I went out there and didn't convert. That's the way things go."
Next up as the Patriots chase their fourth Super Bowl trophy in Brady and coach Bill Belichick's tenure in New England is the New York Giants, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in overtime Sunday night.
The Patriots were installed as 3-point favorites for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.
In their last trip to the big game, the Patriots had an 18-0 record when they were stunned by the Giants four years ago. They won the NFL championship for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. This time, they head to the Super Bowl with a 10-game winning streak.
Before Cundiff missed, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead two plays earlier, but wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore, who earlier was victimized for a touchdown that gave Baltimore (13-5) the lead 17-16.
On his touchdown, Brady took a huge hit from Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, then emphatically spiked the ball as he walked away. Earlier, Brady showed his fire by barking at Lewis following a hard tackle on a 4-yard run.
"It's a pretty mentally tough team," said Brady, whose fifth trip to the Super Bowl will equal John Elway's achievement with Denver. "There's really some resiliency. We've shown that all season. Even in the games we've lost, the three games we lost, we fought until the end. We're always going to fight to the end. It's great to be a part of a team like this."
Baltimore had the touted defense in this matchup, but New England's unit, ranked 31st overall, was just as powerful.
"We stepped up," Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We all stepped up big time. Being in this situation is a great moment. You have to cherish this moment."
The Patriots shut down Ray Rice, the league's total yardage leader, who was limited to 78 yards. Brandon Spikes made a fourth-quarter interception of Joe Flacco, who played well before that and threw for two touchdowns. And when the Ravens were threatening to score a late touchdown to win their first conference title in 11 years, New England clamped down.
"It's two great football teams, two gladiators, I guess, just kind of going at each other at the end, and I'm proud of our guys," Harbaugh said. "You know, we've got 53 guys, mighty men, as we like to call them -- and they fought, and we came up a little bit short, as 53. You know, 53 win and 53 lose."
With Rice a nonfactor, Baltimore had to rely on Flacco, and he delivered one of his best performances. Flacco has led the Ravens into the playoffs in all four of his pro seasons, but not to the Super Bowl. He was 22 for 36 for 306 yards and touchdowns of 6 yards to Dennis Pitta and 29 to rookie Torrey Smith.
The loss hardly could be blamed on Flacco.
"I don't know if I ever will prove anything," he said. "I just play the same way. We lost; someone has to. But we laid it all out on the field."
Operating against a porous secondary missing its top cornerback, Kyle Arrington, who left in the second quarter with an eye injury, Flacco gave Baltimore its first lead. His short pass on third down to explosive receiver Smith turned into a 29-yard scamper down the right sideline after Moore completely whiffed on the tackle.
Danny Woodhead's fumble on the ensuing kickoff set up Baltimore at the Patriots 28, but a third-down sack forced Cundiff to kick a 39-yard field goal, making it 20-16.
New England didn't flinch.
Brady took the Patriots 63 yards in 11 plays, and seemed to score on a 1-yard run. The call was overruled by replay, though, and on fourth-down, he dived just high enough over the line for the winning points.
"Every inch counts in this game and every foot counts in this game," said 12-year veteran guard Brian Waters, who joined the Patriots this year and is headed to his first Super Bowl.
Defense was particularly dominant early on. The Patriots held Baltimore to minus-4 yards on its first three first-down runs and forced the Ravens to go three-and-out each time. Meanwhile, the Patriots put together a methodical 13-play, 50-yard drive helped greatly by an illegal contact penalty on Lardarius Webb that negated a tipped interception by Bernard Pollard.
But Brady was sacked for the first time by Paul Kruger and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal.
Late in the first quarter, the Ravens changed tactics after Webb picked off a pass intended for Julian Edelman at the Baltimore 30. Flacco rolled right on first down and threw deep down the sideline to a wide-open Smith. Had the pass not been short, Smith likely would have sprinted into the end zone. Instead, it was a 42-yard gain, not bad at all given Baltimore's previous ineptitude with the ball.
Cundiff's 20-yard field goal momentarily tied it.
Brady, perhaps peeved by his poor throw that Webb picked off, hit two passes for 29 yards on a 75-yard drive to make it 10-3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 36 yards on that series, and also drew a personal foul against Webb, who ripped off the running back's helmet on a short rush. Green-Ellis surged into the end zone from the 7, then pointed to the patch on his jersey honoring Myra Kraft, the late wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
In the locker room afterward, Kraft was asked about the motivation the team got from dedicating the season to his wife of 48 years. Kraft tapped an MHK pin on his left lapel and kissed his fingers before pointing upward.
"They're an amazing team, they're a great brotherhood, they're a family," Kraft said.
Going back to the pass, the Ravens tied it on a 6-yard throw to Pitta -- yes, Baltimore has some dangerous tight ends, too -- that concluded an 80-yard march. Flacco opened the drive with a 20-yard completion to Evans and then Anquan Boldin escaped Arrington's attempted tackle to gain 37 more yards on a reception. Flacco was finding holes in New England's coverage, particularly when he moved out of the pocket.
New England's All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski made an error at the end of a 63-yard drive, failing to keep two feet in bounds on a catch. Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal made it 13-10.
Gronkowski left for a while with a left leg problem, but soon returned.
"It doesn't even feel right, especially playing with the veterans here," Gronkowski said. "I watched them go to the Super Bowl as I was growing up and now I'm part of it? It is an unreal moment."
http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/gametracke ... ff-to-xlvi
CBSSports.com wire reports
Jan. 22, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO -- The New York Giants have their own Super Bowl formula: in overtime and on the road.
And with Lawrence Tynes' foot.
Five plays after the 49ers' Kyle Williams fumbled a punt, Tynes kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime, sending the Giants to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 victory over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
In another tight one in this decades-old postseason rivalry, both defenses made key stops before New York capitalized on a rare mistake in San Francisco's resurgent season. Williams' blunder put the Giants in perfect position for another sensational finish in a season full of them.
"That was a tough game. We had to fight for every yard that we got," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "Defense was outstanding, special teams getting us two turnovers was huge. That led to 10 points."
The first three overtime series ended in punts before Williams fumbled. The Giants won it moments later and silenced - for good this time - the towel-waving, poncho-wearing sellout crowd at cold, rainy Candlestick Park.
"It was one of those situations where I tried to turn it upfield and it just didn't work out," Williams said.
Manning and the Giants (12-7) will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis as 3½-point underdogs. The last time the teams met for the NFL title, 2008, the Giants ended the Patriots' bid for a perfect season.
Tynes had a hand, er, foot in getting the Giants to that one, too, kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime at Green Bay.
Devin Thomas put the Giants in position by recovering his second fumble of the game after Jacquian Williams stripped the ball from fill-in return man Kyle Williams, who also fumbled earlier to set up a New York touchdown.
"It's my second NFC Championship Game, my second game-winner," Tynes said of his kick 7:54 into overtime. "It's amazing. I had dreams about this last night. It was from 42, not 31, but I was so nervous today before the game just anticipating this kind of game. I'm usually pretty cool, but there was something about tonight where I knew I was going to have to make a kick. Hats off to Eli, offense, defense. Great win."
Manning went 32 of 58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns and overcame six sacks in his record fifth road playoff win, New York's fifth in a row overall.
Manning threw a go-ahead 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham with 8:34 remaining after Kyle Williams fumbled for the first time.
The Giants challenged that the ball touched Williams' right knee and Thomas recovered with 11:06 left and coach Tom Coughlin won, giving the Giants the ball back at the 29.
"That was a tremendous football game for those that really enjoy football at it's very basic element," said Coughlin, who matched former Cowboys coach Tom Landry for most road playoff wins with seven. "Just a classic football game that just seemed like no one was going to put themselves into position to win it. Fortunately we were able to do that."
A 12-point underdog in the 2008 title game, the Giants battered Brady and got a last-minute TD pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress to win their third Super Bowl. Five months ago, Manning declared he was in the same class as Tom Brady. Now, he'll get another chance to outdo him on the NFL's biggest stage.
During this playoff run, he's already outplayed Aaron Rodgers and the defending champion Packers, and fellow former No. 1 pick Alex Smith.
Victor Cruz set the tone Sunday with eight of his 10 receptions in the first half and finished with 142 yards.
"It's just been a tremendous effort by all of us, man," Cruz said. "We understand that any one of us can get hot at any moment. As long as we're all on the same page and just playing together, man, we've got a great group of guys."
Vernon Davis caught touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards and wound up with three catches for 112 yards for the NFC West champions (14-4), who went from 6-10 a year ago to a contender and ended an eight-year playoff drought.
"It will be a tough one. It will take a while to get over," Harbaugh said.
The only other time these two franchises faced off in the conference championship the game finished in memorable fashion. On Jan. 20, 1991, Roger Craig fumbled with the 49ers leading 13-12 late in the fourth quarter and the Giants went on to win 15-13 to deny San Francisco a chance at a third straight Super Bowl title. New York then beat the Bills to capture its second Super Bowl.
These teams met six times in the playoffs between the 1981 and `94 seasons with the winner going on to win the Super Bowl four times.
Smith went 12 for 26 for 196 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked three times. San Francisco converted only one third down, coming on the final play of regulation as the offense was unable to overcome Williams' blunders.
"We all know him. We know how committed he is to winning," Smith said. "It's not on him. I look at the 1-for-13 on third downs. I know he's going to feel bad, but he's still part of our team. We didn't lose the game there. We lost it across the board offensively. We just couldn't get it done."
The Giants appeared on the verge of collapsing and Coughlin's job status in jeopardy just a month ago, when they fell to 7-7 with an embarrassing loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 18.
They were facing elimination the following week against the Jets and Rex Ryan, but the Giants won 29-14. They followed with a 31-14 win over Dallas in the regular-season finale to win the NFC East and get to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
New York dominated Atlanta at home in the opening round, and then came another stunner: a 37-20 victory at Green Bay.
New England Patriots vs New York Giants
Money buys a man's silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.