The New England Patriots and the New York Giants booked a rematch of their dramatic 2008 Super Bowl showdown with tense playoff triumphs on Sunday to reach next month’s NFL championship spectacle.
Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal after 7 minutes, 54 seconds of over-time to give the Giants a 20-17 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers in the National Conference final and a berth in Super Bowl 46 on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.
“It’s amazing,” Tynes said. “I had dreams about this last night. I was so nervous before this game. I knew I was going to have to make a big kick.”
In New England, the Patriots overcame three turnovers and a sub-par performance from quarterback Tom Brady to edge the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in the American Conference final and advance to their seventh Super Bowl.
“We’re going to try to go out and kick some butt in a couple of weeks,” Brady said.
Brady scored the winning points on a one-yard run with 11:29 remaining, but the outcome was not settled until Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining.
“In the NFL, you have to make big plays in pressure situations and he missed,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
Super Bowl 46 will be a rematch of the 2008 title game, in which the Giants edged the Patriots 17-14 to deny New England an unbeaten run to the crown, and a regular-season game in November that was won by the Giants 24-20.
The Patriots have not lost since falling to the Giants, winning 10 games in a row.
“They are a great team,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “We just have to go to Indy and play our best football.”
New York lost four in a row after beating New England, then won three of their last four games just to seize the last vacant playoff berth. They then beat Atlanta and upset Green Bay and the 49ers.
The Giants are 3-1 all-time in Super Bowls, having won in 1987 and 1991, as well as in 2008, while losing to Baltimore in 2001.
New England have won the Super Bowl three times, all under Brady’s direction, in 2002, 2004 and 2005. The Patriots lost the championship spectacle in 1986 and 1997, as well as 2008.
The Giants had the benefit of two botched punt returns by San Francisco’s Kyle Williams in taking the triumph.
“It was just a horrible situation,” Williams said. “You hate to be the last guy to have the ball and give it up that way.”
New York’s Jacquian Williams knocked loose a fumble from the 49ers’ Williams and the Giants’ Devin Thomas recovered at the 49ers’ 24-yard line, setting the stage for Tynes’ winning kick.
“Just a great play at the end of the game to give us a chance to win,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Eli just hung in there and made the plays we needed, displaying the kind of leadership he has shown all season long.”
Another turning point came when New York punted, but then regained possession of the ball when it bounced off the knee of San Francisco’s Williams and it was recovered, setting up Manning’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham, putting the Giants back on top at 17-14 with 8:34 to play.
“Just a great effort,” Manning said. “We hit a couple of big plays and that was the game. I kept telling myself to be patient, not to force anything. We got some turnovers and used that to hurt them. Our defense was outstanding.”
The 49ers, who had two touchdown passes from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis, forced over-time on a 25-yard David Akers field goal with 5:39 left in regulation.