The New York Giants are headed to Super Bowl XLVI.  The New York Giants are headed to Super Bowl XLVI.  The New York Giants are headed to Super Bowl XLVI.  I swear to God, one of these times it'll sink in.  

Two months ago the New York Giants had lost five of their last six games.  They were preparing for a Christmas eve game against the New York Jets with an embarrassing home loss to the Washington Redskins a not at all distant memory.  They were a team slowly sinking; staring at the realization that they were a squad destined for mediocrity.  But something happened.  Victor Cruz went 99 yards. The defensive line found life.  They won. With the division on the line, they won again.  The entire defense came alive, they won in the playoffs.  It all clicked, they upset the Packers.  And so they stood, with the sports world wondering what the hell was going on, a 9-7 team on the precipice of a Super Bowl birth.

Despite the tsunami of momentum the Giants were riding, the NFC Championship didn't exactly start with a bang for the club.  After an exchange of punts, Alex Smith dropped back and found Vernon Davis down the sideline for a 73 yard touchdown.  For the first time in four weeks, but about the 600th time this season, the secondary had been burned like something that gets burned a lot - I'm exhausted.  The only man in the NFL who could play both running back and nose tackle's inability to pick up one yard on a fourth and one did little to encourage Giant fans on the ensuing possession.  But the defense would bail out the floundering O.  A punt would give Manning and company the ball back, and the unit would go to work.  Completions to Cruz and Nicks had the Giants marching down the field.  Inside the 49er ten yard line, a touchdown pass to Bear Pascoe - seriously, Bear. Pascoe. - would cap the drive.  It was a shifty little display of Manning's newfound mobility as he avoided pressure, pumped and threw a side arm pass to the tight end for the TD.  7-7.

The defense continued to stand tall with pressure on Smith and defended passes from unlikely places - like the impeccably soul patched Chase Blackburn.  Inside of the two minute warning the Giants had the ball, looking to get a score and take a lead into half time - and thus began the drive of Victor Cruz's glory.  Manning found the salsa-rific wide-out four different times on the drive, with the Giants jumping on his ever-s0-small back, riding him down to the twelve.  The Scottish wonder, Lawrence Tynes, booted through the field goal to take the 10-7 lead.

The field goal didn't exactly send Big Blue to the locker room riding the same marvelous high that last week's Hail Mary had, but it worked.  The G-Men had the lead and they had the momentum heading into half time.  Other than one glaring mistake, Perry Fewell's defense was playing a stellar game.  They were doing enough to stop the run, and were making Alex Smith look, once again, like the quarterback that a year and a half ago was one interception away from the Arena Football League.  Offensively, the Giants were in no way showing the promise that they had fulfilled the last four weeks, but they had the lead, and had found a little bit of momentum.  Manning was playing like Manning, but he was getting little help from an offensive line that was under siege - I'm fighting so hard the urge to show a clip from the Seagal movie -  and not handling it well.  The hard fought, defensive game that was expected had materialized and only one thing was certain heading into the second half, this was going to be a fight.

The defensive theme continued into the third quarter, with three punts opening play.  Like the first half, however, Vernon Davis would find a way to get on the board.  The tight end burned the Giant secondary again - SERIOUSLY?!  AGAIN?! HE'S THE ONLY THREAT ON THE ENTIRE OFFENSE!!!! - and found his way into the end zone.  14-10 49ers.  But as is the Giant way, they wouldn't shrink from the fight.  Defiantly rising to the challenge, Manning would take the ball and lead his offense to...three consecutive punts.

But in a turn of events that not even Miss Cleo saw coming, the Giant special teams were about to make a play. Somehow a Weatherford punt that had fallen harmlessly to the turf some fifteen yards earlier, found the leg of 49er return man Kyle Williams.  Devin Thomas dove on the ball and put the Giants in scoring position.  Alright Giant fans, who had Devin Thomas to make the game-changing play in the pool?  No one?  Seems about right.  I've got be honest, I would have had Mitch Petrus before Devin Thomas but whatever, I'll take it.  The Giants would capitalize on the 49er mistake with a brilliant strike from Manning to Manningham - he wasn't dropping this one.  17-14 Giants.

Larry Tynes' infuriating inability to kick the ball through the end zone opened the ensuing 49er possession, and it didn't get much better from there.  Alex Smith took his team straight down the field for the game tying field goal, 17-17.  From there, defense reigned over this windy, rain filled day from the city by the bay.  Instead of the furious artillery battle that saw four touchdowns in the last two minutes of last week's 49er-Saint game, this game saw some sort of Cold War stalemate with six failed possessions to end the game.  We'd take this to overtime.

After an explanation of the over time rules that: 1.  I'm pretty sure wasn't correct, and 2.  Was so longwinded that it made Charles Dickens seem the picture of brevity, the Giant would take the ball - TAILS NEVER FAILS - and promptly punt.

The Giants defense held however, and once again it would be special teams that made the difference - Microsoft Word just underlined that sentence as grammatically incorrect.  When I clicked on it all it said was "Giant Special Teams made a play?  You sure?" - Kyle Williams fielded the Weatherford punt cleanly this time, but just a few steps into the return he was stripped by Jacquian Williams and once again that dynamic talent - no word on what that talent actually is - Devin Thomas recovered it deep in 49er territory.  With a few Bradshaw runs, Big Blue was inside the five and Tynes was on for the chip shot formality - though they just had to take the "Delay of Game" penalty didn't they, and the snap just had to be low didn't it, they just had to twist the knife.  But how dare I doubt the Scotsman?  This is Larry F-ing Tynes we're talking about.  With one sweet, swift kick, he'd convert and send the Giants to the Super Bowl.  20-17.

It wasn't the decisive, impressive win that Giant fans have gotten used to over the last four weeks, but it was a win.  Eli Manning was brilliant once again for the Giants, hanging tough behind a dreadful offense line  to repeatedly convert big third downs and get his team the scores that they needed.  The Giant defense was once again stellar, holding Alex Smith to under 180 yards passing and repeatedly making big plays when they were asked to, keeping the Giants in position to go win the game late...Very late.

And I've got to be honest folks, I can't take this any more.  I mean seriously, the "easy" wins are nerve-wracking and the close wins - like this one - are just down right agonizing.  I've been sitting for the past three hours and my legs hurt, this is what this team does to me.  If I make it through the Super Bowl without having a massive coronary I'll be shocked..."If I make it through the Super Bowl"...Aww to hell with the blood pressure, THE GIANTS ARE NFC CHAMPIONS!  WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!  BRING ON THE PATRIOTS!!!!  - There.  It just sunk in.  This wasn't a pretty win for the Giants, it wasn't their fifth straight "Best game of the season," but it was a win.  They won the damn game, and they've won the right to head to Indianapolis - another step in what has been a magical run for a team that was all but packed for home just a month ago.  G-MEN!

Grades: Defensive Line - A: They made a lot of plays when they needed to, specifically late in the game when the 49ers had chances to go win it for themselves.  Well done.

Line Backers - A-: Yes, the Niners ran for a lot of yards, but the stats are a bit deceptive.  At no point did the 49er running game take over this game, and I think the Line Backers had a lot to do with that.

Defensive Backs - B+: Any time a QB is held under 200 yards, the secondary did a good job.  All in all, this could have been an A, then again: YOU LITERALLY HAD ONE GUY TO WORRY ABOUT AND HE BEAT YOU TWICE FOR TOUCHDOWNS, COME ON?!  Overall though, good job.

Special Teams - A+: Two game-changing turnovers.  They won this game.

Offensive Line - D: Your QB got hit 20 times in this game.  Shame.  SHAME!

Running Backs - B: Good effort with little help.

Wide Receivers - B: Nothing unbelievable, but certainly in no way a bad game.  Victor Cruz?  A++

Eli Manning - A: It's hard to say enough about Manning's game.  The man was beaten with a ferocity that I don't think he's ever seen before.  He was hit more by this 49er defense than Rocky was by Ivan Drago, and yet, like the Italian Stallion, Manning kept getting up, and kept doing work. His second half left something to be desired, but his overall game was nothing short of brilliant.  Once again, it may not have been the performance that Giant fans were looking for, but with his movement in the pocket, and his clutch throws in clutch situations, Manning was the exact QB that the Giants needed today.  Excellent.

The New York Giants are headed to Super Bowl XLVI - it's already sunk in, it just feels good to say now.  Check back here during the week for Part I of my Super Bowl preview, and as always, Go Giants!