For Giants, it's déjà Blue all over again
Tynes, Manning, Coughlin & Co. take familiar path to Super Bowl rematch with Pats
SAN FRANCISCO -- Lawrence Tynes stopped himself this time, waited for the delirious rush of New York Giants, refused to sprint away from his teammates and through the tunnel like he did in Green Bay four years back.
That was the one difference between overtime at Lambeau Field and overtime at Candlestick Park. The moment his right foot returned the Giants to the Super Bowl for another shot at the Bradys and Belichicks, Tynes decided he needed a hug from his teammates, then another from his wife.
"The last time I ran away," Tynes would say in the locker room of the NFC champs, "it was strictly to get out of the cold."
He ran away from the subhuman conditions at Lambeau, but remained to celebrate in the rain, wind and mud of Candlestick. Tynes lost five yards to a delay-of-game penalty, waited through a 49ers timeout, then embraced the same routine from 31 yards out that he embraced from 47 yards out in Green Bay.
"Three steps back, two over, keep my head down," Tynes said.
Back in Milton, Fla., the kicker's father Larry couldn't believe what he was seeing. "I thought, 'How could this be happening again for Lawrence and the Giants?'" Larry wrote in an email.
Overtime. A sudden-death kick. The New England Patriots waiting on the other side.
The snap was low but the hold and the kick were true. "I shouted so loud, 'Yes, that's my boy,'" Larry Tynes wrote, "that everyone in Milton, Florida heard me."
Lawrence Tynes beat the 49ers on the same side of the field that Matt Bahr beat them in the epic title game from way back when, and the Giants finally surrendered to the obvious.
Yes, you can duplicate moments in time. Yes, you can recapture the glories of your past.
Yes, this was the 2007 season all over again.
"Have you thought about how this is coming down?" a smiling Osi Umenyiora asked his coach, Tom Coughlin, amid the postgame celebration. "Do you realize that this is scary because of the way it is coming about?"
Coughlin didn't want to go there. "I'm trying to fight it," he said later.
It was the only fight Coughlin lost all night.
"I'm sure it will be tremendous copy," he said, "for the two of us matching up again, resuming the 2007/2008 battle."
With big brother Peyton in the house, Eli Manning punched his ticket to Peyton's place in Indianapolis, surviving a fierce beating from the 49ers pass rush to make the biggest play of regulation, the 17-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Mario Manningham on third-and-15.
Eli had become the first quarterback in NFL history to win five playoff games on the road. Peyton marveled over his calm and told reporters his kid brother's demeanor Sunday night was no different than it would be "in the first quarter of a preseason game."
Never one to notarize comparisons of any kind, Eli was too busy agreeing that his second Super Bowl journey feels a whole lot like his first one.
"You can say they're similar," Manning said, "but it doesn't mean the outcome is going to be the same. I'm sure there's going to be comparisons and that's fine, but that's not going to make anything guaranteed."
Plaxico Burress and Giants co-owner Steve Tisch publicly predicted victories over the Patriots last time around, and there are two whole weeks for a Giant or two to emerge with a new forecast to match the old one.
As Umenyiora said, "Everything that happened [then] is happening all over again." All the way down to the 38-35 regular season loss to the undefeated Packers, a sequel of sorts to the 38-35 regular-season loss to the undefeated Patriots in 2007.
"I'll let you know in two weeks if it feels exactly the same," Giants co-owner John Mara said. "But it's special to play that quarterback [Tom Brady], that coach [Bill Belichick], and that organization one more time. It's pretty similar. Let's hope it stays that similar in two weeks."
Mara shook his head over this wild and crazy ride. His team was 7-7, a Week 15 loser at home to the unworthy Redskins, and all it took was one play out of left field to turn the Giants into something of a juggernaut.
"Victor Cruz going 99 yards against the Jets," Mara said. "That play really propelled us. We were not playing well in that game, and all of a sudden from that point on we've been a very good football team."
A team that needed a little luck along the way, luck that once came in the form of David Tyree's head and Asante Samuel's slippery hands. Sunday night, after Kyle Williams all but Bill Bucknered them to the Super Bowl, the Giants actually caught a break on Tynes' field goal when they were flagged for the five-yard penalty.
"I actually got a better spot after the delay of game," Tynes said. "There was a lot of sand where I was going to kick at first, but the five yards put me on a spot where there was plenty of grass."
Steve Weatherford, the holder, knew the conditions might cause Zak DeOssie to take a tragic Candlestick stroll down Trey Junkin Lane. If that wasn't enough cause for concern, Weatherford was aware of this troubling little fact:
"I knew I had 50 million people watching me on TV," he said.
Fifty million people wondering if he would drop that wet, muddy ball, many of them old enough to remember Junkin and Matt Allen and the Jim Fassel follies of that playoff game here gone terribly wrong.
"But I knew if I just got the ball down and the laces out," Weatherford said, "Lawrence was going to score three points and we were going to the Super Bowl."
On the visitors' sideline, Umenyiora was among the Giants certain the 31-yarder would split the uprights like the 47-yarder split the uprights at Lambeau.
"Four years ago," Umenyiora said, "I've seen this exact same thing. I knew he was going to make it."
DeOssie snapped it low, Weatherford made a great scoop, and Tynes did what Tynes does. He couldn't feel the block of ice he kicked in Green Bay, but he sure felt this one.
Tynes lost himself in the jubilation, then ended up in the arms of his wife, Amanda. Weatherford ran about the field screaming, "I'm going to the [bleeping] Super Bowl."
Coughlin hugged one of the titans of the 2007 run, Michael Strahan, who was hardly the lone reminder of the greatest night -- that night in Glendale, Ariz. -- in franchise history.
"It is the weirdest thing I have ever been a part of," Umenyiora said. "I can't really explain it. It is crazy how similar it is to what happened in 2007."
Only this time the Patriots aren't undefeated.
Only this time the Giants won't shock a soul by beating them.
Ian O'Connor is the author of "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." "Sunday Morning With Ian O'Connor" can be heard every Sunday from 9 to 11 a.m. ET on ESPN New York 1050.