BRETT LOOKS OLD
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ELI HAS RISEN TO THE LEVEL OF KERRY COLLINS, CAN HE JOIN THE GODS ?
Manning repeatedly put the Giants in position to win the NFC championship Sunday, and when Lawrence Tynes came through at last with a 47-yard field goal in overtime, New York had itself an improbable 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers at frostbitten Lambeau Field.
Now comes Mission Impossible: beating the undefeated New England Patriots in two weeks in a Super Bowl matchup hardly anyone saw coming.
"We haven't been given a shot, but we're here and I think we're deserving of it," Manning said. "Right now I'm excited as I can be."
Manning wasn't the only Giant who came through. Tynes had two earlier misses - a 36-yarder at the end of regulation following a bad snap, and a 43-yarder with 6:49 to go - before nailing his long winner 2:35 into OT.
He got a reprieve in overtime after Corey Webster intercepted a struggling Brett Favre - the kind of mistake Manning often has made before his recent turnaround.
"I screwed it up twice," said Tynes, who sprinted straight to the locker room after his decisive kick, leaving his frozen teammates to celebrate outside. "Thank God we got another opportunity."
Eli's arrival comes one year after older brother Peyton won a Super Bowl for the Indianapolis Colts, earning MVP honors to boot. Peyton stayed away Sunday, but father Archie was on hand for the biggest moment of his youngest son's career.
"We knew we could compete with anybody," Manning said. "It's just a matter of getting hot at the right time."
Nobody, not even league MVP Tom Brady, is hotter than Eli.
Just a month ago, Eli's moxie was being questioned as the Giants struggled to clinch a wild-card berth. He responded with the best work of his four-year career, including four touchdown passes in the season finale against the Patriots.
He and the Giants are getting another shot at New England, the first team to go 18-0. The Patriots will be after their fourth Super Bowl title in seven years on Feb. 3, as well as the league's first perfect season since Miami went 17-0 in 1972.
But don't discount New York, which led the Patriots by 12 points in the third quarter before falling 38-35 on Dec. 29.
"Heck, they could win two weeks from now," Favre said. "I wouldn't put it past them."
The Giants (13-6) had a handful of opportunities to put away the Packers (14-4) as Favre struggled with the minus-3 degrees temperatures and wind-chill of minus-24.
Along with Tynes' misses after making two first-half kicks, the Giants fumbled their first interception, allowed a long kickoff return after taking a lead, and had some critical penalties that kept Green Bay closer than it probably deserved to be.
Still, the Giants grabbed their first NFC championship in seven years, capping a monthlong surge that reversed a trend of mediocrity built around Manning's inconsistency. He has been a revelation in the playoffs, however, and his calm leadership keyed New York's turnaround.
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