SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Lawrence Tynes kicked a winning 31-yard field goal in sudden-death overtime and the New York Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in the NFC championship game Sunday night to reach its second Super Bowl in five seasons.
Devon Thomas put the Giants in position. He recovered his second fumble of the game after Jacquian Williams stripped the ball from fill-in return man Kyle Williams.
Saying “it wasn’t there for us today,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters afterward that he was proud of the way his team played in the game, adding that “a man can be destroyed but he can’t be defeated.”
That said, Harbaugh admitted, “It will take a while to get over (the loss).”
KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:
The fact that a turnover did in San Francisco was truly surprising. The 49ers tied an NFL record with just 10 giveaways all season – including none on special teams – and had a plus-28 turnover margin in the regular season. They took advantage of five New Orleans turnovers to win 36-32 last week but were on the wrong end in this game because of Williams, returning kicks in place of the injured Ted Ginn Jr.
“You hate to be the last guy that had the ball, to give it away in that fashion and to lose a game of this magnitude,” Williams said.
The 49ers’ David Akers kicked a 25-yard field goal with 5:39 remaining in regulation to even the contest at 17-17 and send the game into overtime.
Earlier in the fourth, Williams also had muffed a punt to set up a go-ahead touchdown for New York. Six plays later, Eli Manning to complete a 17-yard laser pass to Mario Manningham for a Giants lead of 17-14.
In the 3rd, Alex Smith and Vernon Davis connected for their second touchdown pass of the game to help the 49ers take a 14-10 lead.
Smith threw a 73-yard TD pass to Davis in the first quarter and then completed only two more passes over a span of more than two quarters before connecting again midway through the third.
One play after a 24-yard dumpoff to Frank Gore, Davis got deep down the sideline behind safety Kenny Phillips to catch another big pass from Smith.
Davis now has four touchdowns in his first two career playoff games, joining Jerry Rice as the only Niners with consecutive two-touchdown receiving games in the postseason.
Davis had set a playoff record for tight ends with 180 yards receiving and the two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 9 seconds remaining, in a 36-32 victory over New Orleans last week.
The two big plays by Davis more than made up for a big first three quarters by New York’s Victor Cruz, who caught 10 passes from Manning for 142 yards.
His 36-yard reception set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Bear Pascoe early in the second quarter that tied the game. Cruz then caught four passes for 56 yards after New York took over at its 36 with 1:36 to go in the half to set up Tynes’ 31-yard field goal that made it 10-7 at the break.
The game was played in a steady rain and with strong winds, and each team fumbled once early in the game but recovered.
On the second play of San Francisco’s second drive, Davis beat safety Antrel Rolle and got loose down the sideline. He pulled down the pass from Smith and raced into the end zone. He then jumped up onto a camera stage and posed, drawing a personal foul for excessive celebration.
Davis appeared as if he might have stepped on the sideline, but after a review, referee Ed Hochuli said there was not indisputable evidence and ruled that the touchdown would stand.
Davis got called for another personal foul in the second quarter for unnecessary roughness for jumping on Deon Grant’s back after a skirmish between New York’s Michael Boley and San Francisco’s Anthony Davis.
He did a dance after his second touchdown and was not penalized.
The Niners were looking to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 seasons. Under rookie coach Jim Harbaugh, they won the NFC West with a 13-3 regular-season record to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The Giants won their final two regular-season games to clinch the NFC East, then knocked off Atlanta at home and won at top-seeded Green Bay last week to make it to the conference title game.
The day got off to a bad start for the Harbaugh family, who had been hoping for a “Superbaugh” in two weeks in Indianapolis. John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens lost the AFC championship game 23-20 to the New England Patriots.
(© 2012 CBS San Francisco. The Associated Press and CBS Sports contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)