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With their win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the New York Giants have earned another trip to the NFC Championship Game. The Giants have previously played in four NFC title games, and they've won them all. They came out on top twice by shutting out their opponent, and twice they've won with a field goal ending the game. Their first appearance came after the 1986 season, when they defeated the Washington Redskins, 17-0. Four years later, they battled the San Francisco 49ers to a 15-13 victory. In 2000, they decimated the Minnesota Vikings, 41-0. And, of course, four short years ago, they went into the Arctic conditions of Green Bay, and edged the Packers, 23-20. While there were many crucial plays in each contest, we've whittled them down to five. And we're doing a little cheating, also, as one is not really a play but a decision, and in the spirit of inclusiveness, each game will have to be represented. So here are the Top 5 most important plays in the Giants' four NFC Championship Games.
5. Ike Hilliard's Touchdown Catch on Jan. 14, 2001: Mere minutes into the game, Hilliard and Kerry Collins connected for a 46-yard touchdown, which set the tone for the whole game. If the question after that score was, "Is everything going to be this easy for the Giants on this day?" -- the answer was a resounding, "Yes." The Vikings never put up a fight. After one quarter, the Giants were leading 14-0, at halftime it was 34-0 and the final was 41-0. Hilliard finished the game with two touchdown catches, 10 receptions and 155 yards. Collins threw for 381 yards and tossed five touchdown passes. Earlier in the season, Jim Fassel famously put all his chips on the table, guaranteeing a playoff berth, and his team wound up in first place, with a 12-4 record, and made it to the Super Bowl (we'll stop right there, though, and end on a positive note).
4. Winning the Coin Toss on Jan. 11, 1987: Ok, this isn't really a play, but when the Giants won the coin toss, instead of taking the ball, they elected to take the wind to start the game, as that day featured classic Meadowlands weather conditions: 32-mile-an-hour winds with a wind-chill in the twenties. The Redskins got the ball first, and quickly had to punt into the blustery wind. Steve Cox could only manage a 23-yard boot, giving the Giants the ball at Washington's 47-yard line. The Giants moved the ball into field-goal range, and Raul Allegre kicked a 47-yarder, for what turned out to be the winning points. On their next possession, the 'Skins had to punt into the wind again, and Cox's kick was only slightly longer than his first one, this time a 27-yarder. The Giants took over on the Redskins' 38-yard line, and the short drive culminated in an 11-yard Phil Simms to Lionel Manuel touchdown pass, giving the Giants an insurmountable 10-0 lead. Joe Morris rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter, and the Giants earned their way into the Super Bowl with a 17-0 victory over their NFC East rival. And their coin-toss decision played a huge role in the outcome.
3. Corey Webster's Interception on Jan. 20, 2008: When the game began, the temperature was minus-seven degrees with a wind-chill of minus-27. With Tom Coughlin looking on from the sidelines (and in danger of needing face replacement surgery), the Giants and Packers traded leads all day long. A 6-0 Giant bulge in the second quarter was the biggest margin of the game. Packer kicker Mason Crosby booted a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the first tie of the game, and when the Packers won the coin toss in overtime, things were looking dicey for the Giants. The new overtime rules were not yet in effect, so a simple field goal by the Packers would end the game. But on the second play of the extra period, the old gunslinger Brett Favre threw a not-very-accurate pass to Donald Driver, and Webster jumped in front of the receiver, grabbed the ball and returned it to Green Bay's 34-yard line. The cornerback's interception and nine-yard return set up . . .
2. Lawrence Tynes' Overtime Field Goal on Jan. 20, 2008: The Giants wouldn't have needed to go to overtime if Tynes hadn't missed a field goal attempt with four seconds left in regulation. Or if he had made another attempt earlier in the fourth quarter. This was Tynes' first year with the Giants after spending three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, and if he would have missed this field goal as well, it probably would have been his last year with Big Blue as well. But he had his shot at redemption, lined up for a 47-yarder and put it through the uprights, making him an all-time Giant hero. This was only the third Conference Championship Game to go to overtime, and it was 17 years to the day that . . .
1. Matt Bahr Kicks the Giants Into the Super Bowl on Jan. 20, 1991: This field goal is No. 1 over the Tynes kick because if Bahr would have missed, the Giants would have lost, whereas, though Tynes may have been tarred and feathered in his own locker room with a miss, the game would have continued. Bahr not only kicked the game-winner, but he provided all the scoring for the Giants in their 15-13 win over the 49ers, with 28-, 42-, 46-, 38- and 42-yard field goals. There surely were other memorable, critical plays in this game, including Leonard Marshall's two sacks, one of which knocked Joe Montana out of the game with a concussion and broken finger (which was revenge for a hit on Jeff Hostetler a few moments earlier), and Erik Howard's forced fumble, which was recovered by Lawrence Taylor -- with Steve Young in the game, and driving his team toward the end zone, Roger Craig lost the ball with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter. The Giants marched down field, Bahr kicked a 42-yarder as time expired and the Giants were on their way to their second Super Bowl victory.