JEFF: Missed Opportunities
By Jeff Falconio
As the second half of the NFC Championship unfolded I kept waiting for the light to turn on in the Packers huddle. I kept waiting for Brett Favre to hit a streaking receiver on an inside slant for a first down. I kept waiting for Ryan Grant to find a sliver of a hole, plant his foot, and cutback to daylight. I was waiting for Al Harris or Charles Woodson or Atari Bigby or somebody to force an interception off Eli Manning.
But it never happened. How do you force Manning to make mistakes? Get in his face and bring pressure up the middle. The pressure didn't come in the second half as New York's protection was fantastic other than KGB's third down sack with 3 1/2 minutes left. Manning was unflappable throughout the game and it's very apparent that he is finally reaching the level a quarterback should reach with his pedigree.
Favre had four chances in the final 18 minutes to add to his growing legacy of last minute heroics. However, it was Manning who looked like the confident, seasoned pro. Though his numbers weren't great, Manning routinely hit open wide receivers and looked mistake-free down the stretch. He did everything he could to end the game before overtime but two missed field goals left the door slightly ajar for the Packers.
Heading into the title game there was so much talk about New York's secondary. Surely the injuries to New York's cornerbacks would take its toll against a Packers offense looking its best after last week's win against Seattle. However, it was Corey Webster, pressed into duty because of the injuries, who made the backbreaking interception in overtime. Webster slammed the door shut and Lawrence Tynes finally delivered on his third attempt to win the game. Credit the Giants for a ruthless defense, a precise offense and a well-executed game plan worthy of a conference champion.
Probably the most painful reality about this loss is the finality of it. Even though New York had the Packers on the ropes throughout the fourth quarter there were numerous chances to take the lead and win the game. But it never happened. With one swift kick the season was over and the opportunity to make history against the hated New England Patriots passed to the Giants.