Green Bay, Wis. The bone-chilling cold could not stop the white-hot New York Giants Sunday night, and neither could the Green Bay Packers, a crushing holding penalty or two missed fourth-quarter field goals.
In one of the more unlikely runs to the Super Bowl in NFL history, the Giants overcame all kinds of obstacles to capture the NFC championship game with a 23-20 overtime victory against the favored Packers at frigid Lambeau Field.
The Giants, who entered the playoffs as a 10-6 wild card, won their 10th straight road game when kicker Lawrence Tynes made up for his two fourth-quarter misses with a 47-yard field goal that sailed straight through the uprights 2 minutes, 35 seconds into overtime.
After making the kick, Tynes sprinted toward the tunnel leading to the visiting locker room.
"I just wanted to get out of the cold," he said after the teams endured below-zero temperatures and a windchill that got as low as minus-24 during the game.
Tynes had missed a 36-yarder at the end of regulation and when the Packers won the coin toss before the overtime, the sellout crowd roared in anticipation of a home-team victory.
Instead, Giants cornerback Corey Webster stepped in front of receiver Donald Driver and intercepted a Brett Favre pass, giving New York the football at the Packers' 34-yard line.
"I wanted to score because I knew it was cold and it was tough to kick the football," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said.
The Giants' offense, however, managed just five yards before coach Tom Coughlin sent Tynes back on the field for another chance to win the game.
"That last one, it was a good snap, a good hold and the wind was helping us out going that way," Tynes said.
The Giants (13-6) advanced to the title game for the first time since the 2000-01 season by beating Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay on the road. They went just 3-5 at home this season. They had lost to Dallas and Green Bay to start the season and avenged both those losses.
"I don't know if I'm smiling because it's frozen on my face or from being so happy," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We were 0-2 at one point and the whole world was on our back. The coach was getting fired, the quarterback was terrible and the defense couldn't stop anybody. Now look at where we're at."
Where the Giants will be Feb. 3 is Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., for a game against the unbeaten New England Patriots. Manning said it was the Giants' hard-fought loss to the Patriots in their season finale that fueled their postseason run.
For Favre and the Packers (14-4), it was a disappointing end to a surprisingly outstanding season. Favre, however, threw two interceptions and struggled badly in the second half, and it cost him a chance to get back to the Super Bowl at the age of 38.
No snow accompanied the bitter cold at Lambeau, but mustard-colored flags rained down for most of the evening. Time after time, it appeared as if one team had stopped the other only to discover the drive remained alive because of a penalty.
The most costly penalty of the evening came just before the two-minute warning when it appeared as if Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw had broken free for a 48-yard touchdown that would have given New York the lead.
Instead, referee Terry McAulay reached into his pocket, turned on his microphone and announced a holding penalty on Giants guard Chris Snee.
The Giants were back in their own territory, but remarkably Manning, who has not thrown an interception in three playoff games, completed four straight passes and New York got close enough for Tynes to attempt a 36-yard, game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining.
After a high snap, Tynes hit a knuckeball that sailed wide left. It was his second miss of the quarter.
"I was thinking, 'I can't believe it,' " Manning said. "But you only think that for a second. Our defense had been stopping them and I still thought we could win the game."