The final game of Championship Sunday features two teams not expected to be in the NFC title game, as the New York Giants visit the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers (6:30 pm ET) in Candlestick Park for the George Halas Trophy and the conference’s bid to Super Bowl XLVI.
The Giants battled to make the playoffs, grabbing the NFC’s final spot on the final night of the season by defeating the Dallas Cowboys at home for the NFC East title in a win-or-go-home scenario. Then New York pitched a defensive shutout in a 24-2 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Wild Card Game. Last Sunday, the Giants eliminated the defending Super Bowl champs and No. 1 seed Green Bay 37-20 in the NFC Divisional Playoff. Quarterback Eli Manning threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, and the Giants defense forced four turnovers.
The 49ers had a much easier road to the playoffs, rolling to the NFC West title in a less-than-stellar divisional field. San Francisco survived one of the most thrilling finishes to a playoff game in recent memory, beating New Orleans 36-32 in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game in a game that had four lead changes in the final four minutes, capped off by a 14-yard TD pass from Alex Smith to tight end Vernon Davis with nine seconds to play. Davis set a postseason record for receiving yards by a tight end with 180.
This will be the eighth meeting in the postseason between the Giants and 49ers. San Francisco has a 4-3 lead in the previous seven playoff meetings, but the Giants won the only NFC Championship Game between the clubs, a 15-13 New York victory on the way to the Super Bowl XXV title.
It will be only the second time in an NFL playoff game that two former No. 1 overall NFL Draft selections will square off: the Giants’ Manning (2004) and the 49ers’ Smith (2005).
It will also be the 26th postseason game played at Candlestick Park since 1970, the most playoff games hosted by a stadium in the NFC since 1970. And it is a rematch of a November 13 game womn by the 49ers 27-20 in San Francisco.
Here is a look “Inside the notes …” for the NFC Championship Game from game notes provided by the Giants and 49ers PR staffs as well as the NFL Communications office (via Elias Sports Bureau).
No. 4 seed New York Giants (11-7):
HAKEEM THE DREAM: Hakeem Nicks has 13 receptions for 280 yards and four touchdowns (4, 72, 66 and 37 yards) this postseason. His 72-yard touchdown reception against Atlanta tied a Scott Brunner to Earnest Gray pass for the longest postseason play in franchise history.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a 6-3 career postseason record, including a 4-1 record on the road.
With a win Sunday, Manning could set the record for the most postseason road wins in NFL history. Manning’s four postseason road wins are currently tied for the most with Pro Football Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Roger Staubach, Jake Delhomme, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco (who could also share the record with five if both the Giants and the Ravens win their respective title games).
Manning has compiled a 100.1 passer rating in road playoff games, the third highest total in NFL history (min. 100 attempts).
The quarterbacks with the highest passer rating in road playoff games (min. 100 attempts):
QUARTERBACK POSTSEASON PASSER RATING ON ROAD
Aaron Rodgers 113.0
Ben Roethlisberger 107.3
Eli Manning 100.1
Mark Sanchez 94.3
Drew Brees 91.2
POSTSEASON SUCCESS: Last weekend at Green Bay, New York head coach Tom Coughlin recorded his sixth postseason road victory. With a win at San Francisco this Sunday, Coughlin would tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Landry (7) for the most postseason road wins by a head coach in NFL history.
The coaches with the most postseason road wins in NFL history:
HEAD COACH POSTSEASON ROAD VICTORIES
Tom Landry 7
Tom Coughlin 6
Joe Gibbs 5
Many tied 4
No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers (14-3):
- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, head coach Jim Harbaugh became just the 13th rookie head coach to lead his team to the conference championship game, and just the 4th coach who inherited a team with a losing record the previous season.
- Harbaugh also became just the 5th head coach in franchise history to win his first postseason game.
DAVIS COMES UP BIG:
- TE Vernon Davis recorded 7 recepts. for 180 yds. and 2 TDs vs. NO (1/14). His 180 rec. yds. are the most by a TE in NFL postseason history for a single-game.
- His 180 rec. yds. are the 2nd most in a single postseason game in franchise history (WR Jerry Rice – 215 rec. yds. vs. Cin. – SB XIII).
- Davis’ first TD came on a 49-yd. catch and run from QB Alex Smith.
- Davis was on the receiving end of the game-winning 14-yd. TD pass from Smith with just 0:09 seconds left in the game.
- The 49ers registered 5 takeaways (3 FRs, 2 INTs) vs. NO (1/14), tying the franchise record for most takeaways in a postseason game (four times: last vs. Dal. 1/15/95).
- The 49ers notched 3 takeaways (2 FRs, 1 INT) in the 1st qtr., tying the franchise record for most takeaways in one quarter in a postseason game (12/23/72 vs. Dal. – 3rd qtr. & 1/15/95 vs. Dal. – 1st qtr.).
- The 3 FRs tied the franchise record for the most in a single postseason game. San Francisco recorded 3 FRs vs. Dal. (12/23/72) and vs. Det. (12/22/57).
- The 49ers registered a +4 turnover differential, improving their postseason record when winning the turnover battle to 19-1.
THE NUMBERS GAME:
- 180: TE Vernon Davis notched 7 receptions for 180 yds. and 2 TDs last week vs. NO in the NFC Divisional Round. His 180 rec. yds. are the most by a tight end in a single game in NFL postseason history. The total also ranks 2nd among all players in franchise history (215 rec. yds. by WR Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIII.
- 34: K David Akers has connected on 34 career postseason FGs, which ranks 2nd in the NFL postseason history (K Adam Vinatieri – 45).
- 13: This marks the 49ers’ 13th Conference Championship game appearance, the third-most among all NFL franchises since 1970.
- .783: Since 1980, the 49ers have posted a 18-5 (.783) record at home in the postseason, including an 8-2 record in the last 10 playoff games at home.
A look at the Giants-49ers matchup from NFL Communications:
CLUBS MEET for 8th time in postseason & 49ers lead series 4-3. All-time regular-season series is tied 14-14, incl. 49ers’ Week 10 win (27-20) … SF is 4-1 at home vs. NYG in postseason. Giants won only NFC Champ meeting between teams (1990), 15-13 at SF.
GIANTS: Playing in 18th Champ Game (NFL & NFC), most in NFL history. Are 4-0 all-time in NFC Champ Games. Head coach Tom Coughlin has led NYG to 5 postseason appearances, tied with Bill Parcells for most in team history. Has 6 postseason road wins in career, 1 behind HOFer Tom Landry (7) for most all-time. Giants had 2 players selected to Pro Bowl: QB Eli Manning (2nd) & DE Jason Pierre-Paul (1st) … QB Manning has won 4 consecutive road playoff games. Passed for 330 yards & 3 TDs last week in Div. In postseason career, has passed for 1,904 yards & 14 TDs, most in franchise history. Had franchise-record 4,933 pass yards & 8 300-yard games in reg. season. Has 23 career 300-yard games (incl. playoffs), most in team history. Recorded 7th consecutive season with 3,000+ pass yards & 20+ pass TDs, most in team history. Had 15 4th quarter TD passes in reg. season, most ever in season, topping HOFer Johnny Unitas & Peyton Manning … RB Brandon Jacobs has 4 career rush TDs in playoffs, tied with Joe Morris (4) for most in franchise history. Since start of 2005 (incl. playoffs), has 60 rush TDs, 4th most in NFL. RB Ahmad Bradshaw is 1 of 7 players in NFL with 1,800+ rush yards (1,894) & 80+ receptions (81) since start of 2010 season … WR Hakeem Nicks had 7 catches for 165 yards & 2 TDs last week in Div. Had 6 catches for 115 yards & 2 TDs in WC. Is 3rd WR in SB era with 2+ games in single postseason with 100+ yards & 2+ TDs, joining HOFer Jerry Rice (1989) & Larry Fitzgerald (2008). Nicks’ 165 yards are 2nd most by Giant in playoff game (Bob Schnelker, 1959, 175 yards). Nicks had 72-yard TD in WC & 66-yard TD in Div. Is only player in NFL history with 66+ rec. TD in consecutive games in same postseason. Ranked 2nd on team in reg. season with 76 catches, 1,192 yards & 7 TDs. Only player in team history with 75+ catches, 1,000+ yards & 7+ TDs in consecutive seasons. WR Victor Cruz had team-record 1,536 rec. yards in reg. season, 193 more than previous mark (1,343, Amani Toomer). Had team-high 9 rec. TDs in reg. season, incl. 99-yard TD in Week 16, tied for longest in NFL history. Had 5 rec. TDs of 65+ yards in reg. season, 2nd most in season in NFL history (6, HOFer Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, 1951). Had 7 100-yard games in reg. season, most by Giant in season. Cruz (1,536) & Nicks (1,192) are 1st set of Giants to each record 1,000+ rec. yards in same season. WR Mario Manningham has 20 career rec. TDs incl. postseason & has TD catch in both postseason games … DE Pierre-Paul ranked 4th in NFL during reg. season with 16.5 sacks. Joined HOFer Lawrence Taylor & Michael Strahan as only Giants with 16+ sacks in season. DE Justin Tuck had 2 sacks in SB XLII, tied for most in postseason game by Giant. In past 24 games (incl. playoffs), DE Osi Umenyiora has 22.5 sacks & 12 FFs. Has 5 career postseason sacks, incl. 2 last week. LB Michael Boley had 2 sacks in Div. CB Corey Webster led team with career-high 6 INTs in reg. season.
49ERS: Make 13th Champ Game appearance. Are 26-17 (.605) in postseason all-time. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is 1 of 3 head coaches in team history to win division in 1st year as head coach (George Seifert, 1989 & Steve Mariucci, 1997). In reg. season, club led NFL with +28 turnover differential, best mark in franchise history. In Div., forced 5 turnovers (3 FR, 2 INT) & had +4 diff. 49ers tied for NFL lead with 8 players selected to Pro Bowl: K David Akers (6th), S Dashon Goldson (1st), RB Frank Gore (3rd), P Andy Lee (3rd), CB Carlos Rogers (1st), DT Justin Smith (3rd), T Joe Staley (1st) & LB Patrick Willis (5th) … QB Alex Smith has won 15 of past 18 starts overall. Passed for 299 yards, 3 TDs & 103.2 rating last week in playoff debut. Also had 28-yard TD run. Joins HOFer Joe Montana & Jeff Garcia as only SF QBs with 3+ pass TDs & rush TD in playoff game. In career (incl. postseason), team is 11-0 when he starts & has 100+ rating. In reg. season, threw 5 INTs, tied for 3rd fewest in season in NFL history (min. 400 att.). Had 17 TDs & his 3.4 TD-INT ratio in reg. season was 3rd best in team history, trailing 2 seasons by HOFer Steve Young (1992 & 1994) … RB Gore rushed for 1,211 yards in reg. season, his team-record 5th 1,000-yard season. Is franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 7,625 yards, passing HOFer Joe Perry (7,344). Rushed for 89 yards & averaged 6.8 yards per carry in Div … TE Vernon Davis had 7 catches for 180 yards (25.7 avg.) & 2 TDs in Div. His 180 rec. yards are most by TE in NFL postseason history & are 2nd most by 49er in playoff game, trailing HOFer Jerry Rice (215 yards, 1/22/89). Since start of 2009 (incl. playoffs), has 28 TDs, most among NFC TEs. WR Michael Crabtree had 1st career postseason TD catch last week. 49ers have won 8 of past 9 (incl. playoffs) when Crabtree has TD catch … Rush defense led NFL in reg. season allowing 77.3 yards per game & total defense was 1st in NFC (308.2). 49ers allowed 3 reg. season rush TDs, fewest in 16-game season (since 1978). Was 1st team in NFL history to not allow rush TD in each of 1st 14 games to start season. Club allowed 229 points (14.3 per game) in reg. season, fewest in NFC & 2nd fewest in NFL. LB Aldon Smith led NFL rookies with 14 sacks, 2nd most ever by rookie in reg. season. Had sack in postseason debut. DT Smith had 7.5 sacks in reg. season & is 1 of 3 players in team history with 6+ sacks in 4 consecutive seasons. Had sack in Div. LB NaVorro Bowman led team in tackles during reg. season. LB Willis has been selected to Pro Bowl in 1st 5 seasons … K Akers set NFL season records with 44 FGs & 166 kicking points. Has scored in 20 consecutive playoff games & passed HOFer George Blanda for 2nd longest streak. Is 2nd in NFL postseason history with 34 FGs & 3rd with 146 points. P Lee had NFL season record 44.0 net punting avg.