Playoff games Sunday
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
Any cold-weather garments Vernon Davis owns are getting tossed aside as quickly as he changed San Francisco's playoff fortunes with a game-winning touchdown catch against the favored New Orleans Saints.
What: No. 2 Baltimore Ravens at No. 1 New England Patriots.
When: 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV: CBS, Cox Channel 4.
Information: Visit www.nfl.com.
What: No. 4 New York Giants at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers.
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco.
TV: Fox, Cox Channel 13.
Information: Visit www.nfl.com.
Instead of gearing up — literally speaking — for a trip to frigid Green Bay, the 49ers (14-3) get to stay right at home in the much-warmer Bay Area to host the New York Giants in the franchise's first NFC championship game since the 1997 season.
The NFC West champion Niners already beat New York 27-20 at Candlestick Park in November, and both teams have come far since Justin Smith batted down Eli Manning's last-ditch pass to seal it in the waning moments.
The Giants stunned the defending Super Bowl champion Packers on Sunday to give San Francisco the home field.
For Eli Manning and the New York Giants, Lambeau Field has become a familiar launching pad. After beating the Green Bay Packers there for the second time in four years, they only hope this trip ends the same way — at the Super Bowl.
Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Giants shocked the Packers 37-20 Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game. Manning threw for 330 yards, sending the Giants to San Francisco for the NFC championship game. The Packers (15-2) might have been the reigning Super Bowl champs, but the Giants (11-7) might be the hottest team in the NFL. They've been on a roll ever since beating the rival Jets on Dec. 24, beating the Dallas Cowboys to get in the playoffs and then blowing out Atlanta in the wild card round.
Manning did the most damage with his throws to Hakeem Nicks, who caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers was 26 of 46 for 264 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also was the Packers' leading rusher with 66 yards on seven carries. But Green Bay had a handful of drops and lost three fumbles, including one on a rare giveaway by Rodgers. The Giants also sacked Rodgers four times.
No team in the NFL had a better home record than the Baltimore Ravens, who are headed to the AFC Championship game on the strength of their 9-0 mark at M&T Bank Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, their path to the Super Bowl calls for a road trip to New England.
Baltimore (13-4) would have had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if not for its mediocre 4-4 record on the road. The Ravens' last loss, a 34-14 beatdown in San Diego, cost them the top seed in the AFC.
So now they've got to face the Patriots (14-3) in Foxborough. Baltimore defeated New England in the playoffs on the road in 2009, but an encore won't be easy.
The oddsmakers agree. The Patriots are favored by 7 ½ points.
If style points and offensive fireworks meant anything, the Baltimore Ravens wouldn't stand a chance of making it to the AFC championship.
Playing defense and protecting the football are what they do best, and that formula led to a 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans, putting Baltimore in the AFC title game against the New England Patriots.
The Ravens (13-4) had almost as many punts (nine) as first downs (11) and scored only three points over the final 46 minutes. But Baltimore wasn't penalized once, didn't commit a turnover, intercepted rookie quarterback T.J. Yates three times and totaled four takeaways — two in the first quarter and two over the final eight minutes.
Baltimore visits New England on Sunday. The Patriots lead the series 6-1, but Baltimore's lone win came in the postseason.
Reed sealed the victory with the Ravens' fourth takeaway, an interception near the goal line in the closing minutes. The Ravens finished 9-0 at home, but this one was anything but easy. Baltimore led 17-3 after the first quarter, and interceptions by Lardarius Webb and Reed in the final 7½ minutes helped the advantage stand up.
Arian Foster ran for 132 yards, the first player ever to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens in the postseason. But Yates' three picks matched the total he had in six regular-season games.
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