Correct me if I’m wrong, but it isn’t every day you see something worse than a professional kicker miss a 32 yard field goal. To tie the game. In the AFC championship game!! With 11 seconds on the clock. Talk about a heartbreaking, dramatic ending! There’s no way the next game can live up to this one. Or can it?
A Brawl in Candlestick
After three hard fought quarters, the score was 14-10 San Francisco, and I was thinking that this hard hitting, ball hawking, fundamentally sound defense was going to carry these 49ers straight to Indianapolis for a date with fate. The football gods just didn’t see it that way. The Giants get the ball in the fourth and that defense that I mentioned stopped them, forcing the punt. In my head, I’m thinking, ok, Frank Gore is going to run most of the clock out, they’ll at least get a field goal out of it, and they should be sitting pretty. Away goes the punt. Quite possibly, the most (now) infamous player in San Francisco, number 10, Kyle Williams…enter stage right. I’m not sure what this young man was thinking, but he got a little too close to the rolling ball, and not only did the ball glance off his knee, but he didn’t react to it AT ALL!! It was like he tried to pretend that didn’t just happen. Maybe he thought the refs wouldn’t notice? I have no idea, but the Giants recovered it at the 49ers 29 with 11:06 to play. With 8:34 left, Eli Manning completed a 17 yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to put the Giants up 17-14.
No big deal. Plenty of time on the clock, it’s only a field goal difference. Maybe you saw last week’s game with the Alex Smith/Vernon Davis connection? No need for any panic. Sure enough, they drove down the field and David Akers kicked a 25 yard chip shot with 5:39 remaining to tie the game up. That would complete the scoring in regulation.
Overtime, and the Proverbial Nail
The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive. They were stopped and forced to punt. Now, with the new postseason overtime rules, all the Giants need is a field goal to win the game since they weren’t the first team to possess the ball. That in itself was a little nerve wracking. At first it looked like they were going to get something going, but ultimately, the 49ers defense held up and forced the punt. It’s looking better and better for the Niners. Guess who’s entering stage right again? You guessed it. Off goes the punt, fielded cleanly by Williams, he starts running it back. Now, before I go any further, please, comment below and tell me what you think about this. I’m about to tell you what I think, but I’m curious to know what others think. Anyway, he gets hit by Jacquain Williams and the ball comes out. People are saying it was “stripped” but it wasn’t a strip. He got hit, and he dropped the ball. Figuratively and literally. Five plays later, the Giants were kicking a 31 yard game winning field goal.
Goat of Goats
So, my question is, who is the biggest goat of Championship Sunday? Is it Lee Evans for dropping the pass in the end zone that would have won the game for the Ravens? Is it Billy Cundiff who missed a 32 yard tying field goal? Or is it Kyle Williams, who turned the ball over TWICE, once in the fourth quarter to give the Giants the lead, and then again in overtime to give them the win? Personally, I think it’s Williams. Granted, he’s a rookie, he’s not their starting punt returner, but he’s still a professional, he’s still been practicing. Why was he so close to the first punt? Why wasn’t he carrying that rock like it was an atom bomb and if he dropped it the Earth vaporizes? Sure, hindsight is 20/20. Sure, it’s a lot easier being a Monday Night quarterback.
My hat’s off to Eli and the entire Giants team. They’ve pulled off some impressive wins this post season and just continue to impress. On the other hand, I can’t imagine being Kyle Williams, Lee Evans, or Billy Cundiff and have to go home to face those fans. Even with the most understanding fans in the world, there’s always that feeling of disappointment, like when you were a kid and you let your dad down…he wasn’t mad, he just looked at you that certain way. Ouch.