How a Penalty Helped the Giants Win the 2011 NFC Title Game

Patricia Traina

The deeper a team advances into the postseason, the less room there is for error, particularly when such an error might jeopardize a team’s chance at scoring in a critical situation.

But for the New York Giants, a penalty they endured on what ended up their game-winning field goal in overtime was a welcomed one.

To recap, the Giants and 49ers, playing in the 2011 NFC Championship game, set in windy, rainy, and muddy conditions at Candlestick Park, had battled to a 17-17 tie at the end of regulation.

The Giants were determined to escape the game with a win - a game in which quarterback Eli Manning was knocked around like a pinata to the tune of six sacks and 12 quarterback hits

The Giants would get that chance on a big play by their special teams unit coming on 4th-and-13 when Jacquian Williams reached back at 49ers returner Kyle Williams’ arm that caused him to lose the ball. The fumble was recovered by Devin Thomas to set the Giants up with 1st-and-10 from the San Francisco 24-yard-line in overtime.

On their third and final drive in the overtime period, the Giants began to move the ball. Ahmad Bradshaw ran three straight times, picking up 18 yards total and one first-down conversion.

On 2nd-and-6 from the 49ers’ 6-yard line, Manning kneeled for a loss of two yards to set up the game-winning field goal in the center of the hash marks.

However, the Giants were called for a delay of game penalty just as the ball was snapped. The play didn’t count, but the penalty was the best thing that could have happened for the Giants at that moment.

“On the original spot, there was a little bit of mud, a little puddle,” said kicker Lawrence Tynes.

“We were trying to work around it a little bit, trying to move it about as far to the right as we could off the hash. You don’t want to go too far over it cause then you’re shortening the block angle.”

Had that penalty not been called, Tynes believes his field goal attempt would have been blocked.

But that wasn’t the only benefit of the penalty. By moving the ball back five yards, Tynes found himself working with much better footing.

The 49ers, trying to ice the nerves-of-steel Tynes, called a time out. When play resumed, long snapper Zak DeOssie sent back a low but fielded and quickly placed by holder Steve Weatherford, while Tynes did the rest.

The kicker’s 31-yard field goal in overtime - made in the same end of the field where 21 years earlier Matt Bahr’s 42-yard game-winner sent the Giants to Super Bowl XXV - sent the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI.

“Thank God we got that delay of game,” Tynes said. “You’ve got to have a little luck and fortune, and we got the delay of game. I mean, that one felt like it took an hour to kick, but we made it.” 

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