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Two Cool Customers

Laurence Maroney carries the offensive load to vault the Patriots into Super Bowl XLII with a 21-12 victory over the Chargers. Hours later, Eli Manning ensured his family would have a Super Bowl quarterback for the second straight year, leading the Giants to a 23-20 overtime upset of the Packers in the third-coldest playoff game in NFL history.

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By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008

GREEN BAY, Wis., Jan. 20 -- At the moment that mattered most, Lawrence Tynes ran Sunday night. The New York Giants place kicker didn't look to Coach Tom Coughlin, didn't wait for the decision that might not be so clear, didn't hesitate to see if someone wondered whether a 47-yard field goal to go to the Super Bowl was too long for someone who had missed two easier attempts on a bitterly cold evening.

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Rather, he sprinted onto the Lambeau Field grass on that fourth down in overtime of the NFC championship game. The team's holder, Jeff Feagles, saw Tynes run, and he grabbed his helmet and sprinted, too. By that time, Coughlin, helpless to stop either of them, simply stood on the sideline and hoped.

So when Tynes's kick soared straight into the air, slicing through the north goal posts at Lambeau Field, silencing the largest crowd in the stadium's history and sending the Giants to the Super Bowl with a 23-20 victory, Tynes ran again.

The Giants celebrated, throwing their blue parkas into the air. The team's executives screamed in the press box, and Tynes sprinted across the grass, through the tunnel on the other side of the field, up the staircase, through the double doors and down the long corridor to the warmth of the first locker in the visiting team's dressing room.

There finally he paused.

So many people to think about: his wife, Amanda; his twin sons; Coughlin, who had been so good to him; and Feagles. How could he forget Feagles who, as a punter in the NFL for 20 years, had never been to a Super Bowl? Feagles was the only person Tynes thought about when they lined up for the final kick.

"Get this guy to the Super Bowl," was Tynes's last thought in the seconds before he sent them all to the Super Bowl.

On the coldest playoff night in years, the second coldest at Lambeau, where wind chills reached 24 degrees below zero, the Giants might have been the most unlikely of winners and Tynes the most improbable of heroes. No one much gave the Giants a chance in the icy Green Bay air. The 72,740 who filled Lambeau on Sunday evening did so in anticipation of a coronation, one last Super Bowl for Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

Tynes, twice given a chance to win the game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, had failed miserably in his task. The second -- a simple 36-yard kick at the end of regulation -- skittered to the left of the goal posts.

Yet somehow the Giants endured. And Tynes, up until this moment the goat of the game, remembered how the 14-mph wind was blowing kicks from right to left and adjusted accordingly.

"It's very humbling to miss because I had the feeling of missing" two field goals, he later said of his kick as he stood in an interview room beneath the Lambeau stands.

He said in the minutes after returning to the locker room he was struck by the elation with which the Giants players celebrated, especially those on defense who helped stop Favre several times in the game's waning moments. It was then he understood how close he had come to keeping them away from their dream, how thin the line between ecstasy and infamy can be.


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