BRETT FAVRE AND
ELI MANNING MET for a private moment at midfield before the NFC Championship
Game at the Lambeau Icebox on Jan. 20, and the old lion leaned in to get close
to the kid. You could only imagine what they were saying to each
other—something about enjoying the moment because you never know when another
one will come, perhaps, or how odd it was for two sons of the South to be
playing in one of the coldest games in history.
here?" Favre asked.
said. "He didn't make it."
The NFL didn't
need the elder Manning to stage one of the best playoff games in years. His kid
brother did just fine.
The lead changed
frigid hands four times before the Packers tied the game at 20 in the fourth
quarter. After missing field goal tries from 43 yards (high snap) and 36
(inexcusable knuckleball) in the final 6:53 of regulation, New York kicker
Lawrence Tynes won it with a 47-yarder in OT. Eli stepped out of Peyton's
shadow with a 21-for-40, 254-yard passing performance that moved the chains.
Plaxico Burress had the greatest playoff game ever for a Giants wide receiver,
catching 11 passes for 151 yards and embarrassing Pro Bowl cornerback Al
Harris—all while playing with a torn ligament in his right ankle.
take-your-breath-away drama. Favre pump-faking, play-acting and finally
throwing one deep to Donald Driver for a 90-yard touchdown; Giants cornerback
R.W. McQuarters picking off Favre but having the ball popped from his arms
right into the breadbasket of Packers tackle Mark Tauscher; Favre throwing away
the game on an easy interception by corner Corey Webster 47 seconds into
overtime. New York sent out its bruising running backs—mighty mite Ahmad
Bradshaw, the 250th of 255 players selected in the 2007 draft, colliding
helmet-to-helmet with a Packers defender so violently that the impact stripped
much of the paint off Bradshaw's helmet; and 264-pound freighter Brandon
Jacobs, plowing first into cornerback Charles Woodson, who was sent sprawling,
and then into middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who was driven back five
It was the kind of
football you watch and wince at. "Mano a mano," Burress said. "Two
great teams, just trying to survive on the coldest day any of us have played
In fact, it was
the third-coldest game in NFL history, registering -1� with a -23� windchill at
kickoff. One player seemed immune to the conditions. For reasons even he could
not fathom, Burress's game was largely unaffected by the cold. Playing with
heat pads taped to the bottom of his socks, he caught passes behind, in front
of and over Harris, once stealing a jump ball from him. In the third quarter
Burress caught a pass and survived a Jack Tatum-force hit from safety Atari
Bigby, holding on to the ball. Burress jawed with Harris. He squawked at the
Packers' sideline. Time after time he wrestled with Harris past the five-yard
bump zone, skirmishes that were often overlooked by the officials. He played
the game of his eight-year pro career, gutty and physical and intimidating.