With three minutes left in the game, the score knotted 17-all and each team having weathered the other's best punch, we asked on Twitter: who wins the game, and who makes the game-winning play? We got votes for the San Francisco 49ers and David Akers, we got votes for the New York Giants and Victor Cruz, but nobody had the combination of the Giants and Kyle Williams, punt returner for the Niners.
It turns out, that was the combo that did it.
The Niners' emergency fill-in for Ted Ginn Jr, who was inactive for the game with a lingering knee injury, joins the special circle of NFL playoff hell reserved for special teamers who fail spectacularly at their jobs and send their teams home early. You know, the same circle of hell that the Baltimore Ravens' Billy Cundiff is sitting in. And Scott Norwood, and that one Bills player who lost his lane to give up the Music City Miracle to the Tennessee Titans.
As referee Ed Hochuli explained (in considerable detail), each team was guaranteed a possession in overtime unless a touchdown or safety was scored on that opening possession. Thus, both teams had their chances, and both teams had their chances snuffed by strong defensive play, and from that point on, it was sudden death. After Justin Smith wrecked a second Giants overtime drive and forced a second punt, fans at home buckled themselves in for a long drawn-out finish.
Five seconds later, a hit from Jacquian Williams knocked the ball out of Kyle Williams' hands inside his own 30 yard line, and the hopes of the 49ers were instantly ended. For the Niners, it was a spectacular year, but it was not to be their year.
Justin Tuck had this to say about his victorious Giants: "They say defense wins championships. No they don’t. Teams win championships. And this is a great football team right now. Hopefully we’ve still got our best game ahead of us."