WASHINGTON — Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and New York defenders forced four turnovers to power the Giants over reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay 37-20 in an NFL playoff upset on Sunday.
Manning tossed two first-half touchdowns to Hakeem Nicks and the Packers, who lost only once all season and avergaed 35 points a game, could not rally in brisk winds and sub-freezing cold at Green Bay.
As a result, the Giants avenged a regular-season home loss to the Packers and joined the Baltimore Ravens in advancing to next Sunday’s playoff showdowns that will decide berths in Super Bowl 46 at Indianapolis on February 5.
The Ravens, who ousted visiting Houston 20-13, will visit New England in the American Conference final while the Giants will visit the San Francisco 49ers — who ousted New Orleans 36-32 on Saturday — in the National Conference final.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes to lead the Ravens, who know the challenge they face after seeing the Patriots rout Denver 45-10 on Saturday to advance.
“What they did to the Broncos, they sent a message to whoever was coming up there,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. “We have to be ready for them.”
Manning, who threw for a career playoff high 330 yards, tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Nicks on the last play of the second quarter to give New York a 20-10 lead, the first time the Packers had trailed at half-time at home this season.
Mason Crosby kicked a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter to pull the Packers within 20-13 but the Giants stopped Green Bay on downs early in the fourth quarter and that led to a 35-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal in repsonse.
New York’s Kenny Phillips knocked loose a fumble from Ryan Grant and Chase Blackburn recovered and returned the ball to the Green Bay 4-yard line, setting up a 4-yard touchdown toss from Manning to Mario Manningham for a 30-13 lead.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers responded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver with 4:46 to play, but New York answered with a 14-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs with 2:36 remaining for the final points.
Nicks made five catches for 152 yards in the first half, including a 66-yard touchdown toss from Manning to put the Giants ahead 10-3.
Rodgers responded with an 8-yard touchdown pass to John Kuhn to begin the second quarter that pulled the Packers level at 10-10.
Green Bay blocked a Tynes field goal attempt but Kuhn lost his first fumble in six career seasons and New York recovered with 3:37 to play in the first half, setting up a 23-yard Tynes field goal for a 13-10 Giants lead.
At Baltimore, Lewis made a team-high seven tackles and the Ravens forced four turnovers, two of them interceptions by Ladarius Webb, to set up 17 points and spoil the first playoff trip in the Texans’ 10-year history.
Houston’s Jacoby Jones fumbled away a punt at the Texans’ 3-yard line to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Kris Wilson that put the Ravens ahead for good only 5:09 into the game.
Webb intercepted a pass from Houston rookie T.J. Yates at the Texan 34-yard line and the Ravens took advantage on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin for a 17-3 lead after the first quarter.
“We knew what was coming. We knew it was going to be tough,” Lewis said. “When we got up 17-3 the No. 1 thing I told everybody was they were going to make a rally. At the end of the game, we made the plays that counted.”
Neil Rackers closed the gap for Houston with a 33-yard field goal 3:18 into the second quarter and the Texans drove 86 yards to reach the end zone on a 1-yard Arian Foster run 9:30 later to pull within 17-13 at half-time.
“Nobody holds onto a four-point lead in this league like that except the Ravens,” said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, whose brother Jim coaches San Francisco.
Defenders seized command in the second half, the Texans stopping Baltimore’s Ray Rice on a fourth-down run from the 1-yard line and Webb and Ed Reed ending Houston drives with fourth-quarter interceptions.
Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff added a field goal with 2:42 to play and Houston’s last hope ended when a desperation throw fell incomplete at the goal line 11 seconds from the finish.
» NFL player sentenced to jail for assaulting police officer
» NFL to investigate reports of sexual orientation questions for draft prospects
» Baltimore Ravens survive San Francisco 49ers, power failure to win Super Bowl 47