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NFC Playoffs | NEW YORK-SAN FRANCISCO NOTES

They Could Kick Themselves

January 06, 2003

With nothing to do for five hours on their flight home Sunday night but stare out the window into the darkness or close their eyes and try to fall into a troubled sleep, the New York Giants had plenty of time to replay over and over their collapse in Sunday's NFC playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers after leading by 24 points in the third quarter.

The Giants had slipped into the postseason by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in their last regular-season game on a Matt Bryant field goal in overtime. Earlier in that game, Bryant got a lucky ricochet off the right upright to get the extra point New York needed to force the overtime.

But on Sunday, the luck of the special teams ran out.

Regular long snapper Dan O'Leary tore a ligament in his thumb earlier in the week, forcing New York to sign 41-year-old Trey Junkin, who figured he had already retired.

Junkin had a bad snap on a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter, throwing off Bryant's timing, and the kick fluttered wide left.

And then, with six seconds to play, it again came down to Junkin's snap and Bryant's toe. Bryant lined up to attempt a 41-yard, game-winning field goal.

Instead, a second bad snap.

"I forgot rule No. 1," Junkin said. "Always remember that you never make a perfect snap. Just make the snap. I just didn't do a good enough job."

Was he thinking about the first bad snap as he prepared for the second?

"I try not to think when I'm out there," Junkin said.

"It's very frustrating," said Bryant. "I can't even begin to tell you how frustrating. I've gone through five or six snappers and two holders. It's been strange this year.

"Probably what's most frustrating of all is that I didn't get the chance. It's like the hitter at the plate with two out in the ninth inning and the runner gets thrown out trying to steal second. It takes the bat right out of your hands. That's what it felt like for me."

*

Here's something else the Giants may have been chewing on during that flight home.

Even after Junkin's bad snap, the game was not necessarily lost. Holder Matt Allen scooped up the ball, peeled off to his right and threw a desperation pass downfield -- incomplete, and intended for an ineligible receiver anyway.

But since New York was kicking on third down and a few seconds still remained, he could have spiked the ball instead, giving the Giants another shot.

*

This was the second-greatest comeback in NFL postseason history, exceeded only by the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Houston Oilers after trailing by 32 points on Jan. 3, 1993.

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