Giants send Romo, Dallas to early offseason

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 14, 2008

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Beaten at Dallas and trounced by Green Bay, the New York Giants seemed headed to a lost season after only two games.

Well, guess what? Eli Manning and the guys are a game away from the Super Bowl now, following a path filled with vengeance. Having ousted the Cowboys 21-17 on Sunday, the Giants are headed to Lambeau Field aiming to knock off Brett Favre and the Packers in the NFC championship game.

‘‘We stay with it,’’ linebacker Antonio Pierce said. ‘‘When everybody jumped on our backs after the first two games we didn’t fold. I don’t know what the team would have done in years past, but this year we didn’t.’’

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Maybe because Manning didn’t let them. And, yes, we’re talking about Eli, not Peyton.

A few hours after reigning Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated from the playoffs, the less-heralded, often-criticized member of football’s most famous family got the biggest victory of his career. Eli threw two touchdown passes to Amani Toomer and led another scoring drive early in the fourth quarter to give New York its ninth straight road victory.

It’s the furthest New York has advanced since the 2000 season — and it’s a huge disappointment for a Dallas team that tied a club record with 13 regular-season wins.

‘‘I was a little nervous,’’ said Eli, who was 12-of-18 for 163 yards. ‘‘I know (Peyton) was watching and rooting for me.’’

The Giants are a rare No. 5 seed to make the NFC title game — mainly because those clubs usually wind up playing the No. 1 seed. And the top teams in the NFC had been never lost a division-round game under the current playoff format, which began in 1990.

‘‘No one’s given us much credit and probably still won’t,’’ Manning said. ‘‘But that’s OK. We like it that way.’’

Next up for New York is a chance to show Green Bay how much it has improved since a 35-13 loss at Giants Stadium on Sept. 16. The Packers led 14-13 going into the fourth quarter, then ran away with the game, sending New York to its first 0-2 start since 1996.

Undermanned Chargers stun Colts 28-24

Eds: Chargers 28, Colts 24.

AP Photo NAD132, NAD134, NAD140


AP Football Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A trip to New England in the dead of winter hardly captivates San Diegans.

The Chargers can’t wait.

The franchise that couldn’t win a postseason game for more than a decade finds itself one step from the Super Bowl. Make that one huge leap, because after sending home the defending champion Indianapolis Colts 28-24 on Sunday, the Chargers go for the AFC title next weekend against the unbeaten Patriots.

‘‘I’m pretty sure we’ll be huge underdogs, but it’s still going to be fun, just to get the opportunity,’’ said LaDainian Tomlinson, who had better recover quickly from a bruised left knee that sidelined him in the first half against Indy. ‘‘All the rest of the teams have had their opportunity to play New England, and we’ll get another opportunity to do so in the AFC championship game. What a better way to go back there.’’

If the Patriots, who routed the Chargers 38-14 in Week 2, expected a rematch of last January’s conference title game with the Colts, they can’t be depressed to see San Diego traipsing across the country. An undermanned San Diego, to boot, with Tomlinson, quarterback Philip Rivers (right knee), tight end Antonio Gates (toe) and defensive end Luis Castillo (rib) hobbled.

Not that anyone expects condolences from the 17-0 Patriots, who don’t do sympathy well.

‘‘That was a tremendous win today by San Diego,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ‘‘Going out on the road and winning in Indy today shows the kind of mental toughness they have.

‘‘We’re prepared for everybody. As we saw today, any number of players could be in the game.’’

Including Billy Volek at quarterback and Michael Turner, a $2.35 million insurance policy for Tomlinson who paid off Sunday. Volek led San Diego 78 yards on eight plays for the winning score with 4:50 remaining, with Volek sneaking in from the 1. The Chargers’ big-play defense, led by linebackers Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Stephen Cooper, then held on downs at its 7, and stopped Indy again in the final moments to preserve their eighth straight win.

Last year, the Chargers surged into the postseason with a league-best 14-2 record, only to flop in the first round against New England. It cost Marty Schottenheimer his coaching job, replaced by Norv Turner.

Under Turner, they were just 5-5, but haven’t lost since. Of course, the Patriots haven’t lost since the preseason.

‘‘There’s been a mind-set in our league that our guys are front-runners and when it gets tough or real challenging that they don’t rise to the occasion,’’ Turner said. ‘‘I think we’ve put that thing to rest. I think that one’s done forever. We’ve got some guys who compete and fight, and scratch and claw, as good as I’ve been around. I told them in the locker room I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve never been around a more gutsy performance by a team.’’

The Chargers and Colts (13-4) played a ragged and rugged game in which Indy’s three turnovers were critical. San Diego led the league with 48 takeaways and a plus-24 turnover margin, and it victimized Manning to spoil three good scoring chances.