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Manning entered special company

The Sports Xchange
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--This weekend, quarterbacks Eli Manning (2004) of the Giants and Alex Smith (2005) of the 49ers will be just the second pair of first overall draft picks to quarterback their respective teams in a conference championship game since the 1970 ALF-NFL merger.

The other conference championship game that fielded a pair of starting quarterbacks chosen with the very first pick in the draft was the 1998 AFC Championship Game on Jan. 17, 1999. The quarterbacks then were John Elway of Denver and Vinny Testaverde of the Jets.

--Punter Steve Weatherford is considered a specialist thanks to his position. But lately, he's received honorary membership as a member of the Giants defense thanks to his fine punting that has, in part, helped neutralize some of the NFL's most dangerous punt returners.

Weatherford, who takes pride in his craft, said it's all about putting his defensive teammates in the best possible position to gain the upper hand, especially as the game clock winds down.

"For me, late in the game when it's on the line and I'm able to put one out of bounds deep inside the 20, that's as close to hitting a game-winning field goal for a punter that it can get," he said. "No one is as happy as the defensive coordinator when I do that."

--This weekend's game marks the Giants' 18th appearance in either a NFL or NFC Championship Game, the most by a team in NFL history. The Giants are 4-0 in conference championship games.

--Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has led New York to five postseason appearances, which ties him with former coach and Hall of Fame finalist Bill Parcells for the most in franchise history. Coughlin's six career postseason road wins is one behind former Cowboys head coach Tom Landry for the most all-time.

--Quarterback Eli Manning's four postseason road victories puts him in a six-way tie for most playoff road wins in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (Super Bowls are counted as a neutral site). The other quarterbacks with four postseason road victories include Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Jake Delhomme, Joe Flacco of the Ravens, and Mark Sanchez of the Jets.

--Receiver Hakeem Nicks' reception of Eli Manning's 'Hail Mary' pass as time expired in the second quarter of last week's game marked the first time in Giants postseason history they scored a touchdown at 0:00 of a second or fourth quarter in a game.

--The Giants are averaging 7.57 yards on first downs in the playoffs, second to only New England (8.83). On the other side of the ball, the Giants' defense is allowing 3.88 yards per play on first down, which is second to the Patriots, who are allowing 2.48 yards per play.

BY THE NUMBERS
4 - Number of consecutive postseason games the Giants have won with Eli Manning as their quarterback.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"We're 60 minutes away from our dream." -- WR Hakeem Nicks, when asked what it feels like to be in the NFC Championship Game.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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