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Special Teams leaves their mark vs. 49ers


When a season is on the brink of an abrupt ending, the old story is a group of veterans will pace the sideline, calling for someone to make a play.

This surely happens on both sides, but it will only transpire for one team.

Rookie Jacquian Williams heard those sacred words from Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck before the Giants punt team took the field in overtime.

"I had a talk with the vets before," Williams said. "They said 'Somebody has got to step up, somebody has to step up.' Greg Jones, [Spencer] Paysinger had a great game already so it was time for me to make a play."

At the New York 44-yard line after a sack of Eli Manning, Steve Weatherford punted to Kyle Williams, who wasn't the 49ers usual returner. He started in place of the inactive Ted Ginn, Jr., out with a knee injury. Kyle Williams received the punt at the San Francisco 19 and took it out five yards before he was met by the other Williams.

Jacquian Williams went for the tackle but Kyle Williams turned into him as the ball was stripped. The ball hit the ground just as Devin Thomas was there to scoop it up at the 24. Five plays later, Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yarder to win the NFC Championship, 20-17, and book a trip to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.

"I was going for the tackle," Williams said. "He made a move and I saw the ball and I just stretched my hand out."

Thomas, who was in the middle of a similar game-changer earlier in the game, was in the right place at the right time.

"I just got to give all the thanks to the man upstairs," Thomas said. "Jacquian made a great play to force the fumble and I was right there again to scoop it up and put us in position to win the game. That's all that matters."

In the fourth quarter, Thomas saw something no one else did.

Covering a bouncing ball off a punt, common strategy called for Thomas to stay away as it rolled deeper into San Francisco territory. However, Thomas saw the ball graze Williams, scooping it up and heading toward the end zone.

The refs called the punt down, but the Giants challenged the ruling.

"I was paying attention real close," Thomas said. "I saw the ball touch his knee and it changed trajectory. So I was like, 'Oh yeah, that's mine.' I went and scooped it and I just knew when we'd challenge it, it would be ours."

It was. Tom Coughlin, who had a streak of red flags going against him, won the challenge, and the Giants took over on the 49ers 29. Six plays later, Mario Manningham caught a 17-yard touchdown to put the Giants up 17-14 with eight minutes remaining in regulation.

"I saw the ball hit," Jones said. "I told Devin, 'No matter what the call is, I saw what you saw.' That was such a heads up play by him because he could have listened to the sideline and everyone said get away, get away. But he saw the ball hit and kept going. That takes a lot of guts."

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