EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The NFC road to the Super Bowl will run through the Meadowlands because the New York Giants did what you have to do in bad weather - run the ball.
Derrick Ward ran for career-best 215 yards and set up Brandon Jacobs' winning 2-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 57 seconds left in overtime last night as the Super Bowl champion Giants clinched the NFC's top seed for the postseason with a 34-28 comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The final score warmed the hearts of the fans, who braved blustery wind and snow packed under their seats to see New York pull off the dramatic win. They tossed snowballs onto the field earlier and threw it like confetti when Jacobs won the game.
New York (12-3) forced the overtime when Jacobs plowed into the end zone from a yard out, and Eli Manning hit Domenik Hixon on a slant pattern for the tying two-point conversion with 3 minutes, 21 seconds to play.
Jacobs finished with three short touchdown runs, and Manning and Kevin Boss combined on a 4-yard touchdown pass as the Giants found the cold and wind to their liking in snapping a two-game losing streak.
New York clinched a first-round bye earlier in the day when Atlanta beat Minnesota, then added the icing on this frosty night by beating Carolina (11-4) in the winner-take-all game for the NFC's home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The loss spoiled a record-tying, four-touchdown performance by Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who gave Carolina a 28-20 lead with a 30-yard TD run two minutes into the final quarter. He also scored on runs of 13, 5 and 1 yards.
The Panthers, who have qualified for the playoffs, can clinch the NFC South and the No. 2 seed with a win at New Orleans this weekend.
The Panthers had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the swirling wind at Giants Stadium pushed John Kasey's 50-yard field-goal attempt wide left, sparking some more celebratory snow throwing by Giants fans.
The Giants won the coin toss in the overtime and could not generate anything, and the Panthers followed suit on their possession.
New York nearly lost the ball before its winning drive when R.W. McQuarters muffed a punt at the Giants 13. He emerged from a pile with the ball and then Ward took over.
On first and 10 from the 13, Ward went 51 yards to Carolina 36. Three plays later on third and 7, he went 14 yards to the 19 and followed that with a 17-yarder to the 2.