As improbable as the Packers' rapid ascension was this season, their march toward Super Bowl XLII ended as incredibly.
"It's shocking to your system," general manager Ted Thompson said in the aftermath of the 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship on Sunday. "You're going along, you're winning, you're planning for the next thing and you're planning for the next thing, and all of a sudden, boom, it's over. That's the thing that's difficult to realize."
A 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes -- who had missed a pair of potential game-winning kicks late in the fourth quarter -- put an abrupt halt to Green Bay's return to the elite of the league after two lean years.
A season after winning their final four games to finish a respectable 8-8 under rookie head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers thrived with a blend of veteran leadership and a glut of young, talented players to win the NFC North with a 13-3 record and reach the conference-title game.
They weren't able to capitalize on playing at home against the upstart Giants and were foiled from getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 10 years.
"It's very disappointing," said quarterback Brett Favre, who is expected to return for a 17th season as Green Bay's starter but hasn't said so definitively. "We had numerous opportunities (Sunday), numerous opportunities this year. Everything seemed to fall in line for us."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
-- QB Brett Favre and WR Donald Driver connected on a 90-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Packers' 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship on Sunday. It's the longest play from scrimmage in Green Bay's playoff history. The previous record was an 81-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Antonio Freeman on Jan. 26, 1997, in the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI win over New England.
-- RB Ryan Grant had a humbling season-ending game, a week after he compiled postseason franchise records of 201 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the 42-20 win over Seattle in the divisional round. Grant, acquired by the Packers in a trade with the Giants before the season started, was held to 29 yards in 13 carries by his former team. It was the lowest rushing output for Grant since he assumed the featured-back role during the Oct. 29 win at Denver.
-- CB Will Blackmon was deactivated for the second straight game. Blackmon had practiced throughout the week but was questionable for the game because of a right foot injury he aggravated in the regular-season finale.
-- CB Frank Walker was deactivated for the game against his former team. Walker had been working as the dime back down the stretch of the season.
-- CB Jarrett Bush, who lost the job at nickel back late in the regular season, replaced Walker as the dime back.
NEW YORK GIANTS
-- WR Plaxico Burress caught 11 passes for 154 yards and afterward reflected on his epic battle with CB Al Harris.
"I watched film of him all week," he said. "Hey, he's a great corner, he's a Pro Bowl corner. But he doesn't track the ball very well, and I figured if I could get off the line of scrimmage without him stopping me, if I could get him to keep his hands off me, I'd have a chance."
-- QB Eli Manning was ebullient in the locker room. "We haven't been given a shot all year," he said, "but we're here and I think we deserve it. Right now I'm as excited as I can be."
-- RB Brandon Jacobs (21 for 67) scored one of the Giants' two rushing touchdowns, then faked a leap into the stands, a celebration reserved for Packer players only after scoring. He drew a chorus of boos from the frozen crowd of 72,470.
-- The fight for the conference championship was the first title game played by the Giants and Packers in Green Bay since Dec. 31, 1961, and it gave the Giants a bit of revenge. The Packers won that first meeting, 37-0, as they did a year later in Yankee Stadium, 16-7.
-- Rookie RB Ahmad Bradshaw (16 for 63) almost won the game late in the fourth quarter when he broke loose for an apparent 33-yard TD run but RG Chris Snee (Coughlin's son-in-law) was flagged for holding. The ball came back and six plays later K Lawrence Tynes missed a 36-yard FG try with :04 remaining. "I didn't notice the weather at all," Bradshaw said. "It only lasted for three hours, but this championship lasts for a lifetime."