NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Any cold-weather garments Vernon Davis owns are getting tossed aside as quickly as he changed San Francisco’s playoff fortunes with a game-winning touchdown catch against the favored Saints.
“I was ready for whatever,” Davis said Monday. “Now I don’t need it. Throw it away. See ya.”
Instead of gearing up — literally speaking — for a trip to frigid Green Bay, the 49ers (14-3) get to stay right at home in the much-warmer and friendlier Bay Area to host the Giants in the franchise’s first NFC championship game since the 1997 season.
The NFC West champion Niners already beat New York 27-20 at Candlestick Park in November, and both teams have come far since Justin Smith batted down Eli Manning’s last-ditch pass to seal it in the waning moments.
“It was a great feeling. We don’t have to go nowhere. We can just go out back, go out back and throw the football around,” Davis said. “The opponents, they come to us. And that’s always good, having home-field advantage, and having the team come to you. We get another shot, another home game. Amazing feeling.”
The Giants stunned the defending Super Bowl champion Packers on Sunday to give San Francisco the home field. The 49ers are one victory from their first Super Bowl since capturing the franchise’s fifth championship after the 1994 season.
“Our fans turned that stadium into a fortress (against the Saints),” said the Niners’ first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. “That was as good as it can get. Our crowd was behind us, our players felt it, it was a great environment. … It felt like, I mean, somebody locked the gates and put us in here and we got 70,000 and a city behind us. It just felt that way, it felt good, it felt like an advantage. I hope we get that this week as well.”
Harbaugh wouldn’t say whether he believes in the old adage that it’s tough to beat the same team twice in the NFL — San Francisco swept its two regular-season meetings with Seattle and St. Louis in divisional play — but he knows the Giants have improved plenty in the two months since the teams last saw each other.
“It became evident that the Giants were playing harder and just executing better and played as a team,” Harbaugh said of watching Sunday’s game.
“That’s formidable opponent. That is a worthy opponent. That is a scary opponent. We will have to come with every ounce of our ‘A’ game as well.”
Alex Smith hit Davis for a 47-yard completion on a cross to the left sideline with 31 seconds left Saturday, then again for the game-winning score from 14 yards on which Davis ran over safety Roman Harper to cross the goal line on the way to a 36-32 win. The play was called “Vernon Post.”
Tears streamed down Davis’ face and he fell into the arms of Harbaugh after the victory in San Francisco’s first playoff game in nine years.
In January 2003, the 49ers rallied to stun the Giants 39-38 in the NFC wild-card game at Candlestick.
Davis, who also had a 49-yard TD reception in the first quarter, finished with seven catches for 180 yards — the most yards receiving by a tight end in a playoff game.
His last-second TD immediately became “The Grab,” a fitting nickname to follow a couple of others in 49ers postseason lore: “The Catch” from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark to win the NFC championship game against Dallas after the 1981 season and “The Catch II” from Steve Young to Terrell Owens for a winning TD with 3 seconds left in a 30-27 wild-card win over the Packers after the 1998 season.
No riled-up cheeseheads this time.
Miami man Frank Gore, who last month became the 49ers’ career rushing leader, couldn’t be happier not to need thermals this week while preparing for the biggest game yet in a seven-year career featuring three Pro Bowl selections.
“Oh yeah!” Gore said with a grin when asked about being pleased to have another home game in San Francisco. “If we would have had to go there, I would’ve toughened it up. I don’t need it (big jacket) now.”
San Francisco drew a sellout crowd of 69,732 for Saturday’s thriller against Drew Brees and New Orleans on a beautiful sunny winter day — with a 62-degree kickoff temperature.
While rain is in the forecast for Sunday’s NFC title game, it sure beats the alternative of travel to the Midwest this time of year.
While Harbaugh won’t root — “be careful what you wish for,” he noted — for anyone aside from big brother and Baltimore Ravens coach, John, he fully understands the benefits of hosting another postseason game and having players in their own beds leading up to Sunday. San Francisco earned the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
“In terms of having the game here, that is an advantage for us,” Harbaugh said. “And I really say that after feeling the game this past Saturday in Candlestick.”
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