GREEN BAY -- As Eli Manning watched his lofted spiral bloop down towards the end zone, all he could see was a pair of gloves reaching towards the sky.
Familiar, red gloves that covered the beckoning hands of teammate Hakeem Nicks.
Manning sees those gloves do the same thing almost every Saturday during practice. That's when his New York Giants usually go through a Hail Mary drill, one coach Tom Coughlin refers to as "Flood Tip."
Manning had completed Hail Marys before, but only in workouts. Never in a game. Not in the pros. Not in college. Not in Pop Warner.
Until Sunday afternoon, that is. And it could not have come at a better time.
In what proved to be the biggest momentum boost of the day -- if not the Giants entire season -- Manning's desperation heave from 37 yards on the final play of the first half plopped into Nicks' gloves, giving New York a 20-10 lead and sending them on their way to a berth in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
"It was the turning point for sure," said Giants running back Brandon Jacobs after New York's convincing 37-20 upset of the mighty Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. "I could see the way (the Packers) had their heads down as they walked to their locker room for the half.
"When I saw that, I knew they were done."
The defending champions are done, all right, 15-1 regular season be damned. And the Giants deserve full marks for it.
Up until Nicks' improbable touchdown, the Giants had built up a 13-10 lead and were the better team. The Hail Mary simply thrust the final dagger into the Packers season.
"When you are a kid in the backyard, you dream about moments like that, about completing a Hail Mary," Manning said. "But usually it's to win the game on the final play, not the final play of the half."
No matter. Fueled by the last-second heroics before the break, the Giants coasted from there and now face the upstart 49ers on the left coast for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Not the matchup the football world had expected back in training camp.
In fact, when the Packers and New Orleans Saints opened up the 2011 NFL regular season in early September at Lambeau, many predicted it was a preview of the NFC championship game.
But in just one dramatic 24- hour span this weekend, that forecast was wiped away.
The 49ers earned a heart-stopping 36-32 win over the Saints on Saturday, thanks to an Alex Smith-to-Vernon Davis touchdown strike in the game's final seconds.
The Niners then waited to see if they would enjoy home cooking in the NFC title game next Sunday or make the trek to chilly Lambeau.
Indeed, it will be the Giants who gladly will be doing the travelling this week, heading west to face the Niners in a clash reminiscent of the old Joe Montana-Phil Simms days.
Maybe a Smith-Manning clash doesn't have the same sizzle, but it will be just as intriguing nonetheless.
On this day, there were heroes everywhere in the Giants locker room. Manning threw for 330 yards and three scores. Nicks made seven grabs for 165 yards and a pair of scores. The relentless defence forced three fumbles and an interception.
In the process, the Giants played with the confidence of a team that had gone toe to toe with the Packers in a 38-35 loss in early December. That game proved to be crucial for the Giants who, despite losing, knew they could beat the defending champs if they cleaned up their mistakes.
They did exactly that.
"I already knew on Wednesday we were going to win (this game)," Jacobs boasted.
After seeing the Giants dominance of the defending champs, complete with Hail Mary and all, who is going to argue with him?