After a spectacular win last Saturday over the favored New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers are just one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. In their way stand the New York Giants, fresh off an improbable win of their own. The Giants are probably the hottest team in the playoffs right now, emulating what the Green Bay Packers had to do last year to win. However, the 49ers have a nice hot streak as well, and they are ready to take advantage of the home field opportunity the Giants have given them.
The 49ers simply can not be run on. They shut down running games and make a team beat them through the air. They give up their fair share of passing yards, but make up for it in takeaways. Eli Manning isn’t exactly known for his ability to protect the ball. He had 16 interceptions during the regular season, and one last week. To help out even more, it’s supposed to rain at Candlestick. While good aerial attacks are not out of the question in sloppy weather, more than not, rain and mud is good for the defense and running game. Guess who ranked dead last in total rushing yards? Granted, Ahmad Bradshaw missed a few games, but he only averaged 3.9 yards a carry when he did play. During the playoffs however, they have found success on the ground, with both Bradshaw and Jacobs averaging close to five YPC. They’ll find running against the 49ers similar to the previous matchup though, where Jacobs was held to 55 yards on 18 carries. With Bradshaw this time around, he can hurt the defense by catching the football. That is one area they have been very susceptible to. Last week Darren Sproles lit up the backfield with a whopping 15 catches. Bradshaw doesn’t possess the same explosiveness as Sproles, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I’m a bit concerned about Frank Gore, as he has a penchant for slipping while trying to make a move. Hopefully, he gets the right cleats on and will lead the charge in the running attack. It is very important to get the ground game established, so the Giants can’t get their pass rush going. They pressure the quarterback extremely well. Without the pass rush though, their secondary is exposed. They ranked 29th in passing yards allowed. So while they were tied for third in the league with 48 sacks, if the front seven couldn’t get to the quarterback, the secondary couldn’t stop the pass. As long as the running game is working, the best aspect the Giants have going for them will not matter.
I’ve heard a lot of banter from the East coast biased analysts that this Giants team is not the same team as the one the 49ers had previously faced. Well the same can be said about the 49ers. Alex Smith has just proved he can lead not one, but two fourth quarter comebacks. He bested arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Everyone on the team, not to mention the fans now have confidence in the quarterback, and that couldn’t have been said when these two teams last met. The Giants have improved since the last meeting, but so have the 49ers. Their defense is just as good, and their offense is better. New York can believe all they want that they’re a different and better team, just realize that the 49ers have improved as well.
If the defense can force turnovers, and score a touchdown, coupled with the offensive line protecting Smith, I think this game will be won. I don’t see it being a high scoring affair, with both teams trying to control the tempo on the ground. With Justin Smith and Aldon Smith pressuring Eli, and the rest of the defensive line shutting down the running duo, the 49ers have a great chance to advance to the big show in Indianapolis.
To deviate a little, the NFL has released information that undercover police officers will be posing as Giants fans to stop any heckling or threatening actions from occurring. While the fans created a hostile atmosphere at the ‘Stick last week, complaints of vulgarity and violence were reported to the NFL We can still help our team with noise and support, but be on better behavior or you might get arrested by a “Giants” fan.
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