NFL Wire News

Giants on a roll for SNF vs. 49ers

on

The Sports Xchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. — In merely two weeks, the New York Giants went from zeros — as in zero wins — to 2-2, a record that breathes new life into their locker room.

When they host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, the Giants obviously hope to extend their modest two-game winning streak to three.

However, the Giants aren’t looking at the 49ers (1-3) as a pushover, despite a three-game losing streak in which San Francisco was outscored by 72 points, a combined score of 107-28.

“They’re a very well-coached football team,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. “They’re physical, they have a lot of very good players that we know of and new players as well. There’s quite a mixture there.”

Despite Coughlin’s praise, the 49ers have significant issues that consistently cost them.

Defensively, San Francisco allowed 17 big-pass plays of 20 or more yards, tying them for third in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.

That doesn’t mean that the Giants’ offense plans to air it out Sunday night, despite impressive stats that show they are 4-for-15 for 127 yards and two touchdowns on pass plays of 20 yards or more, according to detailed data from Pro Football Focus.

“If there are opportunities to take some big plays, then we’ll take them,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “If not, then we just gotta run our offense, get the short completions, run the ball well, and just play our game.”

The Giants offense also hopes to follow up on last week’s 92-yard rushing effort. The 49ers’ run defense is 20th in the league, allowing opponents 114.0 rushing yards per game.

Defensively, the Giants will face yet another dual-threat quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

His ability to run is an ever-present concern. But his ability as a passer this year seems to be more of an opportunity than a problem for opponents.

Kaepernick has completed 62.1 percent of his passes this season, but has five interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.

The interceptions are of particular interest to the Giants defense, whose five picks tie them for sixth in the league with New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

While the Giants respects Kaepernick for his arm in spite of his rough start, it is the damage he can do with his legs that is the focus of the Giants’ No. 1 ranked run defense.

“Kaepernick can beat you with his legs,” linebacker Devon Kennard said. “He’s very athletic and can do a lot of different things.”

Added linebacker J.T. Thomas: “Colin is a very versatile quarterback who can hurt you in the run game. But the variety of runs they give you. … They can attack you in all areas of the field — outside zone plays, inside zone plays, zone reads.

“With a running quarterback, you have to have every gap defended. They have an extra guy when you count their quarterback, so it will be a tall task for us, but we’re committed to getting that run stopped first and foremost and seeing how things fall out after that.”

SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. The series is tied. Each team has also won eight at home and lost seven as visitors. The two teams are also tied in postseason games, 4-4. Overall (regular- and postseason), the Giants have outscored the 49ers, 755-741.

GAME PLAN

–If there was ever a week for the Giants’ sluggish pass rush to get it in gear, this would be the one. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers has been skittish this season when under pressure, completing under 50 percent of his passes.

According to Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick has been particularly vulnerable to the blitz this season. In 58 drop-backs, he completed 21- of-44 attempts for 189 yards and threw three of his five interceptions when blitzed.

Of course, since Kaepernick can hurt a team with his legs, it’s important for the Giants to remain disciplined on the edge, much in the same way as they did last week against the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor.

As far as the Giants’ offense is concerned, although the 49ers defense has a different look as far as some of its key personnel, that hasn’t made their unit any less potent.

The 49ers defense has nine quarterback sacks this year and 17 tackles for a loss

As was the case with the Bills last week, the 49ers defense is designed to create confusion via twists and stunts and disguised blitzes that seek to catch opponents off guard.

So as was the case last week, the onus will be on the Giants’ offensive linemen, particularly center Weston Richburg, and on quarterback Eli Manning to ensure that they recognize what the 49ers are planning to throw at them and that they counter with the proper protection calls.

“Yeah, they do have some new bodies in there,” Manning said.

“Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith–all tremendous players–aren’t there anymore but they still do a good job of getting to the quarterback, making it tough with their scheme and alignment. So we have to make sure that we have a great game plan for them and that guys know their responsibilities.”

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Giants LBs J.T. Thomas/Jonathan Casillas vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis.

For all the good the Giants linebackers did last week against the Bills, the one area where they continue to struggle is against opposing tight ends. The Giants gave up 111 yards on nine receptions to Bills tight end Charles Clay, and in fact have allowed opposing tight ends to catch 29 of 39 pass targets for 352 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. The good news for the Giants is that Davis, who in five regular-season games against the Giants has 12 receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown, is coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss the last two games, so he might not be at full strength if he plays.

–Giants RDE Kerry Wynn and RDT Johnathan Hankins vs. 49ers LT Joe Staley and LG Alex Boone.

Wynn, a second year veteran, has been nothing short of solid in his last two games, both starts in place of injured Robert Ayers, Jr. Wynn, who is disciplined and who has been effective against the run, has recorded 22 tackles in four games this season. If Ayers can’t go again this week — he missed the last two games because of a hamstring injury, which continues to linger this week — Wynn will face his toughest test yet in four-time Pro Bowler Staley, whose strength is run-blocking, and his sidekick, Boone. According to Pro Football Focus, the 49ers are averaging 6.8 yards per rush when they run to the left side behind Staley and Boone.


About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business