Blog Entry

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 
Can Smith and Harbaugh work some more magic Sunday? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

These teams gave us a very good game back in Week 10 from which we came away truly believing for the first time that San Francisco’s old school style might actually still work in today’s pass-happy NFL. However, not much can be drawn on from that game, as the Giants were without Ahmad Bradshaw, hadn’t yet gelled on the O-line and were still trying to figure things out in their defensive back seven.

New York is healthy now and, as you’ve undoubtedly heard a thousand times, “playing with confidence”. Confidence does not breed success, it stems from success. Simply put, the Giants are a much better football team this time around.


1. Tougher task for Alex Smith
Alex Smith’s fourth quarter heroics last week might have been career-changing, at least pertaining to his public image. But lost in the excitement was the fact that Smith and his teammates struggled somewhat to identify blitzes throughout most of the contest.

And, until the final few minutes, Smith wasn’t comfortable against heavy coverage in the red zone. He caught fire once he started recognizing the one-on-one matchups for Vernon Davis BEFORE the snap (which wasn’t hard against the Saints’ Cover 0’s). Thus, after the snap, he didn’t have to worry about making the right decision – he just had to worry about throwing a good ball.  (To his credit, he did this extremely well.)

This week, Smith will have to worry about both. Given the mediocrity of San Francisco’s offensive tackles, the Giants’ four-man rush should be able to get pressure and force the Niners to keep backs and tight ends in to block (or at least chip). When the Giants do blitz, it’s usually a zone pass-rushing concept involving a linebacker (see Michael Boley’s two sacks at Green Bay).

Thus, all game Smith will be throwing into a more crowded secondary and without quickly defined reads. Unless Joe Staley and Anthony Davis play the game of their lives, Smith will also be throwing under some duress. Post-snap decision-making from a crowded pocket has always been Smith’s greatest weakness.

As he’s done all season, Jim Harbaugh will ameliorate Smith’s deficiencies by giving him simplified quick throws off three-step drops, utilizing play-action and, perhaps, calling throws on first down (where the coverages tend to be more basic). The Niners did this with great success in Week 10. In fact, they did it was great success throughout the season; Smith’s passer rating on first down was 101.6.

But at some point, just like last week, Smith is going to have to make a big-time throw in an obvious passing situation.


After dominating the Green Bay Packers last week, the New York Giants will travel to Candlestick Park to square off against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz as they break down this matchup.

2. Smith’s targets
Smith isn’t the only passing game contributor who faces a tougher challenge this week. Michael Crabtree will likely be shadowed by Corey Webster, an outstanding all-around cover corner. Because Crabtree isn’t fast enough to run away from most corners, he has to beat them with body control and agility. Often, his best routes drag over the middle. When his routes go inside, it’s easy for the Giants to give Webster help (not that he needs much).

Smith’s top target, Vernon Davis, won’t be facing Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins in man coverage. Instead, he’ll go against Antrel Rolle, a more athletic cover artist whom the Arizona Cardinals originally drafted in the first round as a cornerback (the Saints drafted Jenkins as a corner, as well, but after a year they admitted what had been apparent from Day One: the stiff-hipped ex-Buckeye was better suited for safety).

And unlike last week, Davis won’t have just one defender to beat, as it’s highly unlikely the Giants will play only man and have Rolle constantly defend the 250-pound tight end one-on-one.

3. Gotta make it Gorey
Expect the run-first Niners to go back to the ground this week. Frank Gore got just 13 carries against New Orleans; he needs at least 22 against New York. If Gore can pound the rock against Perry Fewell’s big nickel defense (two linebackers, two safeties and Rolle playing a utility role as a third safety/linebacker/slot corner), the Giants may decide to go back to their base 4-3.

That would make for a less athletic front seven and present a greater possibility for Davis to draw matchups against linebackers.

Let’s keep it simple and also remember that, regardless of what the defense is doing, running is San Francisco’s bread and butter. They’re built around the power run, with booming and mobile left guard Mike Iupati pulling to the right of Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin and working in unison with lead-blockers Bruce Miller and Justin Peelle (or Delanie Walker if he can get healthy).

That’s the formula that got this team here. And it happens to be the formula that can keep New York’s white hot quarterback off the field.

4. Giants passing game
New York’s rushing attack is nowhere near as dreadful as it was in September, October and November, but against the league’s stingiest run defense, it still can’t be counted on. The Giants will have to ride the golden right arm of Eli Manning. He isn’t facing a porous pass defense like he did a week ago. San Francisco has three corners who can stay with New York’s frighteningly athletic wide receivers.

In the last meeting, Carlos Rogers was sensational defending the slot, making a handful of great jumps on the ball and finishing with two interceptions. Rogers is good enough to handle Victor Cruz.

What really stood out in the first divisional round game was how well the Niner defensive backs – particularly safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner – tackled. Considering the DB’s penchant for forcing fumbles, the Giants may be hesitant to put Hakeem Nicks and Cruz in the catch-and-run situations that they enjoy.

5. San Fran’s defensive line
The 49ers were able to break down the Giants’ pass protection in the last meeting, but again, this Giants line has improved immensely since then.

Still, Aldon Smith, with his explosive first step and startlingly quick hands, is a nightmare matchup for David Diehl on the left side, while Kareem McKenzie will need a little help against the speed of Ahmad Brooks on the right. Then there’s Justin Smith, who makes four or five fantastic penetrative plays a game.

In addition to rushing the passer, the Niners’ front three/four is fast and athletic enough to hunt down screen passes outside the numbers. That’s assuming Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman don’t hunt them down first.

Against this dynamic front seven, the Giants won’t be able to count heavily on Ahmad Bradshaw or ancillary options like Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum. Manning and his wide receivers will have to find ways to make big plays.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Comments

Since: Apr 4, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 9:45 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

49er's fans are hoping the rain has an effect on the outcome of a championship football game. I hope they have more than the rain to stop this Giants team. The Giants play in the swamp known as the Meadowlands. Do these fans think it doesn't rain anywhere else. Gore is a better runner in bad conditions. The condition the 49ers won't address is the condition of the Giants defense. We know Eli is tested, Alex smith has failed every test until last week and schools back in session.
"We know Eli is tested, Alex smith has failed every test until last week and schools back in session."

?????  Please do your homework before posting idiocy,  Check Smith's record this year for comebacks, and you might look at his performance the last time the two teams met....Whatta maroon.



Since: Dec 10, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:54 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

... people make too much out regular season games.  Yes, the Giants are healthier, but the 49ers are fresher (like Tom Coughlin said, the Giants have been in the "playoffs" since Week 16 vs Jets) and playing at home with the crowd having a bigger factor now.



Since: Dec 10, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:44 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

... one team is going to show up with intensity, the crowd behind it, hard hits, great special teams, and a running game ... the other team is going to show up with a tough QB and good receivers, I give the edge to the Niners. 



Since: Mar 16, 2011
Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

The Niners eaked out a win against the Giants in week 10. The Giants were crippled with injuries at the time and turned in one of their worst performances of of the season. Coming into this game, they're healthy, and playing their best ball of the year. I'm not predicting a Giant victory, but if SF preps for the same team they met in November, Sunday could be the beginning of a very long off-season for NoCal football fans.



Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 3:30 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

NCSportsfan...

1. The Giants do not have pretty good tight end too.  Wrong...Jake Ballard doesn't even compare with the NO tight ends.  I'll take my chances with Willis and Bowman covering Ballard as compared to the likes of Jimmy Graham.  Graham is a stud.  Ballard is a tight end.

2. "the swamp known as the Meadowlands"...you're right, the Meadowlands is a swamp, but the playing surface is field turf, not natural grass like you find at the 'Stick.  You can convince yourself that slipping because of the weather will not play into this game, but think again.   As a Niner season ticket holder I've seen many a team come in here and look as if they are playing for the Stanley Cup rather then the NFC Championship.

3. What is the condition of the Giant's defense?  Are they going to take full credit for the debacle which was the Packers' offense?  I give them some credit, but a part of it was just overall ineffectiveness on the part of Aaron Rodgers and his receivers.  Remember one other thing about the Packers.  Their running game scares no one.  When you prepare for them, you prepare for the pass.  The Niners are much more balanced in their attack.  And if you still think that they can't throw, Smith was at about a 60% completion average, 242 and 2 TD's the last time the Big Blue ventured out West.  If the Giants force Smith to throw...well, lets put it this way...sometimes you don't get what you wish for.  Ask the Saints.

4. Eli is tested.  He's tested out his tackling skills over 15 times this season because of INT's.  Even Giants' fans realize that Eli is good for at lest one horrible throw per game.  Yes, Smith has thrown the ball 144 times less than Eli, but he's only thrown 5 INT's all year.  That means that Eli throws approximately one more INT every 15 throws.  Theoretically, if he throws 45 times...you do the math.  Unlike Eli, Smith doesn't necessarily have to win the game because the Niners can actually run the ball.  It is Smith's job to keep a lid on things and control the offense (it's the reason that Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman...control the game + forgo the outlandish stats = winning football...something Stanford and the Niners were very good at this season.  Under Eli's 'fling it around style' what record did the Giants have?).  And Smith has actually passed five of those tests you're talking about, but being from the East Coast, they probably didn't write about them in the Daily News.  Five times this season Alex Smith has led his team back to victories after being behind, including the Eagles (where they were down by 20 at half).  I think Alex passed the class, whether you think school is in session or not.  Eli has been great in the 4th quarter and I'll give you that.  But in Week 10 his 4th quarter magic failed him.  You were speaking of past history...then this little tidbit means nothing?

Justy some thoughts based on reality rather then perception.



Since: Dec 14, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:29 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

49er's fans are hoping the rain has an effect on the outcome of a championship football game. I hope they have more than the rain to stop this Giants team. The Giants play in the swamp known as the Meadowlands. Do these fans think it doesn't rain anywhere else. Gore is a better runner in bad conditions. The condition the 49ers won't address is the condition of the Giants defense. We know Eli is tested, Alex smith has failed every test until last week and schools back in session.




Since: Nov 15, 2009
Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:23 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Gee, which giants will get KO'd this week? They better wear diapers 'cause they're gonna get the crap kicked out of them!  GO NINERS!Surprised



Since: Dec 14, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:22 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

The giants have a pretty good TE as well. I'm looking at this 49er's offense Gore, Davis, Smith, and Crabtree? I look at this Giants offense, Nicks, Cruz, Manningham, Bradshaw, Jacobs, Ballard, and Eli. I do the same thing on defense. I don't think this is a close contest. Giants walk over the Niners big.




Since: Dec 19, 2011
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:49 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Hicks, Cruz and Manningham that I'll give your the the edge on BUT that's where it stops..It takes a QB not spending time on his back or being carted off to complete those passes..Oh Yeah I just remembered your backup is David Carr..LOL. and grant it the Giants did win the SB against the Pats but don't hide the fact that it took an extremely lucky catch to get it done. Try squeezing one onyour head this weekend and see what Carlos Rodgers or Daunte Whitner does with that..



Since: Dec 31, 2008
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:41 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Giants have the edge in experience. Eli is playing his best football of his career. That will be the difference in a tight game. I feel the biggest advantage for the 49ers could be the weather. Rain could favor them in the ground game. Frank Gore may have a big game. I congradulate 49er fans for their season...way above expectations. Good luck this weekend!


Thank you for not being a homer-douche, and same to you - good luck!

Should be a close one. Alex Smith is playing the best FB of his career too.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com