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'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

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Since: Dec 31, 2008
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:39 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

The Giants are running the ball well the last 6 games. Eli and his recievers are connecting better than they have all season
Running the ball, against the #1 run defense, with two All Pro LB's and an All Pro DT, with a RB thats an 'up the middle' rusher?

Right, that sounds like a solid plan. Ask anyone we've played this year how running against SF has worked out. We gave up 1 TD, and 1 100+yrd game to the rush. Youre crazy if you think the Giants win with running, or will even try to rely on that.

Drew Brees is a better QB, had better WR's and a better TE. I could say Alex Smith is connecting better than he has all season, but that would make me sound like a moronic homer like you. Vernon Davis is the best TE in the game, and while Eli has better options at WR, when you cant run the ball at all - Aldon Smith and Justin Smith are going to make Eli eat a lot of grass.

The 49ers will win because its raining all weekend, and you wont be able to run the ball. Eli having to throw 60 times like Brees did isnt going to work, and I'll take the better defense and running game. Plus, Rolle can run his mouth all he wants, I want to see what he thinks hes going to do to stop Vernon Davis. CB's got burned last week. They better double him all game, and hope Crabtree continues to drop passes.

Frank Gore is the better RB in the game, and its not even close.

Since: Dec 4, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:33 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!

Since: Dec 31, 2008
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:32 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

If the experts are picking the Giants it's because their going to win
Look at their record for picking games correctly over the year. They said the Saints were going to win last week, too.

Everyone talks about how weak the NFC West was, but we didnt play most of our conference games until later in the year, and we could have been 10-0 to start the season if not for an OT loss to Dallas. OT is a coin toss, could go either way. We came back against the Eagles, beat the then undefeated Lions, and they only game they really got beat in was against the Ravens.

We arent the ones whining, we're the ones saying it should be a close game. NYG fans are the ones going 'we're playing better now, and we cant be beat by the same team twice...its still 2007, right?'

Its going to be won/lost by less than 5 points either way. The teams strengths/weaknesses against eachother are well documented, but its going to come down to who can make the plays. Justin Smith made the play last time that Eli couldnt, like last week Vernon Davis made the play that the Saints couldnt. Either game could have been different.

The 2010 SF Giants werent favored in any of the 3 playoff rounds...

Since: Dec 14, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:26 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Still waiting to hear from 49ers fans why the 49ers will win the game. The Giants are running the ball well the last 6 games. Eli and his recievers are connecting better than they have all season. The defense is better because their healthy, but the addition of Blackburn and DeOssie that have been in the system have had a calming effect on the defense and special teams. The special teams are taking less chances with punt and kickoff returns, cause lets face it specials is not a Giants strength, but it's better. The Giants only need everyone to do what they've been doing the last 6 weeks.

Since: Oct 1, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:14 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

If this Giants team was named anything other than the New York Giants the spread would be -6 or 7 not 2 1/2 ... Keep those bets coming east coast !! 

Since: Dec 14, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:09 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Ohh! Poor 49er's fans no one believes we can one gives us credit for winning in the regular season and beating the Saints in the playoffs...I heard the wine in northen California was good! Get over it your team will not win at home this Sunday, It's not east coast bias. No one likes New York, Greenberg hates the Giants, I bet he thinks his so called curse will work even though it hasn't worked for the last three weeks. If the experts are picking the Giants it's because their going to win. It's always New York against the rest of the country...

Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: January 20, 2012 1:03 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

East Coast NFL, NBA, MLB and NCAA teams have predominately had their way with the West Coast teams since forever.  Sure the Niners deserve respect but where this game is played will have no bearing on the outcome.  The only team that has won 3 games on the road and the SB are the Giants.  They are the only team that is capable of accomplishing the feat in this years crop of playoff teams.  I'm no Giant homer I just don't believe in Alex Smith, Jim Harbaugh and this version of the 49ers.  Back in the "day" Montana, Young, Clark and Rice, the 49er faithful would have someting to huff about but this is today.  This will be a tough game and I will take east toughness over west coast toughness everytime.  This is a make or break game for Alex Smith and if he gets through it a hungry and angry Tom Brady waits for him and the 49ers.  The pressure is all on Alex and the 49ers and none on the Giants.  The Giants weren't supposed to get this far, weren't even supposed to make the playoffs after 12 games of the season.  This was supposed to be The Cowboys game.  Funny how things change on the way to the playoffs and in the playoffs.  Greenbay was supposed to repeat and New Orleans was to challenge.  Ah the best laid plans.  Hope the Niners have one for Eli, Hakeem, Cruz, Manningham, Jacobs and a for reals pass rush.

Since: Dec 31, 2008
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:59 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

if Mario Manningham catches a perfect pass right on his hands in the endzone in that Week 10 matchup, near the end, the Giants win that game, the Saints get home-field, and your team might not even be in this position. Avoid the hubris, it isn't flattering
The Giants win, huh?

You know they lost 27-20, dont you?

I guess youre just assuming that they would have automatically won in OT, or that the 49ers would have played the exact same defense on that last drive. A lot of things could have been different, several passes could/should have been picked off by our defense, and Frank Gore couldve broken a long run if not for slipping and falling. know what it means. You can speculate all you want, but it should be a close game. There are 4 teams left, any of them could win the SB. The media wants another Patriots/Giants game, now that their dream of Drew Brees vs Tom Brady has vanished.

Nobody gave us any credit all year. We were going to get killed by Brees, there was no way Alex Smith could mount a last minute comeback. The Saints rushed 3, and dropped 8 in coverage, everyone knew the ball was going to Vernon Davis, and he still made the catch.

This game is going to be close, I just grow tired of NYG fans saying how they're definitely going to win. Like the Saints fans did last week...

Since: Dec 19, 2011
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:40 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

You should be concerned..I think you read to much into the east coast bias...49ers will win this and if you can't withdraw your bet then go offset it by wagering on the 49ers..

Since: Dec 19, 2011
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:38 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

NINER'S will WIN this game....not about to dissect this match up but it's clear to me that although the Giants have won some games down the stretch when you break down film like I have done it's obvious the defenses the Giants have played were middle of the road defenses and now they come to SF..LOL...Folks wake up save your paychecks unless you really want a return then place the dinero on the Red & Gold.

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