|49ers WR Kyle Williams calls the Giants the "inferior team," which could be fighting words for the Giants come Sunday. (US Presswire)|
"After what happened last year I definitely want to get back at these guys," Williams told the Sacramento Bee. "We look at it as if they have something that we should have had. We're going to make sure we don't leave anything on the field again."
The Giants return to Candlestick Park on Sunday, where they split two games in 2011: a 27-20 49ers' win in Week 10 and a brutal 20-17 Giants' overtime win in the playoffs.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin doesn't need to be told what Williams said. On Wednesday, Coughlin said he just “senses” that everyone is favoring the 49ers (4-1) over the Giants (3-2).
“Nobody gives us a chance to win,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin and the Giants are no strangers to the underdog role or the 49ers, who he describes as “very good.”
“They've got a lot of numbers,” Coughlin said. “They're going to test you in a lot of categories. They want to run it. If you're going to play football with them, you're going to have to stop the run and run the ball. They are very good in their offensive and defensive lines.”
Even though 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is coming off a 300-yard passing effort in San Francisco's 45-3 win over the Buffalo Bills, he is nursing a bad finger and the 49ers rank just 27th in the NFL in passing.
San Francisco's bread and butter has been it's staunch defense (second against the pass, seventh against the run) and the NFL's top running game (195.8 yards per game). And because the 49ers have been able to keep the ball on the ground with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, they rank sixth in the league in time of possession (32:27 per game).
But perhaps the biggest worry for Coughlin is seeing quarterback Eli Manning take another dozen hits like he did in last year's NFC Championship Game.
“They have a powerful rush unit,” Coughlin said. “They got to the quarterback many more times than you'd like.”
The 49ers only have one more sack (nine) than the Giants have this season, but Coughlin is quick to remind everyone that 7.5 of them came from just two players, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks.
Meanwhile, Coughlin said the Giants “have to do some things' with their own disappointing pass rush.
“They've been put in very good positions,” Coughlin said of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. “Positions they're familiar with. There's nothing really new or different [about how] they've been used. Everyone is taking a sample of what occurred early in the year in terms of how to play us, and done pretty well with it. The thing that has to happen is you have to work your way through those types of things.”
Perhaps the bigger issue when facing the 49ers isn't getting to Smith, but stopping tight end Vernon Davis.
Coughlin said there's “no trick” to defending Davis. Rather, you've simply got to be able to keep up with his speed. Giants safety Kenny Phillips is still dealing with a knee injury, but if he can't return for Week 6, backup Stevie Brown has shown plenty of speed over the last three weeks (two interceptions during that time).
Of course, the biggest challenge facing the Giants defense isn't San Francisco's passing game -- it's the running game.
The good news is that New York's barrage of injuries at linebacker may be subsiding. Yes, middle linebacker Chase Blackburn sat out of Wednesday's practice because of a hip injury, but he's expected to work Thursday and weakside linebackers Michael Boley (hip) and Keith Rivers (hamstring) were both active at Wednesday's practice.
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quad) also did some running outside, which would be a huge boost for a unit that got by with two inexperienced players in Week 5, Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin.
So yes, there are plenty of perceived advantages for the 49ers, and Coughlin isn't hesitating to tell his team.
“I may take an occasion to remind them,” he said.
And while he insists last year is “last year,” he might also remind them that they've been down this road before.
Follow the Giants and Alex Raskin @CBSGiants and @AlexRaskinNYC.