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Giants obliterate 49ers, reminding everyone they're still the defending champs

by | Senior NFL Columnist

Ahmad Bradshaw (left), who rushes for 116 yards against the 49ers, scores a touchdown. (Getty Images)  
Ahmad Bradshaw (left), who rushes for 116 yards against the 49ers, scores a touchdown. (Getty Images)  

SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe now somebody will give the New York Giants a chance to win again.

They should, and they must. Because the Giants' 26-3 demolition of San Francisco on Sunday not only convinced their players, coaches and fans that they remain an important part of the NFL's hierarchy; it should have convinced a national audience, too.

And here's why: It's not just that they beat one of the league's best and most balanced clubs out there; it's that they obliterated it with equal parts offense, defense, special teams, you name it.

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In fact, when the 49ers took their last snap it was backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- not starter Alex Smith -- who was under center, and it was defensive lineman Adrian Tracy who was all over Kaepernick, with the team's sixth sack of a long afternoon for San Francisco and its quarterbacks.

But that's what the Giants can do to you, and that's exactly what they did to their last six opponents, including San Francisco, en route to last season's Super Bowl -- which is why this game is meaningful. Because even though it's early it's a sign that the Giants are ... somebody cue Denny Green ... exactly who we thought they were.

A team that won't go away.

"We're a good football team," said coach Tom Coughlin.

But we knew that. Besides, that's not the question. This is: Just how good can they be? There was a lot of talk this summer about the Giants repeating as Super Bowl champions, even though only one team (the 2004 Patriots) accomplished that over the past 13 years and even though the Giants, who were once 7-7 at one point in 2011, didn't qualify ... qualify ... for the 2011 playoffs until the last day of the season.

"It's a start in that direction," said Coughlin. "But we still have work to do."

You could fool the 49ers. Nothing they did worked against New York, and that includes stopping the run, where virtually nobody lately has been better. Surprised? I was. This was an NFC heavyweight that not only was coming off back-to-back defeats of the Jets and Buffalo by a combined scored of 79-3 but that allowed only one back (Seattle's Marshawn Lynch) to run for 100 yards in its last 42 games.

Maybe that's why Coughlin last week suggested that "nobody gives us a chance," I don’t know, but remember what he said after that.

"We'll see."

Well, yes, we did. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw, who struggled to gain 74 yards vs. San Francisco in the 2011 conference championship game, ran for 116 Sunday -- with 93 coming in the second half. Manning, who was sacked six times in last year's NFC title game, wasn't sacked at all this time around. And the defense that had so much trouble producing sacks this season -- it had eight entering the game -- had no trouble getting to Smith and Kaepernick.

Moreover, it intercepted Smith three times, and tell me the last time you remember that happening to the guy.

It was 2009.

"I thought it was a complete team effort," said defensive end Justin Tuck.

That's because it was. The 49ers had produced 27 or more points against four of their previous opponents and rang up a franchise-record 621 yards vs. Buffalo last weekend, but they couldn't score squat after David Akers' first-quarter field goal put them up 3-0. In fact, in the last three quarters they didn't have a drive longer than 58 yards, and they had five of nine or fewer.

They weren't much better on defense, either. You already know what Bradshaw did to them. Then there's what they did to Manning, which was nothing, and get in line, guys. The Giants haven't allowed a sack in three straight starts. Plus, there was that fourth-quarter drive by Manning & Co. that lasted 7:10 and included five first downs. That almost never happens to San Francisco.

I think you get the picture, and you can sum it up in two words: Ass kicking.

"This is our most complete game all year," said safety Antrel Rolle, who had two interceptions.

"We played smart football," said Manning.

"It was a statement game," said wide receiver Victor Cruz.

It was all of those things, and it was reminiscent of the victories the Giants produced late last season along the way to Super Bowl XLVI. Now, let's get something straight: That doesn't mean they get there again. In fact, the odds are against them. But it does mean they must be taken seriously.

I know they have a brutal schedule. I know they'll have trouble in the always competitive NFC East. And I understand we have a long ... and I mean long ... way to go. But Coughlin is right: This is a start, and it's a reminder never, ever, ever to discount the defending Super Bowl champions.

"We believe in ourselves," said wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, "and that's all that matters."


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