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: Nov 1, 2010
Posted on: January 22, 2012 1:50 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

So refreshing to see someone that is objective about the game. Im a Niners fan and agree with everything you said, Can go either way, down to whoever wants it more, plain and simple!

Since: Dec 17, 2011
Posted on: January 22, 2012 11:30 am

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Anyone who carefully analyzed the Giants season and I have as I am a fan and saw every game and carefully analyzed the first game between these two teams as well as every post season game for these two teams so far will tell you that logic will dictate that Giants should win this one. Now things don't always happen according to logic. In the first game it was not only turnovers that killed the Giants, it was Boley getting injured late in 1st half. Prior to that Niners had to settle for field goals. When he left, they started to score TD's. Plain and simple. Giants have Boley and Ross back, plus Bradshaw on offense. Turnovers where important in the last game and unless Frisco defense just goes nuts or Giants bumble and stumble and give turnovers, Giants should win. In general, rematches go to a better team, which Giants are because the element of surprise is gone.

Since: Feb 24, 2010
Posted on: January 22, 2012 9:01 am

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Shows how much this andy guy does his homework...49 ers bad tackles huh? On tackle is  going to the pro bowl and the other got some consideration for the pro bowl. sure the line gave up some sacks this year but many of those were blitz pick up issues....

Since: Dec 17, 2011
Posted on: January 22, 2012 1:06 am

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Clearly metsniners1 is a loser. Rooting for the Mets makes you one. This organization is a disgrace, while rooting for Niners makes you a band wagon jumper. This loser is just a hater that does not see the facts. Niners will run into a brick wall this Sunday and there is nothing you clown can do about it except cry after the game is over.

Since: Nov 6, 2009
Posted on: January 22, 2012 12:46 am

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Thats why I hav loved all the Giants fans talking their trash along with the players cause the Niners are just gonna feed into it. Let me tell u something Giants fan, u sure are setting yourselves up for a big dissapointment tommorrow. BIG!!! Im here on Long Island NY and I can see the cockiness turn into cold blooded anger. It should be a great game but the Niners havent played a bad game all year. The Giants have. I know thats history but I have seen the Giants lose badly after being hot.

Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: January 21, 2012 6:50 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Your post wouldve been much more credible had you had factual informtaion in it.  Gore and Hunter ran all over the Giants last game????

Not even remotely close to being true, Gore rushed 6 times for a grand total of ZERO yards before he left with a strained vagina.  And Hunter had one nice run on a mistake by the Giants defense and he totaled 40 yards.  The niners rushed for a whopping 77 yards, half of which were by your QB, hardly impressive.  The Giants rbs outperformed the Niners rbs in the last game so if the Niners ran all over the Giants for 77 yards what was the 93 yards the giants got without Bradshaw?

You are a joke just like your team. 

Since: Jan 15, 2012
Posted on: January 21, 2012 3:38 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

This site is filled with Giant fans Homers and Haters. Not one fan can just admit that they aren't going to lose to the 49ers. The 49ers are clearly the better overall football team, but Giants fans continue to mention Manning, Nicks,'s because that's the ONLY players you have. 49ers will run the ball well enough to keep the Giants pass rush ineffective and throw more screen plays that basically eliminate the defensive line..canceled out. So, that leaves linebacker and secondary, and useless the refs blow a call or a miracle happens, the 49ers wins. Gore and Hunter ran all over the Giants last game, and you best believe that the 49ers will draw up plays that embarrasses the Giants defensive line. Smith and the receivers will make enough plays to keep the Giants scared...yes scared. Why do you think ONLY Giants players are talking crap! Because they are scared of the 49ers. Why talk? If you know you can beat us, STFU and do it. No need to talk...49ers have been feeding off this all year. Nobody in the media has given them much of a chance...bring it. When Smith throws for 3 TDs and Gore runs for wont be talking crap.

Since: May 19, 2008
Posted on: January 21, 2012 2:25 pm

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Good analysis Andy. Common sense will tell you that either team (49ers/Giants) can win this game. Giants are on a roll & can win if opportunistic. 49ers proved they can beat a high-powered offense (Saints), with the help of five turnovers.

The Giants are not as explosive as the Saints, but if they play a solid game, does not turn the ball over, can beat the 49ers.

The 49ers need to convert red zones into TDs and not field goals, control the ball with running game, & bend-but not break on defense.

It will be a great game... the rain & mud will make it interesting.

Since: Apr 4, 2010
Posted on: January 21, 2012 4:03 am

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...
Try reading your posts before submitting....."I heard the wine in northen California was good!", then "It's always New York against the rest of the country... "   Boo hoo.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: January 21, 2012 3:11 am

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

This game is an even matchup. Dont care how people break it down, both teams good on both sides of the ball. I see a lot of people taking away from the 49ers. I dont know why, they have the best defense and special teams left in the playoffs and the offense does not turn the ball over. They can compete with any team until the end. Both teams have stregnths and weaknesses. I think the Giants are the lesser team here but they even out with the weird playoff intangible they always seem to have. I think this game will be close and extremely exciting back and forth to the last possession!!!

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