Posted October 10, 2012 on
AP on Fox
San Francisco 49ers
New York Giants
When San Francisco and New York met in January with a Super Bowl berth on the line, the 49ers committed crucial turnovers and their offense couldn't do much against the Giants' stingy defense.
A similar performance seems unlikely in Sunday's NFC championship game rematch, considering Alex Smith and the 49ers are coming off one of the most impressive offensive showings in NFL history and the Giants are struggling defensively.
San Francisco (4-1) has been eagerly awaiting this game after New York won 20-17 in overtime at Candlestick Park on Jan. 22, costing the 49ers a trip to the Super Bowl. The loss was especially disheartening given that Kyle Williams muffed two punt returns - one in the fourth quarter leading to a touchdown and another in OT setting up the Giants' winning field goal - and Michael Crabtree's catch for three yards was the lone reception by a San Francisco receiver.
"Of course after what happened last year I definitely want to get back at these guys," Williams said. "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."
San Francisco hasn't had that problem lately, outscoring its last two opponents 79-3.
The 49ers are tied for third in the NFL in scoring with an average of 29.8 points, and they became the first team in league history with 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in the same game while gaining a franchise-record 621 yards in last Sunday's 45-3 win over Buffalo.
"The talent level has been upgraded," coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Smith, who sprained his middle finger against the Bills but said it wasn't an issue, has the league's best passer rating at 108.7. The receiving corps, with a boost from offseason additions Randy Moss and former Giant Mario Manningham, is averaging 11.8 catches.
"We had a whole offseason to work together," Williams said. "I think we're more polished than anything. We have more weapons. We added a few guys and they have helped us tremendously this year."
The Giants (3-2) have been just as impressive offensively, ranking second in both total yards with an average of 429.2 and scoring with 30.4 points per game. They've amassed 1,877 yards in the last four weeks - their most over a four-game stretch in franchise history - and in last Sunday's 41-27 win over Cleveland, Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz became the first teammates to rush for 200 yards and catch three TD passes in a game since 1960.
"The Giants are an outstanding team," Harbaugh said. "They've got an explosive offense. They're very balanced."
One thing they don't have right now is a reliable defense.
In last season's playoffs, New York held Green Bay (the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense), New England (No. 3), Atlanta (No. 7) and San Francisco to an average of 14.0 points. It is yielding an average of 22.2 points this year and has allowed 24 plays of at least 20 yards, sixth-worst in the NFL entering Week 6.
"We've definitely got to continue to get better as a unit," middle linebacker Chase Blackburn said. "There is no doubt we have to be better this week. We have a challenge."
New York's offense, although firing on all cylinders over the last few weeks, also seems like it will have its hands full against a San Francisco team that is allowing a league-low 13.6 points per game.
The 49ers thoroughly frustrated Eli Manning in last season's championship game, sacking him six times and hitting him on six other pass attempts, and the Giants haven't forgotten.
"That game was certainly something that we thought about all (offseason) even though we won the Super Bowl and we beat them in that game," guard Chris Snee said. "We still walked away saying that we didn't play well, we didn't do our job up front. That can motivate you though the offseason."
That has seemed to work, as Manning has been sacked just five times, giving him time to pick apart defenses.
Manning enters Week 6 second in the NFL with 1,579 yards and has 10 touchdowns. His favorite target, Cruz, has 37 receptions - the fourth-most in the NFL - and had 10 catches for 142 yards in last season's championship game.
The Giants finally got their ground game going last Sunday, as Bradshaw rushed for a career-best 200 yards after totaling 133 in his first three contests. New York is 9-0 when Bradshaw runs for at least 100 yards, but the Niners have allowed just one 100-yard rusher - Seattle's Marshawn Lynch last December - in their last 43 games.
Bradshaw's former teammate, running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), is questionable to make his 49ers debut against the team he spent his first seven seasons with in the NFL.
Top Niners running back Frank Gore has totaled 434 rushing yards, and his 5.5 yards per attempt ranks among the best in the league.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
The San Francisco 49ers added outside linebacker Clark Haggans to the active roster and released linebacker Erik Bakhtiari. Haggans' three-game suspension following a DUI arrest that resulted in jail time ended Tuesday and the 49ers had until 4 p.m. to make a decision on his roster spot. Haggans was arrested in April 2011 and served time in June after pleading guilty to DUI...
The last time a player disputed San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's judgment about the player's readiness for action, Harbaugh cut him. That was last year, when wide receiver Braylon Edwards never fully came back from knee and shoulder injuries. Edwards suggested he'd miss a game or two, but instead of telling Harbaugh, he told the media. Harbaugh eventually released...
In the Week 6 WR Rankings one of the bigger questions is whether or not Giants WR Hakeem Nicks will in fact play against San Francisco. The word is as of now (Tuesday evening) Nicks will certainly be given the green light if he makes it through the week without complications or swelling in that troublesome knee and foot. Keep checking back here for further updates. Letâ€™s get rightâ€...
The NFC title game was the low point for the New York Giants' offensive line last season.
While Tom Coughlin's team won the contest and went on to win the Super Bowl, most of the linemen recall it was the game they let quarterback Eli Manning down, literally.
Manning was sacked six times and hit six other times in the 20-17 overtime victory. Walking off the field, the leader...
During an interview with the media today, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was told that a sack was taken away from J.J. Watt from this past Monday nightâ€™s game. Heâ€™ll instead be credited with a tackle for a loss.Phillips then asked, â€śWhy didnâ€™t they take away Strahanâ€™s when he set record?â€ťPhillips is referring to when Strahan broke the NFLâ€™s single...
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks can play against the 49ers on Sunday.Coughlin doesnâ€™t know if the swelling in Nicksâ€™ knee has gone down, but he has been moving well.If Nicks is able to play effectively on Sunday, the Giants will have a good chance at upsetting the 49ers.
After yesterdayâ€™s win over the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz hinted that it might be time for a new touchdown celebration.â€śStay tuned,â€ť Cruz said, per the New York Daily News. â€śI am not quite ready to let the cat out the bag, but there might be a little something.â€ťCruzâ€™s salsa dance was getting old yesterday after he scored three touchdowns...
The New York Giants' defensive line is in a slump.
The sacks and quarterback hits that marked the line's performance in the run to the Super Bowl last season have become few and far between.
For the season, the group that features All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and two-time Pro Bowl ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora has been limited to eight sacks and 14 overall...
Nicks owners were given a glimmer of hope today when the start WR practiced and Giants HC Tom Coughlin said he was hopeful that Nicks could play vs. the 49ers. Ramses Barden (concussion) also returned to practice and like Nicks is status remains unclear. The matchup this week is a tough one.
(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Photos.) By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer Kyle Williams circled this week's game against the New York Giants as soon as the NFL schedule was released in April.
He and his San Francisco 49ers teammates have some unfinished business against the Super Bowl champions.
Williams' two turnovers on punt returns played a key role in helping...
After fumbling twice in last yearâ€™s NFC Championship, 49ersâ€™ Kyle Williams says he is looking forward to this Sundayâ€™s game against the New York Giants (Credit: AP Photo)While there are plenty of players on both teams that remember last yearâ€™s NFC Championship game, Kyle Williams probably remembers the game for all of the wrong reasons.Williams fumbled two punts that the...
(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Photos.) It wasn't very difficult for Mario Manningham to leave the New York Giants after winning a Super Bowl with them.
The fleet wide receiver is happy in his new home with the San Francisco 49ers, another championship contender that's making better use of Manningham than the Giants ever did.
It's a different situation for...
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is drawing comparisons to some of the all-time greatest NFL linemen with his brilliant play.
And to think the coaches at Central Michigan University wanted Watt to become the next Joe Staley.
Staley began his college career as a CMU tight end but was shifted to left tackle. The move was so successful that San Francisco selected Staley in the...
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer San Francisco 49ers fans are no longer booing Alex Smith and calling for his backup.
''Seems like a long time ago, longer than two years ago, for sure,'' Smith said Wednesday when reminded of some of those lower points in his career.
Things are going so well these days the quarterback got the chance to meet...