Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/24/12
 New York Giants – 20, San Francisco 49ers – 17   Like the Ravens-Patriots game, this was a hard-fought back and forth contest that came down to the last minute, and in fact went into overtime and still wasn’t decided until the OT period was more than half over.  While not a lot of people believed in the 49ers, this loss in no way validates the doubters, as the 49ers played this game tougher than most would, going blow for blow with one of the better clutch QBs in the league today.  At the head of the effort was Alex Smith (238 total yards, 2 TDs), who threw just enough passes to keep the Giants honest and to keep the potent Giants offense off the field as much as possible.  Smith only completed 12 passes though, as he just couldn’t string together enough completions to inevitably get the job done.  Even though they didn’t make it to the big game this year, Smith seems to have found the perfect offensive match for his playing style, and looks to have a bright future going forward.

Speaking of bright futures, Eli Manning (314 total yards, 2 TDs) continues to write his own legacy and if he manages to go into the Super Bowl and win his second one, he will officially have walked out of the shadow of big brother Peyton to possibly be considered the better Manning in the NFL.  Who would have thought that would be possible just a few short years ago?  Manning has had the uncanny ability of rising to the occasion in the playoffs, beating two higher ranked teams this year, in addition to the resume he already built, which includes upsetting an undefeated Patriots team in the 2007 Super Bowl.

Vernon Davis (3-112, 2 TDs) continued his great playoff effort with another 100 yard game and another couple of touchdowns.  Davis looks like he’s finally putting it all together, showing his dominant skills that everyone knew he had.  Going into next season, you could make the argument of vaulting him all the way up to the #3 TE spot with only Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski ahead of him.  Davis was so dominant, no other 49ers receiver did anything of note.

After a relatively quiet game last week, Victor Cruz (10-142) exploded, catching 10 passes and nearly 150 total yards.  Cruz may not have the skills of Hakeem Nicks (5-55), but he has thus far maintained his health, and has the uncanny ability to be right where he needs to be to make a play.  Nicks left the game briefly with an injury, but the word is he’ll be just fine for the Super Bowl.

Frank Gore (16 car., 74 yards; 6 car., 45 yards) got the lion’s share of touches for the 49ers, as San Francisco got the ball into the hands of the running back a little more than normal because of the terrible rainy weather conditions.  Gore still has the skills to be a valuable fantasy back in this league, and the reports of his fantasy demise have been overstated.

Ahmad Bradshaw (20 car., 74 yards; 6 car., 52 yards) got the start and most of the carries for the Giants, as Bradshaw was able to cobble together a pretty nice effort considering the extremely tough matchup against one of the best defenses in the league this year.  Bradshaw was able to fight and scrap his way to over 100 total yards, and could be a big factor in the matchup against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

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