Giants vs. 49ers: 4 Players Who Could Actually Play Better in the Rain
This is the fourth straight day of rain in San Francisco, which is typical of winters in the city by the bay.
However, rain affects football players and football teams differently, and this rainy weather is likely to have a significant impact in today's NFC Championship game between the 49ers and New York Giants.
In the following slides, I detail four players who shouldn't suffer from the weather conditions and in fact play well despite them.
RB Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
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The New York Giants field two disparate running backs, with Ahmad Bradshaw getting more of the outside work and Brandon Jacobs' strength being running the ball up the middle.
Bradshaw won't likely have much luck cutting around the wet Candlestick Park field in today's NFC Championship matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, but Jacobs should have little trouble pushing forward on the wet ground.
Bradshaw may struggle to gain yards against the 49ers defense today, but it won't be because of the rain. The Niners allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the regular season and gave up just 37 yards on the ground against the New Orleans Saints last week, despite that team fielding a top 10 run offense.
In the regular season, the Giants ran the ball for fewer yards on average than any other team in the NFL. So it's not a foregone conclusion that New York would have more success were it not raining today.
But between their two backs, it's the powerful, straight-ahead running that Jacobs employs that will work out better for the Giants on a rainy day like today.
RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
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It's no secret that the rain is generally more difficult for quarterbacks and wide receivers to play in than running backs.
While the softened field also poses its own hazards to running backs, when it comes to having stable footing step after step, it's often easier for teams to gain yardage on the ground when it's raining.
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore thus has an advantage in today's NFC Championship game against the New York Giants simply because of that fact, but there are also other reasons to believe that the rain will only help his stats and his team's effort today.
First is that the Niners are a running team. Quarterback Alex Smith averaged just 196.9 passing yards per game in the regular season, and that worked out well, with him throwing 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
The rest of the offensive load fell to Gore, and he ended the season with his second-best yardage total of his career, with 1,211 yards on 282 carries and eight touchdowns.
The rain shouldn't be too much of a problem for Gore, who has been playing in and practicing in it for seven straight years.
Last week, in dry conditions, Gore had 13 carries for 89 yards against the New Orleans Saints. With the weather like it is and the Giants boasting a strong pass rush, Gore should have around 20 carries, if not more, and could have well over 100 yards.
DT Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers
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It's highly probable that the hard-hitting pass-rushers for the San Francisco 49ers think of today's rainy weather as a boon.
First, it's going to be hard for Giants quarterback Eli Manning to keep a solid grip on the ball. It could also pose trouble for the Giants to get their snaps off cleanly. That means Niners defensive tackle Justin Smith will have a number of opportunities to get sacks and force fumbles today.
This season, Smith has notched 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, one of which he recovered, and he sacked New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees once last week.
With the turf conditions not in the Giants' favor, Smith's pressure is going to be even more effective today. Passing the ball wouldn't likely come easy for Manning today even if the weather were perfect, but in the rain, the game moves even more in the 49ers' favor.
TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
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It's not impossible to pass the ball in the rain, just difficult. It's hard for quarterbacks to plant their back feet, it's hard to get a good grip on the ball and it's hard for receivers to run long routes and cut around on water-logged ground, but there are ways to move the ball effectively in the air, even in a downpour.
The key is the short passing game. Considering it's a tactic the San Francisco 49ers have employed all season, they should have success doing so today in the rain, and it will be tight end Vernon Davis who will factor into that strategy the most.
Davis had 180 yards on seven receptions last week against the New Orleans Saints and scored two touchdowns. With the rain falling steadily, he won't likely average nearly 26 yards per reception this week but should successfully move the chains a number of times for his team.
Davis is no stranger to the rainy weather, nor is he any stranger to being a major cog in the 49ers' conservative passing offense. Combined, and he's a major threat on the field in this game and should be nearly impervious to the field conditions.