Well, in a way the Giants out-49er’d the 49ers. In the first half, thanks to eight catches and 125 receiving yards by Victor Cruz, the Giants had a 10-7 lead and control of the game. In the second, the Giants found themselves going three-and-out repeatedly but used good special teams to keep the 49ers in control. It proved to be the difference in the game.
In the first half, New York had 42 plays to San Francisco’s 22. They had a decided advantage in time of possession (18 minutes to 12) and Eli Manning was throwing unhindered in a 16-for-27 first half.
In the second half, the 49ers defense led by Vic Fangio made the proper adjustments. The Giants couldn't move the ball and the game settled down into a classic struggle: Who would make the first mistake.
In the end, the yardage difference was 352-328 in New York’s favor. That the Giants had 11 more minutes of possession might be the biggest difference because it exhausted a 49er defense (even though they adjusted).
Victor Cruz of the Giants had eight catches for 125 yards in the first half, but only had two catches for 17 in the second. The Giants struggled big time on third down in the second half.
That’s why in the end people will talk about the fumble on a punt return by Kyle Williams that led to Manning’s only second-half TD. That seems crucial but in the end 49er fans have to chew over the fact that the game never should have got that deep for Williams to fumble a punt.
The Niners struggled on offense all day, and converted on only one third down, thanks to penalty. They gave Eli Manning chance after chance and the defense still hung on. That should have been worth a win right there. You give the Giants 1st-and-10 on the 22 with the game on the line, they are going to win.
That’s what happens when the offense couldn’t get enough plays at the right time to lift the team to victory. It will probably be written that Lawrence Tynes’ 31-yard field goal in overtime was one of the great moments in Giants history.
But those who watched the game from an objective perspective know that this was a game that required the 49ers offense to provide more punch. It wasn’t there.
It was a defense exhausted and nearly dead when they had to go back on the field and force the Giants back. But two runs and the Giants had their easy 31-yard winning field goal. 49er fans have to wonder in if the biggest issue in the game was the loss of Ted Ginn Jr., the NFL’s leading punt returner.
Kyle Williams, a second-year receiver out of Arizona State who had to prove to the new coaching staff he was worth a spot on the roster, ended up being the goat of the game. His muffed punt in the fourth quarter gave the Giants the lead, 17-14.
His fumble on the overtime return resulted in a very short field and an easy field goal for the Giants. The Niners go home having lost four games out of 18, and it took a very bad break at the end to provide the margin of victory.
But this was a game that does not come down to simple conclusions, and thus here are five things we learned about the 49ers in their 20-17 loss.