I couldn’t have asked for a better Conference Championship weekend. After watching the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots duke it out, coming down to a last second field goal attempt, we got treated to another showdown.
Little did we know this game was going to overtime.
I think the better team did not come out victorious on Sunday, even though I had picked the Giants in our preview a few days ago. However, after the teams played twice this year (they played once in the preseason and once during the regular season), the Giants had the blueprint for success.
They got pressure on Alex Smith early and often on Sunday, forcing plenty of errant throws from the surging quarterback. Over the course of seven days, Alex Smith went from heralded savior to a player that many agree must not return as the starting QB for the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers next year. I do feel sorry for Smith. He was exactly who we thought he was and he is being blasted for it.
Smith is a solid pocket passer, which he proved by throwing a money ball to Vernon Davis for their second touchdown. However, when the Giants managed to get pressure on him and he was forced to scramble, he was often seen skipping balls to receivers and sailing passes into the stands. It wasn’t just the pressure that the Giants turned on throughout the game, though. The secondary was glued to the 49ers average wide receivers for the entirety of the second half.
Even with all the positive signs the Giants showed in the second half, the 49ers still squandered plenty of opportunities to win the game, with no help from the referees either.
Whether it was the plethora of poor passes from Alex Smith or an early fumble by Kyle Williams or even the forward progress call that negated a game changing fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw, the 49ers couldn’t catch a break. Then the big one came into play.
In overtime, Kyle Williams fumbled a punt return and gave the Giants the ball in field goal range. The Giants then went on the move the ball inside the 15 yard line to set up Lawrence Tynes for his game-winning 31 yard field goal.
The 49ers prided themselves all year on not making mistakes and playing great defense. They have to get credit for still playing solid defense and they even managed to stop the bleeding quickly after each mishap to avoid a complete meltdown. I was surprised at how many Giants fans I heard in that stadium, though. After each Victor Cruz catch, the ‘CRUUUUUZ’ chant was very imminent as well as some moderately loud cheering after the Giants made a good play. Props to the Giants fan base, a team from the opposite end of the country.
I have no idea how the 49ers will fare next season, but you have to admit, with the defense they have, they certainly have a great shot at returning to the playoffs next season. I think they were the better team, but going up against the Patriots, I don’t believe there would’ve been much hope. The Patriots were going to put up quite a few points and even against the Patriots, I don’t think Alex Smith could’ve duplicated his performance against the Saints.
As for the Giants, I am super excited for the upcoming rematch of Super Bowl 42. It’s scarily similar to the last time they won it; the Giants were on the verge of unraveling before sneaking into the playoffs and picked up a ton of momentum. This year’s Patriots aren’t near as impressive as their SB 42 team, mainly because the defense is incredibly weak and they really aren’t a great running team. They can throw the ball is really all, but they do it extremely well. It looks like Rob Gronkowski is going to be ready after suffering a slight ankle sprain, which bodes well for a good game in two weeks.
I’ll more than likely be flip flopping my predicted winner all the way up until the game.