Giants vs. 49ers: 5 Keys to Watch as San Francisco Slips Past New York
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NFL Football's San Francisco 49ers play host to the New York Giants in Candlestick Park at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. With both teams coming off victories last weekend, the two-loss Giants look to upset the one-loss 49ers.
New York struggled against the nation's worst pass defense when they defeated the New England Patriot's, requiring end-game heroics from Eli Manning to pull out the victory. Will New York's passing attack show up this week?
On the flip side of the coin, many believe Jim Harbaugh has his San Francisco team playing way beyond itself. Questions have emerged about the ability of this 49ers team to sustain its current string of victories.
Sunday's matchup presents two teams who couldn't be more polar opposite.
Lack of Giants Rushing Attack
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San Francisco faces one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL when it takes on the New York Giants. Unfortunately, this statistic is a double edged sword for the 49ers, who have the No. 1 run defense in the league.
San Francisco's defensive strength is wasted on the fact that the opposing team can't run the ball, anyway. Fortunately, this means the 49ers can focus on stopping Eli Manning's passing attack which has sputtered recently.
Forcing the Giants to be one-dimensional will help Jim Harbaugh control this game immediately.
Eli Manning vs. the 22nd Pass Defense
Eli Manning is one of the great quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL. He'll have to find a way to control the clock with his one-dimensional offense. On the other hand, the young 49ers secondary will have to find a way to stop Manning from hitting deep passes.
There's no doubt Manning will find ways to make plays, but can San Francisco contain any big play capability New York may attempt?
Fortunately, the 49ers are strong defensively, despite statistics saying the pass defense is in the lower tier of NFL defenses. That number is a direct result of opponents' inability to run the ball. If the Giants get in the red zone, it's almost assured they'll only get a field goal without a rushing attack.
Alex Smith's Lack of Passing Attack
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San Francisco's passing game is 30th in the league. Like the 49ers, however, the Giants' defensive strength is stopping the pass. Because San Francisco is so ridiculously bad in that area, New York's strength is neutralized.
New York does not have the number one pass defense, however, meaning Alex Smith will have his opportunities to gain yards. More importantly, New York's inability to stop running back Frank Gore should open some deep balls for Smith.
San Francisco has an edge offensively because its passing game will find more opportunities to be productive than the Giants' rushing attack will find opportunities against the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense.
Frank Gore & the 49ers Gold Rush
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Frank Gore leads the sixth rated running game in the NFL against a third tier run-stopping defense. If the Giants can't stop San Francisco from running the ball, this game could get ugly.
New York's run defense has given up an average of 127 yards per game. Look for Gore to eclipse that as the 49ers seek to control the clock and keep Eli Manning off the field. If Gore can be the work horse he's been, everything will turn in San Francisco's favor.
The Giants are unusually weak at stopping the rush. If they can't find a plan to confuse this San Francisco offensive line or its running backs, watch out, New York.
Jim Harbaugh's Strategy
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Look for Jim Harbaugh to control the clock against the New York Giants. He knows he has a powerful running game, and he knows the Giants are defenseless to stop it. If Frank Gore can find success on the ground, Harbaugh can control the game.
With an effective ground game, the 49ers can give Alex Smith opportunities to hit his receivers deep downfield against a New York defense that has to play close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
The combination will give Harbaugh the opportunity to be an offensive surgeon, choosing to carve up his opponent with meticulous and determined play-calls.
Harbaugh knows Eli Manning will have some success in the passing game. Fortunately, the 49ers can loosen their defense to guard against Manning's passing abilities, since the Giants have very little running game to lean on.
If Harbaugh can control the clock, he can control the outcome. He cannot fall too far behind, however, because his offense is not conducive to a late game comeback. Look for the 49ers to edge the Giants in a tight battle at Candlestick Park.