Giants-49ers: Who has the edge


Giants-49ers: Who has the edge

Frank Gore was injured and thus, a non-factor in the Nov. 13 regular-season game against the Giants. It was the first time he finished with no yards, on six carries, in his seven-year career. Kendall Hunter picked up some of the slack that day, rushing for 40 yards on six carries. But as a team, the 49ers were limited to just 77 yards on the ground. The Giants' run defense, meanwhile, has given up an average of 105.5 yards per game on the ground against Atlanta and Green Bay in the playoffs, after surrendering 121.2 rushing yards per game in the regular season. Gore is healthy now, as evidenced by his rushing for 1,211 yards this season, the second-highest season total of his career.
EDGE: 49ers

Yes, we know all about Alex Smith's arrival, albeit six years after he was the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick, and how the confidence between his ears has translated to confidence throwing the ball. But now he's facing a fearsome unit that showed up late in the season. The Giants pass rush, bookended by DEs Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, has allowed their secondary to blanket receivers of late, limiting the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers to a combined 75.0 passer rating this postseason. Going back two games into the regular season, against the New York Jets and Dallas, the Giants have racked up 17 sacks in the four games while picking off four passes and shutting out tight ends from the end zone. Beware, Vernon Davis.
To hear Jerry Rice tell it, Brandon Jacobs is soft, huh? Nothing like a retired receiver, granted, the best receiver of all time, taking a shot at a current player and doing the current 49ers' defense no favors in the process while adding some bulletin board material. Plus, Ahmad Bradshaw has been playing on a bad foot since about the mid-point of the season and missed the Nov. 13 game at Candlestick. Bradshaw rumbled for a game-high 55 yards, on 18 carries, and the Giants could only gain 93 yards on the ground in 29 carries. The 49ers, though, have not missed a beat. After finishing with the top-ranked run defense, and not allowing a rushing TD until Week 16, at Seattle, the 49ers limited New Orleans to a mere 37 rushing yards, on 14 carries last week.
Can we stop with the "Is Eli Manning an elite QB" questions, at least for now? Truth is, he's playing out of his mind and he has been in the Giants' four-game winning streak, each game an elimination game, of sorts. When he has time, Manning, who threw for a career-high 4,933 yards this season, with 311 against the 49ers, can pick apart defenses with the best of them. But when he's pressured, he's flustered. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, WR Hakeem Nicks suddenly has a tweaked ankle. And a muddy field won't help the Giants' air assault. Meanwhile, the 49ers pass defense, which gave up 230.9 yards per game in the air in the regular season, was just shredded by Drew Brees for 462 yards. Can Justin Smith and Co. keep Manning off balance?
The 49ers led the NFL in kick returns, averaging 27.2 yards and returning one for a touchdown, a 102-yard gallop by Ted Ginn against Seattle on kickoff weekend. And against the Giants earlier this season, Ginn returned two kicks for 55 yards. But Ginn injured his right knee against the Saints last week and is questionable to play. Even if he cannot go, and is replaced by Kendall Hunter, the 49ers should still enjoy an advantage here as the Giants gave up 22.9 yards per return.
The Giants were in a three-way tie for 20th in kick return this season, with Dallas and St. Louis in averaging 23.3 yards, and had a long of 40 yards. Nothing really special there. And against the 49ers in November, Da'Rel Scott returned two kicks for 53 yards. On the season, Devin Thomas returned 25 kicks and averaged 24.3 yards. The 49ers allowed 23.1 yards per kick return, with a long of 39 yards.
Ginn also led the Niners' punt return team, which ranked fifth in the NFL with a 12.4 average. Ginn himself averaged 12.3 yards and he had an electrifying 55-yard return for a TD against the Seahawks in the opener. But if Ginn is a no-go, Kyle Williams will replace him. Williams only returned two punts in the regular season. Giants punter Steve Weatherford's 39.2-yards net average ranked 14th in the NFL and the Giants allowed a 9.9-yards per punt return average.
If ranking just 29th in the 32-team NFL in punt return wasn't bad enough for the Giants, who averaged 6.1 yards per return with a long of 18 yards (Aaron Ross averaged 7.1 yards on 14 returns), now they get to face All-Pro punter Andy Lee. He set an NFL record for net yardage average at 44.0 yards this season. And the 49ers allowed 8.1 yards per return.
The expected NFL Coach of the Year, as a rookie, against the venerable lion, who has gone from being on the proverbial Big Apple hot seat a month ago to being prepped for his induction into Canton. That's how fast and fickle things can move in the coaching game. Harbaugh has done a magnificent job as an offensive mind and locker room psychiatrist, especially in green-lighting the gutsy call to have Alex Smith run around the left end for a 28-yard touchdown against the Saints. Coughlin, meanwhile, has maintained his steady, steely resolve that has translated to a defense that has gotten healthy and dangerous the last month. A clash of wills and specialties here. But we'll go with experience over exuberance...for now.
EDGE: GiantsPREDICTION: 49ers 23, Giants 21

Shanahan delegates offensive duties to 49ers staff

Shanahan delegates offensive duties to 49ers staff

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan will retain the role he held the past nine seasons in his first year as head coach of the 49ers.

Shanahan eschewed the formality of naming an offensive coordinator because he will keep those duties for himself. Still, Shanahan made it clear that he alone will not be able to fix the 49ers’ offense.

Shanahan has assembled a supporting cast that he said makes him comfortable to delegate responsibilities whenever his attention has to be focused on something other than the team’s offense.

“I mix it up,” said Shanahan, who previously held offensive coordinator roles with Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. “Different guys have different attributes.”

Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur joined Shanahan after time together on the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive staff. McDaniel is the run-game specialist, while LaFleur, the wide receivers coach, is the pass-game specialist.

Tight ends coach Jon Embree, formerly the head coach at Colorado, is Shanahan’s assistant head coach. Shanahan said Embree has a vocal role on his staff.

Moreover, long-time NFL running backs coach Bobby Turner is a trusted assistant after spending 14 seasons in Denver and four more in Washington with Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. Turner coached under Kyle Shanahan the past two seasons with the Falcons.

”Bobby Turner’s been an assistant head coach for our teams we’ve had in the past and anytime that I need him to take over, he does,” Shanahan said. “So it depends what period it is, depends what we’re talking about.”

The 49ers opened organized team activities last week. It was the first time the 49ers’ rookies and veterans were together on the field for offense vs. defense practices. Shanahan said it takes some adjustment for him to figure out how to best budget his time during the workouts.

“I’m used to knowing exactly where to go and what to do and I always did that from an offensive coordinator standpoint which I still do a lot of those responsibilities,” Shanahan said. “So, at times, I feel most comfortable when I go to do that because that’s something to do. But, when I pass it over to some other guys and let them do it, I find myself walking around a lot and I’m not used to that.

“It feels awkward, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think I should walk around and watch everyone and see it. I always see it on the tape, but that’s later at night. You want players to know you’re there and paying attention to everything and I usually try to cover that in meetings the next day also.”

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants. 

Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs. 

“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.

"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."

On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him. 

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.