49ers-Giants: Matchups to watch


49ers-Giants: Matchups to watch

SAN FRANCISCO -- This week's "Matchup to Watch" is more like a "Comparison to Watch."The 49ers (7-1) face the New York Giants (6-2) on Sunday at Candlestick Park in a game that could send the 49ers well on their way to a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.The game will feature the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft against the top selection of the 2005 draft. And all eyes will definitely be on the quarterbacks.Tale of the tape
Giants QB Eli Manning (10): 6-4, 218, Mississippi, eighth season
49ers QB Alex Smith (11): 6-4, 217, Utah, seventh seasonManning enters the game with a 98.8 passer rating, which ranks fifth in the NFL. He is viewed as the main reason the Giants lead the NFC East.Smith ranks sixth in the NFL with a 97.3 rating. The general perception seems to be that he is along for the ride, as the 49ers have compiled the second-best record in the entire NFL with their running game, defense and special teams.Through eight games, Manning has averaged 113.8 yards passing more per game than Smith. But where Smith has excelled is in making all the right decisions.Smith accounted for just four turnovers in the first eight games (two interceptions, two lost fumbles). His care in taking care of the football is a big reason the 49ers rank second in the league with a plus-12 turnover margin. Meanwhile, Manning has turned it over eight times with six interceptions and two lost fumbles."He's playing smart football," Manning said of Smith. "That's what you have to do at this level. It seems like he's getting completions and throwing high-percentage passes, and not throwing dangerous balls and taking the risk of interceptions. He's playing well and the whole team is."However, not everybody in the Giants locker room shared the level of respect that Manning expressed for the job Smith is doing this season."He's a guy that they're trying to keep out of position of having to win a football game," Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "With a back like Frank Gore and that O-line keeping them in third-and-short situations, even when it's third and 6 or 7, they're still very confident they can pick it up running. I think what they're asking from Alex is not to lose the game."Coach Jim Harbaugh, however, said he places his quarterback in rarefied air among current NFL players."I think people who know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith," Harbaugh said. "He's a very talented quarterback. He's every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now."Unlike the Giants, the 49ers this week were gracious in speaking about the quarterback they will face Sunday."I think he (Manning) ranks at the top," 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. "He's been playing well, getting the right guys the ball, making the right choices with the ball. Our coaches do a great job of game-planning and having us in the right position to make the right plays, so we'll prepared for it."Both teams also better be prepared for some late-game intrigue, too. Manning has led the Giants to the go-ahead points in the fourth quarter of each of their last four victories.Manning ranks first in the NFL with a passer rating of 121.7 in the fourth quarter with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith is third with a 106.7 rating in the fourth quarter. Other matchups worth watching
49ers Joe Staley (74) vs. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90): Pierre-Paul has 9.5 sacks for the team that sacks the quarterback with more frequency than any other team in the league. Pierre-Paul will move around to all the different positions on the defensive line, as the Giants like to exploit mismatches. So the Staley vs. Pierre-Paul matchup is really just a jumping off point for matchups that will occur across the line.
"He's one of those guys who goes to the ball and has great lateral movement and he makes plays across the line of scrimmage," Staley said. "He gets separation and chases down the quarterback if he gets out of the pocket. Their whole defensive line is built like that. They're built to come after the quarterback and we have to do a real good job of finishing on pass protection and making sure we give that extra effort so our guys don't slip off late."
This matchup isn't just about pass protection. It's even more important that the 49ers offensive line is physical against the Giants defensive front and move them around to create holes for running back Frank Gore, who ranks fifth in the NFL with 782 rushing yards. Gore has a franchise-best streak of five consecutive 100-yard rushing games.49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers (22) vs. Giants receiver Victor Cruz (80): As a division rival of the Giants while with the Washington Redskins, Rogers remembers watching the undrafted rookie tear it up during the 2010 exhibition season with 15 catches for 297 yards and four touchdowns.
"This year he's doing the same thing he did in the preseason when he was the highlight of New York last year," Rogers said. "He's having a real good season."
With wideouts Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) and Mario Manningham (knee) questionable for the game, Manning will look for Cruz, who lines up in the slot on third downs. Cruz has 34 receptions for a team-leading 588 yards and four touchdowns. Rogers covers the slot receiver. He is having an exceptional season for the 49ers with three interceptions and nine passes broken up. Rogers' former team, the Redskins, rarely even challenged him last week.

With star TE Reed out again, Washington to lean on Vernon Davis


With star TE Reed out again, Washington to lean on Vernon Davis

ASHBURN, Va. -- First-round draft pick Josh Doctson was put on injured reserve by Washington on Friday with an injured left Achilles tendon.

Doctson has missed the past four games for Washington (4-2) after making just one catch in each of the team's first two games.

The wide receiver was the 22nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft but has been troubled by the Achilles tendon problem since rookie minicamp in May. Doctson did not play at all in the preseason.

"With all the work that we've put in, we thought it was best to immobilize him for a little bit of time and see if that can help," coach Jay Gruden said Friday.

Gruden raised the possibility of bringing Doctson back from IR later on - each team can do that with one player per season - saying, "Hopefully we'll get him back for the last, maybe, two games of the year."

Said teammate DeSean Jackson: "Hopefully he'll get right and get the treatment he needs and be back out there for us as soon as possible."

Doctson had one catch for 9 yards in Week 1, and one catch for 57 yards in Week 2. Washington was hoping he could contribute this season and be ready to step into a bigger role next season if Jackson or Pierre Garcon leaves via free agency.

Gruden also said tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday's game at the Detroit Lions (3-3) with a concussion. Reed, who leads the team with 33 catches in 2016, also sat out last week's win over Philadelphia after hitting his head during a victory over Baltimore a week earlier.

He participated somewhat in practice Wednesday - wearing a yellow, noncontact jersey - before being held out entirely Thursday and Friday.

"I don't think he had a setback," Gruden said. "I just think they didn't really clear him. ... That's all I can say. I don't even try to argue or ask why. I just (ask) if he's cleared or not - and the answer is `No.' So hopefully we'll get him back next week."

Jackson, the receiver whose left shoulder has been bothering him, practiced Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. He was listed as questionable against Detroit.

Gruden said the team would see how Jackson feels Saturday before determining whether he would play at Detroit.

"That's a decision they've got to make," Jackson said. "I think I'll be all right, though."

NFL places Giants' Brown on 'exempt' list amid domestic abuse case


NFL places Giants' Brown on 'exempt' list amid domestic abuse case

LONDON -- The NFL placed Josh Brown on paid leave Friday hours after coach Ben McAdoo struggled to answer questions about how the New York Giants might discipline the kicker for abusing his wife.

In a letter to the 14-year veteran, NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch said Brown was being placed on the league's "exempt list" while the league investigates whether he should be suspended as punishment for several alleged acts of spousal abuse. Birch said the move "does not represent a finding that you have violated the personal conduct policy," but does pave the way toward potential further sanctions.

Being placed on Commissioner Roger Goodell's "exempt" list means Brown cannot attend practices or Giants games but can go to Giants headquarters for meetings and workouts. It also means Brown continues to be paid and his presence won't be counted on the Giants' 53-man roster. Brown could appeal the decision.

"The NFL has the ability to place a player on the exempt list and the player has the right to appeal that decision, if he chooses," the NFL Players Association said in a statement. "The League office wanted unilateral control of this process and accordingly, their system lacks transparency."

The action on Brown came hours after McAdoo had trouble explaining the Giants' intentions toward Brown, their kicker since 2013. The questions about how much the Giants knew about Brown's off-field troubles have overshadowed preparations for Sunday's game in London against the Los Angeles Rams.

Brown did not travel to London following Wednesday's release of police records which contained the player's written admissions that he physically abused his wife, Molly, over a protracted period. She told police in the documents released by the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state that the abuse and other threatening behavior stretched from 2009, when she was pregnant with their daughter, to the Pro Bowl in January 2016.

In May 2015, Molly Brown sought and was granted a temporary protection order against her husband. A King County Superior Court commissioner issued the temporary restraining order on May 27, 2015. The order was reissued several times until July 24, 2015 when the order was terminated by the court at Molly Brown's request.

At the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Brown's wife said she called NFL security to move her and her three children to another hotel to avoid harassment from her estranged husband. She said he had pounded on their hotel door seeking to get in. The allegation is included in the final report filed last month by the local investigating detective, Robin Ostrum.

Brown's former wife did not respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press. A law firm representing the kicker declined to comment.

When asked whether the Giants knew about Brown's behavior at the Pro Bowl, McAdoo repeatedly said the Giants were still gathering information on the 9-month-old event. Finally, he said: "I'm not going to answer that."

When a reporter asked McAdoo about his comments in August suggesting he would show no tolerance for players abusive of their family members, McAdoo said his comments then were more nuanced.

"When did I say zero tolerance?" he said, adding: "I do not support domestic violence, if that's what you're asking. I do not condone it."

McAdoo described Brown as a "man of faith" who was trying to improve his behavior and the Giants organization was supporting him in this. But when asked to explain how the Giants provided this or monitored his off-field behavior, McAdoo said he couldn't detail any specific acts of support.

The NFL's official policy is to suspend players guilty of domestic abuse for six games on their first offense. Brown was suspended for one game, the Giants' season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in punishment for his May 2015 arrest at his family home in Woodinville, Washington, on suspicion of assaulting his wife by grabbing one of her wrists as she tried to reach for a phone, leaving an abrasion and bruising. No charges were filed but the detective, Ostrum, gathered detailed statements from Molly Brown who also provided her husband's written admissions of abuse in diary and email entries.

The NFL said its investigators asked to see these records but were denied.

Earlier Friday, Goodell suggested in a BBC interview that Brown could face further punishment now that league officials can see the full King County evidence file detailing Molly Brown's allegations of more than 20 episodes of abuse and other threatening behavior to herself, her two sons from a previous relationship and the couple's daughter.

"We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that's been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren't able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have," Goodell said in a transcript of the London interview provided by the BBC.

"We take this issue incredibly seriously. ... When it happens we're not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we'll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we'll take it from there," Goodell said.

The Giants in April re-signed Brown to a two-year contract valued at $4 million. When facing his one-game suspension, Brown in August said he was divorced from his wife, although police documents released Wednesday suggested that civil proceedings remain incomplete.

The Giants have signed kicker Robbie Gould, an 11-year veteran of the Chicago Bears who was cut in September for salary cap reasons. The 34-year-old is expected to practice with the team Saturday.

"I've seen him (Gould) make a lot of kicks against me in the past. He's been successful, and we're hoping that continues," McAdoo said.