49ers key matchup No. 1: Smith vs. Manning

October 14, 2012, 3:07 pm
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This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Giants matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX-TV), at Candlestick Park.

Matchup No. 3: Justin Smith vs. Kevin Boothe
Matchup No.2: Joe Staley vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
49ers QB Alex Smith vs. Giants QB Eli ManningTale of the tape
Smith (11): 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, eighth season, Utah
Manning (10): 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, ninth season, MississippiThere are a lot of different ways to spin the key matchup in this game.It could be 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers against the New York Giants' top receiver, Victor Cruz. It could be Michael Crabtree, who was held to one reception for 3 yards in the NFC championship game, against left cornerback Corey Webster.We've examined key matchups when comes to pass protection, too. But it all boils down to is this: Alex Smith vs. Eli Manning.The quarterback who makes the most plays and does not commit the critical mistake will give his team the best chance of winning this matchup of NFC heavyweights.The 49ers' passing game struggled during the Giants' 20-17 overtime victory in the NFC championship game. Smith competed just 12 of 26 pass attempts for 196 yards. The 49ers converted just one of 13 third-down opportunities.That failure to connect on plays on the outside inspired the 49ers to sign free-agent wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, as well as select A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the draft.The 49ers' offense looks much-improved through five games. The 49ers are coming off a 621-yard performance against the Buffalo Bills to become the first team in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 300 yards in the same game."Both teams are different," Smith said. "Even looking at last year's tape of us, a lot of faces have changed here and there and that's the nature of this game. Can't get caught up too much in last year and what was going on. I think both of us are different."Smith enters the game as the NFL's leading passer with a 108.7 efficiency rating. Manning, who has two Super Bowl rings to his credit, is No. 9 at 96.0.
Manning has thrown for nearly 100 more yards per game Smith. Manning has accounted for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, while Smith has tossed eight touchdowns and just one interception.In the NFC championship game, Manning took a beating. He was sacked six times and was knocked down 12 times. Yet, he kept getting up and made the plays to enable the Giants to pull out the victory and advance to a Super Bowl title. He completed 32 of 58 passing attempts for 316 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's a good quarterback," 49ers All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith said. "A lot of people don't give him the respect he deserves. I think he's definitely one of the top three, four quarterbacks in the league. it's going to be a tough game."