Giants coach Coughlin hurls praise at Alex Smith

Giants coach Coughlin hurls praise at Alex Smith
November 9, 2011, 7:29 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have played the New York Giants three times since Alex Smith's rookie season, but Smith has never been on the field for any of those games due to injuries.
Still, the quarterback that Giants coach Tom Coughlin has witnessed this season is different than the guy he has seen in previous seasons, he said."I think he's managing the game much better," Coughlin said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters."He's more confident. I think he realizes or believes it's his team and he's played well under his new tutelage. He has benefited from the style. He's got a 97 quarterback rating, which is darn good. And he's playing well. He's leading his team."The 49ers (7-1) face the Giants (6-2) in a game Sunday at Candlestick Park that could have seeding implications in the NFC playoffs. It's the first time the 49ers have been in this situation with Smith at quarterback.Smith ranks sixth in the NFL with a 97.3 passer rating. He ranks first in the NFL, averaging just one interception every 100 passing attempts. So the Giants defense does not figure to get many opportunities to make plays on the ball.Coughlin said the key for his defense will be patience."You got to, hopefully, create down and distance in your favor," Coughlin said. "And do the best you can to defend against the percentages. When it gets to down-and-distance circumstances in your favor, you got to do a good job on third down."The 49ers rank 26th in the league in third-down efficiency at 31.1 percent. Center David Baas, a former 49ers starter whom the Giants signed to a lucrative free-agent contract, is expected to be available for Sunday's game, Coughlin said. Baas (knee), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) missed the Giants' 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots. Bradshaw and Nicks are "day to day," Coughlin said.

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