Giants still have upper hand over 49ers

October 15, 2012, 1:36 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- There was nothing else 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh could say after his team's thorough defeat on Sunday.
"The plan wasn't the best plan," Harbaugh said. "It wasn't a great day for any of us."The New York Giants, who broke the 49ers' hearts last season with an overtime victory in the NFC Championship game, out-coached and out-played the revenge-minded 49ers on Sunday at Candlestick Park.The Giants' 26-3 victory over the 49ers represented the largest margin of defeat in Harbaugh's 24 games at the helm.Quarterback Alex Smith, who entered as the NFL's leader in passer rating, had a forgettable outing one week after the best statistical game of his career.Maiocco's Instant Replay: Giants 26, 49ers 3
Smith threw three interceptions, which led to a Giants touchdown and two field goals. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 200 yards for a passer rating of 43.1. He was also sacked four times.The Giants recorded five of their six sacks -- backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was sacked twice -- in the second half after the 49ers had fallen hopelessly behind.Smith was on the injury report in the week leading up to the game with a sprain of his right middle finger. But Smith was not limited in practice. He wore tape on his middle finger, but said it had no impact on his performance."No, it was fine," Smith said.Smith's interceptions appeared to be more a matter of questionable decision-making and good defense than poorly thrown passes.The 49ers had their opportunities early to seize control of the game. Sandwiched between a Giants three-and-out offensive possession, the 49ers strung together two long drives.After converting two third downs, offensive coordinator Greg Roman called Kaepernick off the sideline for a third-and-6 play from the Giants' 26. His read option handoff to Frank Gore was stopped for no gain. And David Akers' 43-yard field-goal attempt was wide right.The 49ers got their only points in the game with a 12-play, 61-yard drive on the next series. That drive stalled at the Giants' 24 when Smith's pass for Michael Crabtree was deflected at the line of scrimmage.
"They don't give up anything easy," Smith said of the Giants' defense. "And we forced some things. I feel like I forced some things. Uncharacteristic that we turned the ball over. Any time you turn the ball over like that, it's tough to win."The 49ers only other scoring opportunity came at the end of the first half. Kaepernick's 36-yard pass to Mario Manningham set up Akers for a 52-yard attempt, which landed wide left. Through five games, Akers has missed five of his 16 field-goal attempts. Last season, he made 44 of his 52 tries.The second half belonged entirely to the Giants.
"It's tough to get up when you're not executing," Smith said. "I think that's what comes first. I didn't feel flat at the beginning of the game. I don't think anybody did. It was more of a sense of, when things aren't going well, it's tough."You're out there grinding, you're out there trying to make things happen. When it's not working and you're not playing well, it's not easy to be up."RELATED: 49ers LT Staley leaves game with concussion
The 49ers trailed just 10-3 at halftime, but the Giants took control with a touchdown on the opening drive. Rookie David Wilson returned the second-half kickoff 66 yards. Seven plays later, Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for a 17-3 lead."We gave up the big play, no question, coming out of the half and things continued to get worse from there in the beginning of the second half," Harbaugh said. "What's happening with the return yardage exactly? I don't know."The 49ers' coverage units have been a disappointment through six games. One of the strengths of the team a year ago, the 49ers entered Sunday's game ranked 30th-best in kickoff return yardage and 31st in punt returns.Two major players off the 49ers' coverage units from a year ago, Blake Costanzo and Colin Jones, are no longer on the team. The 49ers made no effort to re-sign Costanzo, and the 49ers dealt Jones to the Carolina Panthers for a future draft pick.
The future looked bright for the 49ers after decisive victories at the New York Jets and at home against the Buffalo Bills. Harbaugh remarked that the team was playing "scary good." But on Sunday, the 49ers got a not-so-gentle reminder of which team still is the class of the NFC."They came to play, man," 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis said. "Everybody is going to give the 49ers their best shot."But the Giants won the Super Bowl last season. So why weren't the 49ers able to make a better showing Sunday? After all, it was a game some players, including Smith, termed as "unfinished business.""I know we're capable of playing better," Davis said. "We played hard. We need to play better."The Giants' offense was not prolific. But quarterback Eli Manning played a sound game, and Bradshaw gained 116 yards and a touchdown on 27 attempts. The Giants did not turn the ball over.
The Giants exploited third cornerback Chris Culliver on two third-down plays in the second quarter to set up the only touchdown of the first half. Domenik Hixon turned around Culliver for a 39-yard reception. Then, Hixon caught a 16 yards pass to keep the drive going.
Those plays set up Eli Manning's 6-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz against the coverage of cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Donte Whitner. Cruz celebrated with a salsa dance, and the Giants led 7-3.The 49ers made it into Giants territory only twice in the second half. Smith hit Randy Moss on a 55-yard pass to the New York 29. But Kaepernick took an 11-yard sack on the next play when he replaced Smith.Kaepernick sparked the offense in the previous two games, but the Giants appeared prepared for him on Sunday. Harbaugh was asked if there is a fear that sometimes the 49ers' offense can be disrupted with the insertion of Kaepernick into the lineup."Yes," he said.Was that the case on Sunday?"Perhaps," Harbaugh admitted. "The plan wasn't the best plan. And we'll work to make a good one this week."The 49ers return in a shortened week to face the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. The 49ers and Seahawks, coming off a 24-23 victory over the New England Patriots, are tied with the Arizona Cardinals (4-2) atop the NFC West standings."Tough loss for us, but we have to bounce back fast," Harbaugh said. "We have a game coming up Thursday night. No time to hang the head. Have to bounce back."