SAN FRANCISCO -- In their renaissance season, the 49ers relied on their defense and the best turnover-ratio in the NFL -- plus-28.Against the New York Giants in the NFC title game, the defense was solid if not spectacular. But the 49ers failed to force a turnover. Not a fumble recovery. Not an interception of Eli Manning.Giants 20, 49ers 17. In overtime."I mean, it's just, we lost," said defensive tackle Justin Smith. "So, that's really all there is to say you know?Then, what about Manning?
"I mean he's a really good quarterback, and will make you pay when you lose the turnover-differential," Smith acknowledged. "I mean, it's like that every week. That's how we won a lot of games and that's how we lost."The Giants compiled 199 yards of offense in the first half, and the 49ers limited them to 153 yards in the second half and overtime.So what adjustments did the defense make?"Just a few things here and there," Smith said. "But mainly, they got a little more predictable and (started) throwing the ball quite a bit more and that makes it a little bit easier to tee off."But an apparent Ahmad Bradshaw fumble late in the fourth quarter and deep in Giants territory that was recovered by the 49ers and would have set them up for a potential game-winning field goal did not happen. Not officially, anyway.Bradshaw was ruled down."I just felt like that was one of those plays in the game where you can't put your finger on it," said inside linebacker Patrick Willis. "The rules are what they are and the referees call what they call. It is what it is."They say it was forward progress stopped, therefore it is not a fumble. That's what we have to live with."Which is tough for such an opportunistic defense. The 49ers lost a pair of fumbles on punt returns."Life goes on, it's not the end of the world," Smith said. "I mean, it's hard to swallow but, they beat us. They were better than us today. They deserve to go to the Super Bowl. That's how these games shake out. It's hard to swallow but what else are you going to do?"We got to the NFC championship gameand it gives us something to build on and come back and hopefully we can get back to it and win it and go the distance. I mean, I really don't have the words right now, guys."