As the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers prepare to meet Sunday at Candlestick Park in the NFC Championship Game (6:30 p.m. ET/FOX) let's take a look at how the Giants defense matches up with the 49ers offense.
The 49ers are a close to the vest offense built around the running of Frank Gore, controlling the clock and not turning the ball over. Quarterback Alex Smith has finally established himself as a capable NFC quarterback after seven less-than-stellar seasons in the league.
The Giants resurgent defense has been a key to the team's four-game winning streak. The regular-season numbers -- including 25.0 points per game allowed and 376.4 yards per game (27th in the league) surrendered -- don't look good. The defense, though, has been dominant in recent weeks. The Giants did not surrender a point on defense against Atlanta in the opening round of the playoffs, then held Green Bay in check last week in a 37-20 victory.
When the teams met during the regular season the 49ers won, 27-20. In that game, however, a hurting Gore carried just six times for zero yards, and the 49ers managed just 77 yards rushing on 20 carries. That helped the Giants win the time of possession, 34.36 to 25:24.
With Gore (1,211 yards rushing for the season) healthy again the task of slowing the San Francisco running game will be that much more difficult for the Giants. To control the game, however, slowing the run and forcing Smith into long-yardage passing situations is critical.
"I think their offense is geared around Frank. I think what they do and how they do it is geared around Frank," said Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "I think he was dinged up last time we played them. I don't expect a whole lot of change, because they do what they do and they're good at what they do."
For the Giants the key, as always, will be the play of their vaunted defensive line. The Giants were third in the league with 48 sacks, and the line being healthy again has been critical to the unit's improved play in recent weeks. Jason Pierre-Paul was named All-Pro after a 16.5 sack season, and veterans Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have also played well the last two weeks.
"That's where our energy comes from, that's where our confidence comes from, that's where our swagger comes from. Those guys, unlike most teams that you associate with, they set the tone for us, they are the catalysts for what we do and how we do it," said Fewell.
San Francisco's play-makers in the passing game are tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Matching up with Davis, who caught the game-winning pass for San Francisco last week against the New Orleans Saints, will be particularly critical for the Giants.
New York Giants Defensive Summary
|Defense||25.0||376.4 (27th)||255.1 (29th)||121.3 (19th)|
San Francisco 49ers Offensive Summary
|Offense||23.8||310.9 (26th)||183.1 (29th)||127.8 (8th)|