Tom Coughlin's motivational methods worked to a ‘T' -- again. The New York Giants head coach professed all week that nobody gave his team a chance against the San Francisco 49ers, who pack one of the NFL's elite defenses which battered Eli Manning into near-submission in January before losing the NFC Championship game.
Unlike their victory in that bunkhouse brawl, the Giants left no doubt on Sunday in San Francisco by smashing the 49ers, 26-3, an effort that reminded the most hardened of naysayers exactly who are the defending Super Bowl champions. All week there was talk about how the Giants would stack up against a "brutal" schedule. Over the course of 60 minutes, the measuring stick in the NFL changed, and it now wears blue and white.
"The statement we made was that we're here to stay," said Victor Cruz.
Ahmad Bradshaw: For the second straight week, Bradshaw ran angry and hard, except no fumbles this time. Bradshaw torched one of the league's best against the run with 27 yards for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Victor Cruz: Treated Niners fans to a salsa and caught a game-high six passes for 58 yards.
Jason Pierre-Paul: Led the resurrection of the Giants defense with two of the stop-unit's six sacks.
Antrel Rolle: Picked off two passes for 42 yards and tied with two other Giants studs (Michael Boley and Prince Amukamara) for the team lead with six tackles. With those six sacks, the Giants added six tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits as part of an A-plus effort for Perry Fewell's group.
David Wilson: The rookie speedster returned two kickoffs for 93 yards, the second that opened the third quarter 66 yards to set up Bradshaw's touchdown to extend the Giants' lead to 17-3. In limited action running behind Bradshaw, Wilson averaged 5.0 yards a carry (7 rushes, 35 yards).
Alex Smith: For the seventh time in his career, the first since December 20, 2009, the NFL's top-overall pick in 2005 threw three interceptions in one game, two of which set up Giants field goals.
Michael Crabtree: Rendered invisible in catching three passes for 26 yards.
Vernon Davis: The dangerous 49ers tight end who torched the Giants more than once last season (three TDs in two games) made only two catches for 13 yards in the first three quarters before finishing with three for 37.
Carlos Rogers: Early last week Rogers spoke of swiping Cruz's touchdown salsa if he picked off a Manning pass while covering the Giants' electric wide receiver before backing off his words. As it turned out, Rogers had just three tackles and a world of trouble covering No. 80.
David Akers: The normally-automatic Niners placekicker missed two field goals from 43 and 52 yards.
Akers' 52-yards attempt that went wide left as time expired in the first half. The Niners were still in the game, trailing 10-3, when they blocked Lawrence Tynes' 40-yard try. On the next play, Colin Kaepernick hit ex-Giant Mario Manningham for a 36-yard gain. Normally, Akers makes the kick and the 49ers enter the locker room down only four points. Instead, any momentum generated disappeared with Wilson's 66-yard kickoff return to open the second half.
Visit Big Blue View for more Giants coverage.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC