New York Giants: Mario Manningham
But the San Francisco receiver and former Giant, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16, is happy to be with a team in the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
"I can’t complain," Manningham said in New Orleans, according to the New York Post. “I’m a little banged up, but I can’t complain at this time of the year to be down here. I’m trying to double up.”
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMario Manningham, who is out of this year's Super Bowl with an ACL injury, talks to the media.
After helping the Giants win it all, he signed with the team the Giants beat in the NFC Championship Game as a free agent last spring. Manningham had 42 receptions for 449 yards and 1 touchdown in 12 games before suffering the season-ending knee injury.
“I feel like I did something most people are scared to do -– go to the team you beat to go to the Super Bowl," Manningham said according to the Post. “Not too many people do that. I felt I could come in and make an instant impact."
The Giants struggled to find a consistent third receiving threat last season after Manningham's departure.
“For me to leave one system and go to another and produce, I felt like I produced pretty good," Manningham said. "I have no reason to hang my head down. I’m just hurt right now. I feel like I fit in this offense pretty good. They do different things than the Giants do. The quarterbacks are night and day, because we run a different system. The teams are different. We got hot last year. I feel like this year, we played hot from the jump.”
Manningham says he has been asked about his Super Bowl catch “all the time" even before getting to New Orleans. It’s the best highlight of his career and he surely will see and hear about it more as the game approaches.
“I know, but I’m tired of talking about it,’’ Manningham said. “If you see David Tyree, ask him if he’s tired of talking about [his Super Bowl catch].”
"Oh, man, I couldn't ask for a better team," Manningham said. "[Couldn't ask for] better teammates, better coaching staff, equipment managers, everybody else. Everybody over here is real cool, and down to earth."
During a conference call with New York reporters, Manningham was upbeat and is excited to play against his former Giants teammates on Sunday. He also may be joined by former Giant Brandon Jacobs, who was scheduled to practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMIMario Manningham
Manningham -- one of the heroes of Super Bowl XLVI -- said he has been in contact with Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw but he hasn't discussed football with his old mates. He sounded perplexed about the idea that "he's already talking" as cornerback Prince Amukamara said he heard earlier in the week.
"I talked to Hakeem for like two hours after our game," Manningham said. "We talk back and forth. Ain't nobody going to say their team is going to lose. So, I wouldn't expect that to come out his mouth, you know what I'm saying? I don't even know what you're talking about, about that Prince stuff. We'll see on Sunday, though."
Manningham did say that he teased Bradshaw about his 200-yard game against Cleveland last Sunday.
"I told him, 'You are trying to make up for when we play you all, huh?'" Manningham said. "Just playing with him and stuff and joking around with him. He said, 'Yeah right.' I know he is going to be ready. I bet you four-four is going to be ready."
Manningham said he does plan on sharing everything he knows about the Giants with the 49ers.
"Oh yeah, no question," he said. "I talk to the DBs and talk to my teammates and let them know to give them heads up on what is going to happen here. Things like that.
"I know what is going on," Manningham continued. "Yeah, I share it with them."
Manningham doesn't hold any ill feelings toward the Giants and understands the business and why they did not make an effort to re-sign him in free agency.
So far, Manningham has 19 catches for 186 yards and one touchdown in five games for the Niners. He scored his lone touchdown last week against Buffalo.
"It worked out more than I thought it was going to work out," Manningham said of his role with the Niners. "I am just glad to be blessed to be in this situation. I left a good team and went to a good team."
And he hopes that he will be able to add to his Super Bowl ring collection with San Francisco.
"I just tell my ring to try to hold tight, I hope another one comes near you, that's all," Manningham said. "Try to wipe the dust off it. I got it hidden right now."
Of course, he knows his old team will do everything it can to stand in his way.
"I know they are going to be ready," Manningham said. "I know how they roll over there."
Tell us if you guys miss Mario and how do you think he will do on Sunday below.
But Rolle won't exchange pleasantries with his former teammates once the game starts.
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs
"We will hug and shake hands after the game," Rolle continued. "But during that game time, there won't be any patting on the butt."
Rolle has remained close to Jacobs, but he said on Monday he will attack Jacobs -- if Jacobs finally makes his 49ers debut -- the same way he attacks any other running back.
Lingering pain: Rolle said his bruised knee is feeling better, but he admits it is "going to take some time" to get back to full strength.
Rolle banged his left knee hard against a television camera on the sideline of the end zone in Carolina on Nov. 20.
He has not missed any games and will play Sunday, but the knee issue continues to bother him a bit.
"Definitely better than I was a few weeks ago," Rolle said. "It is a battle, a constant battle each and every day. I just try to do whatever I can to go out there and perform on Sundays.
"With the knee injury, it is going to take some time," Rolle added. "Actually, I never thought it would be this crucial. It is a little lingering process. Not anything too serious but you know something that just lingers around and sticks with you a little bit. But I will be fine."
Another loss: The Giants are already without Kenny Phillips (knee). Now they are without Will Hill, who was suspended for the next four games for violating the NFL's performance enhancing substances policy by taking Adderall.
"It is difficult," Rolle said of losing Hill. "I can't sit here and lie and say it is not difficult. It is difficult. Especially because Will Hill has been playing good football for us."
The Giants will have Tyler Sash back. Sash took Hill's roster spot after serving his own four-game suspension for taking Adderall.
"Unfortunately we had Kenny going down and I'm still dealing with this injury," Rolle said. "It just seems like if it is not one thing, it is another. We are a tough, close unit. We are going to make sure Will will stay level-headed and make sure he keeps his head into the game. And at the same time we will get (Sash) up to speed."
Oakland defensive end Dave Tollefson, Chicago wide receiver Devin Thomas, Redskins linebacker Jonathan Goff and unsigned free agents like tackle Kareem McKenzie, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and safeties Deon Grant and Derrick Martin attended the celebration.
Afterward, Justin Tuck said the Giants' goal now is to be a dynasty.
Three former Giants who were not able to attend were Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross, who is now in Jacksonville. Jacobs and Manningham are now with San Francisco and, according to the 49ers' website, (check out Jacobs in his new threads), the two former Giants remained on the West Coast to work with their new teammates.
Jacobs' wife, Kim, went to the ring ceremony in his place.
"I decided not to partake in getting the ring," Jacobs said on the 49ers' team website. "I think my goal here is pretty clear on what I'm trying to achieve as an individual player and as a team."
Jacobs said he will return to the East Coast once this week's work with the Niners concludes. Good friend Ahmad Bradshaw said he was looking forward to seeing Jacobs again.
But Jacobs said it was important for him to remain with his new teammates to help set a tone for the season.
"I think winning a championship is important. Not many people have one and not many people have had a chance to play in a Super Bowl," Jacobs said. "I respect that, but right now, I'm working towards the same goal with a new team."
"I want to be with my teammates as much as I can, learn about them as much as I can, get to know my coaches and get in some championship work," Jacobs added.
Jacobs has joined a crowded backfield led by Frank Gore. But he hopes to show that he still has plenty left in the tank.
And Jacobs and Manningham are looking forward to their new start with the Niners.
"I talk to Mario every day," Jacobs said. "We love being here. The work is something special. I'm glad I'm here with Mario and vice versa. It's a special thing. This football team, this coaching staff and this whole organization is great. I'm happy to be a part of it and just ready to go."
"I have a lot of things I want to accomplish before it gets real," Jacobs added. "I have to be around here and not miss anything and soak it up. I want to be here to take advantage of my opportunity."
If you recall, NFL Films recorded Belichick telling his defense to make the Giants go to Manningham and not Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks prior to Manningham making the spectacular 38-yard catch that sparked the Giants' Super Bowl-winning drive.
"Thank you, I appreciate it," Manningham said when asked Monday -- at the premier screening of the Giants' Super Bowl championship DVD in Times Square -- about what Belichick said on film on. "Just trying to go out there and make the play."
"I know what I can do," he added. "I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm glad he did that. Thank you. I know the type of player that I am."
Manningham had three catches for 56 yards on that drive and finished with five receptions for 73 yards for the game. Now, Manningham is hoping another team will think of him, and pay him, as a No. 1 or 2 receiver in free agency.
ELI HOPES MARIO STAYS: Eli Manning would love for the Giants to keep Manningham but he also understands what can happen in free agency.
"You never know what is going to happen," Manning said. "With free agency, over the years, I have kind of learned that if you get caught up in it and wondering and debating and asking about it, it is not going to solve anything. You got to sit and let it ride out and see what happens."
"Hopefully we will have Mario back and he's had a tremendous playoff run and he stepped in and when Hakeem was hurt or Vic was down," Manning added. "He stepped in and made big plays and has been in this offense for a long time, knows it and has big-play potential. Hopefully he is back and if not we will deal with that."
NICKS HEALING: Nicks said he has been using the down time after the Super Bowl to rest and let some injuries, like his shoulder ailment, heal up.
The wide receiver said he will not need any offseason surgery on anything.
"I've just been healing up," he said. "My body is starting to feel pretty good now."
Nicks said after the Super Bowl that his body "felt like it was all in pieces."
"But that is the way I wanted it to feel," he added. "Just getting that victory meant everything. Shoulder is good, been rehabbing a lot. Feel like there’s going to be no setbacks for that."
Plaxico Burress is opening the door –- again –- for a potential reunion with the New York Giants.
In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio's Rich Gannon and Adam Schein on Tuesday, Burress was asked if he would consider a return to the Giants with Mario Manningham poised to leave via free agency.
"It's always a great possibility," the wide receiver said. "Playing in Kevin Gilbride's system is definitely one of the best. You just see the production those guys are having at the wide receiver position. Victor Cruz obviously with the year he had, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. You just look at some of the plays that those guys are making out there on the edge.
"And Eli [Manning] has really just become a man of his position, leading those guys the last few games of the season, the last five or six winning, and obviously winning the Super Bowl."
Burress met with the Giants and head coach Tom Coughlin last summer early in camp, during free agency, and was offered an incentive-based contract before accepting a guaranteed one-year deal with the Jets. Burress said it was nothing personal against the Giants.
"I don't have any regrets at all," Burress said of not signing with the Giants last year. "It was a decision that I made personally not to go back at that time. Just coming out of my situation, being away from football for two years, they were the first team that I saw. I just kind of said to myself, I just wanted to go somewhere and have a fresh start, and just go out and just let everything kind of be new to me."
Burress will be a free agent and he recently said that "nothing else would make me happier" than to join the Eagles, in an interview on the "Brian Baldinger & Harry Mayes Show" on 97.5 The Fanatic ESPN Radio.
The Eagles were on his wish list last year as well before he landed with the Jets. But now as the 34-year-old wide receiver enters free agency, he says he is open to the idea of returning to the Giants.
The Giants have high expectations for last year's third-round pick, Jerrel Jernigan, and also hope former third-round pick Ramses Barden might be able to step up if, and likely when, Manningham leaves. The team also re-signed Domenik Hixon, who is coming back from a second ACL surgery on his right knee.
But there's always the possibility that they could bring in a veteran receiver like former Giant Steve Smith as ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter pointed out last year.
And there’s Burress, who talks glowingly of the Giants' offense.
"It's definitely a great offense," Burress said in the interview today with SiriusXM NFL radio. "I haven't been able to talk to any teams as of yet, obviously, because it's not free agency time. But I'm looking at all offers and I'm just looking at the opportunity to go into an offense, be productive, and have fun, make some plays these last few years. And the goal, as always, is to win a championship."
General manager Jerry Reese refused to put any odds on whether Mario Manningham will return to the Giants.
But the unrestricted free agent wide receiver gave his odds and, as expected, there is a slim chance he will stay.
In an interview with The Vindicator of Youngstown, Ohio, Manningham said he is "75 percent" sure he will sign with another team in free agency. Manningham is coming off his big fourth-quarter performance in the Super Bowl and is not only looking to cash in but will be looking for a bigger role as well.
According to a report by CBSSports.com, Manningham has his eyes on joining former Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan in Tampa Bay. Sullivan is now the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator.
Manningham -- who was presented a key to his hometown, Warren, Ohio -- said that there were many benefits of playing with a top-notch quarterback like Eli Manning. But Manningham added that he would like a bigger role and more targets.
“He is, but there are a lot of good quarterbacks in this league,” Manningham said in The Vindicator interview. “I just want the ball more, that’s all.”
Manningham is one of 21 unrestricted free agents. The Giants are going to have to do some maneuvering to create cap flexibility as well. Considering that the Giants have Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz and will eventually have to pay those two down the road, Reese is likely not going to make a significant offer to the team's third wide receiver, who finished with 39 receptions for 523 yards and four touchdowns in 12 regular-season games this past season. However, Manningham did catch three touchdowns in the postseason and had five receptions for 73 yards against the Patriots, including his sensational 38-yard fourth-quarter catch.
When asked on Saturday if negotiations with Manningham are not going well, Reese replied, "it’s free agency."
"March 13, that’s free-agent time and guys are free to do what they want to do," the general manager said. "Again, he’s been a good player for us, we’ll see where we are when we know exactly what the cap number is and hopefully things will work out for us."
Reese refused to put any odds on the chances of Manningham returning.
"I don’t think it’s fair to frame the odds on that," Reese said. "He’s a good football player and obviously players, when free agency comes around for them, they want to make as much money as possible. So we’ll see how it unfolds. But he is a good football player and we’re glad he’s been a Giant for us and his contributions are outstanding for us. We’ll see what happens moving forward with respect to that."
During their pressers at the Scouting Combine last week, both Tom Coughlin and Reese talked about Jerrel Jernigan, last year's third-round pick, being a young player who may have an opportunity to make a jump this coming season.
Ramses Barden also is in the mix at the third receiver spot if Manningham leaves as many expect.
To honor the Giants -- and make your computer monitors look smashing -- we've put together a set of four desktop backgrounds. We're posting one of them a day through tomorrow, continuing with today's Mario Manningham Edition.
Here are the direct download links, for the resolution of your choice:
1900x1200 | 1680x1050 | 1440x900 | 1280x8000
1600x1200 | 1280x1024 | 1024x768 | 800x600
Tuck said, after serving a few sandwiches as part of Subway's Footlong Nation Mobile Tour at a Fifth Avenue store on Thursday, that once the festivities are over, he can finally rest his ailing body and give it at least a month before even thinking about football again.
What he does not know, however, is if his friend and teammate Osi Umenyiora will be back with Big Blue for next season's run at back-to-back championships.
"I would hope so, obviously," Tuck said. "We had seven great years together being kind of that 1-2 punch on the line. We had [Michael] Strahan early in our careers and JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] now. It's fun to play with that guy, man. I'm hoping that he can come back but, more than that, I'm hoping that he can do what's best for him and his family."
Umenyiora started the 2011 season wanting either a new contract or a trade. As the season progressed, the 30-year-old defensive end, with one year and $4 million remaining on his contract, was pushed to the bench. He was also required to play both sides of the defensive line because Pierre-Paul had a breakout season playing on the right side, where Umenyiora would normally play.
Umenyiora missed the first three games of the regular season with a knee injury. He missed another four with an ankle injury. But Umenyiora was dominant when he did play. He recorded 12 sacks in 11 games, including two on Tony Romo to clinch the NFC East. He recorded another two on Aaron Rodgers when the G-Men beat Green Bay in the second round of the playoffs.
"I know he loves New York City and I know he loves the fans and this organization," Tuck said. "He did his part. He came out and had a brilliant year. [Giants general manager] Jerry Reese is a brilliant guy when it comes to things like that. He knows how to put together a team and he knows what's best and until that happens we're all just taking a shot in the dark."
Tuck doesn't have to deal the pressure of free agency or contract negotiations like Umenyiora or Mario Manningham do, but he will have to worry about his body.
Asked about the numerous injuries he battled throughout the season to his neck, shoulder, toe and groin, Tuck said, "You can add a couple more to the list if you want."
Distracted by a ticker-tape parade and public appearances, Tuck hasn't yet had time to assess the status of his health. He said he would know by next week whether he will need offseason surgery on his ailing shoulder. Tuck said he played with more pain this season than at any point in his career.
"It was rough man," he said. "But I think our trainers did an excellent job of getting me ready for Sunday. That’s all I asked for. Football is a contact sport. You’re going to get some bumps and bruises and some hurts here and there, but I think mentally, I was in a good space those last couple games this year and that allowed me to just go out there and focus on helping my team."
Considering the Giants' 7-7 start this season, GM Jerry Reese may need to tweak things a bit. Do you have any recommendations?
Vote here in our Take 'Em or Trash 'Em poll.
Let's break down the Xs and Os, with help from ESPN Stats & Information:
PATIENCE: Belichick was determined not to get beat by the quick strike, so he played Cover-2 most of the game. Instead of forcing the ball into the two-deep zone, which some quarterbacks might do, Eli Manning kept throwing underneath. Eleven of his 30 completions went to tight ends and running backs.
Manning was razor sharp. In fact, he completed 28 of 32 passes on throws under 15 yards. That's not easy to do, especially in the crucible of a championship game. Some quarterbacks (not mentioning any names) can't go 28-for-32 in a seven-on-seven drill.
Also, kudos to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for his patience. With the Patriots in Cover-2 for much of the game, the Giants faced seven-man fronts, so Gilbride stayed with the run. Result: The Giants' time of possession was 37:05, compared to 22:55 for the Patriots.
ONE SHOT: Manning waited almost 57 minutes to take his deep shot, and it paid off with one of the great pitches and catches in Super Bowl history -- the 38-yard strike to WR Mario Manningham. But here's the amazing thing about that play: Until that completion, Manning had gone 0-for-9 on passes of 31+ yards to Manningham all season.
They had no chemistry, in large part, because Manningham tends to get sloppy with his routes. He did it earlier in the game, showing no awareness on a similar route and botching what should've been a long completion. But when it matttered most, Manningham turned into Jerry Rice.
KILL BILL: For some reason, the Patriots got away from their no-huddle. Made no sense. In their first two post-season games, they ran 72 plays out of the no-huddle and tore up opponents, especially on the ground. On Sunday night, they used it for only 10 plays -- only three drives, two of which ended in TDs.
The no-huddle would've been a great weapon against the Giants. It would've caused fatigue and would've created matchup advantages for the Patriots, but Belichick made the ill-advised decision to bail on it.
Another Belichick faux pas: He changed his defensive game plan at halftime, going to a 4-3 base in the second half. Not many teams have the versatility to go from 3-4 to 4-3, but here's the deal: It didn't work. They allowed almost twice as many yards out of the 4-3 (6.8 and 3.6 per play) and more than doubled the rushing average (6.4 and 2.5). Belichick outsmarted himself; he should've gone back to the 3-4 to stayed with it.
TIGHT SITUATION: Because of injuries to TEs Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard, the Giants had to adjust their personnel packages. They went to a '20' grouping -- two RBs, 0 TEs, 3 WRs -- in the fourth quarter. Afterward, Gilbride said they hadn't practiced running plays out of the package in four years. Football is all about overcoming adversity and making changes on the fly, and the Giants did that.
Manning was deadly with his three-receiver package in the game, completing 19 or 26 passes for 205 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
LADY LUCK: They might not want to admit it, but the Giants benefitted from some fortunate bounces. RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks both had fumbles, but they were recovered RG Chris Snee and FB Henry Hynoski, the balls bouncing to them as if controlled by some sort of magnetic force.
There should've been a third fumble, and this one was recovered by the Patriots, but Victor Cruz's fumble was nullified because the Patriots were penalized for having 12 men on the field. It was one of the key plays in the game because, one play later, Cruz scored to make it 9-0.
SPEAKING OF LUCK ...: Manning's 2-yard TD pass to Cruz was one of the weirdest scores you'll ever see. He threw a quick slant to Cruz, who beat S James Ihedigbo out of the slot (can you say 'mismatch'?), but Manning never saw ILB Jerod Mayo.
Mayo read the play perfectly, clogging the passing lane, but he actually read it too well. He over-ran it, and Manning's bullet whizzed behind him. He never adjusted. Touchdown.
CRUNCH TIME: The Giants played their best in the fourth quarter, the Patriots played their worst. Ditto, the quarterbacks: Manning went 10-for-13, 118 yards; Brady 6-for-15, 64 yards. As I wrote last week, Brady's reputation as a clutch QB is overstated. The man is 6-6 in his last 12 post-season games.
In fairness, Brady was victimized by two fourth-quarter drops, as his famous, potty-mouthed wife told the world on video. WR Wes Welker has been one of the most prolific receivers in the game over the last few years, but he cracked under pressure, dropping a wide-open pass with four minutes to play. He picked the worst possible time for his first drop of the year on a pass of 10+ yards. If he had held on at the Giants' 20, it was game, set, match.
THE BRADY HUNCH: The Giants generated pressure on Brady on 30 percent of his dropbacks, actually a better ratio than Super Bowl XLII. For the most part, Brady handled it better than he did in 2008, but he still experienced some hiccups (see the first-quarter intentional grounding/safety).
The Giants packed their coverage into the middle of the field and did a nice job of limiting Brady's effectiveness between the numbers. Not having TE Rob Gronkowski at 100 percent clearly hurt the Patriots, as he played a season-low 73-percent of the snaps and was targeted only three times.
The Giants also took away the deep ball, holding Brady to 0-for-5 on passes of 20+ yards, but that wasn't particularly difficult. The Patriots are a dink-and-dunk passing team, the opposite of the Giants. The Giants stepped outside their comfort zone and adapted; the Patriots didn't.
And that's why they dropped yet another Super Bowl to the Giants.
Let's go inside the game, with help from ESPN Stats & Information:
JUST TACKLE, BABY: It's one of the most fundamental aspects of football -- tackling. But it will be critical in this game because both teams have players that are exceptional in breaking tackles.
In fact, the Patriots' receivers picked up a league-high 922 yards after contact, while the Giants ranked second with 694 yards. We're talking after contact here, not your basic yards-after-catch (YAC).
Most Receiving Yards After Contact, 2011 Regular Season
Rob Gronkowski, NE ..... 290
Victor Cruz, NY ................ 245
Wes Welker , NE ............ 242
Aaron Hernandez, NE .. 231
FRONT FOUR VS. BRADY: The Giants have been relying on their four-man rush more than ever recently, a total of 82 percent in the postseason. Statistically, that's the best way to attack QB Tom Brady. Why? Because it allows you to drop seven defenders into coverage, crowding the middle of the field -- Brady's favorite place to throw. In their last two meetings against Brady, the Giants' four-man rush has been effective.
Brady Facing 4 or Fewer Rushers, Last 2 Meetings vs. Giants
Category ---- SB XLII -- Week 9 2011
Pressure pct .... 73.6 ..... 67.3
Comp-Att ........ 21-35 ... 21-34
Yards ............... 201 ....... 231
TD-Int ............. 1-0 ........ 2-2
Sacks .............. 4 ............. 1
BRADY-UP: One of the underplayed stories this week was the Patriots' no-huddle attack. You can bet Brady & Co. will try to go no-huddle, especially when the Giants go to their "NASCAR" defensive line -- four defensive ends. When Brady sees that pass-rushing alignment, he can go to no-huddle, so the Giants can't substitute, and call a running play against the undersized front.
The Patriots have used no-huddle 73 times this postseason, sparking the running game. The Patriots are averaging 5.6 yards per rush when going no-huddle this postseason, compared to 3.1 yards per rush with a huddle.
Patriots’ Designed Rushing, 2011 Postseason
Cat. --- No Huddle --- Huddle
Rush ........... 27 ......... 28
Yards ........ 150 ........ 88
Yds/Rush ... 5.6 ....... 3.1
1st downs .. 12 ....... 4
NICKEL NIGHTMARE: This will be an enormous key to the game -- the Giants' 3 WRs vs. the Patriots' beleaguered nickel defense. The Patriots' secondary has been a revolving door; 13 players have played at least 100 snaps -- a stunning indication of the upheaval. (By contrast, the Giants have only six players with 100+ snaps.)
Against Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, the Patriots will have to play a lot of nickel. And, quite frankly, they've been brutal with five DBs.
Patriots Pass Defense with 5+ DBs on Field, 2011 Season
Comp pct ......... 63.3 (25th in NFL)
Yds/att ............. 8.2 (30th)
TD-Int diff ........ +6 (25th)
30+ yd plays .... 17 (T-Last)
BOMBS AWAY: Eli Manning isn't bashful; he likes to throw downfield. In fact, he attempted the most throws of at least 21 air yards in the regular season, completing 42.7 percent of such throws. This would seem to be the ideal opponent for Manning, because no team allowed a higher completion percentage on throws of 21 yards or more than the Patriots.
Look for Manning to target former Rutgers CB Devin McCourty, who's had a disappointing year. As a rookie in 2010, he led the league in defending or intercepting passes of 15+ yards -- a total of 14. This season, his total dropped to six.
Highest Completion Percentage Allowed on Throws 21+ Yards, 2011 Season
Patriots .... 46.4
Chargers ... 44.1
Panthers ... 42.9
Cowboys ... 42.6
“I hope he’s out there when we play them,” Manningham said, according to the Boston Herald. “I don’t want to sound like that, but you know what I mean. To our advantage, I hope he’s out there.”
Edelman, a wide receiver, was forced into the New England secondary midway through the season due to injuries.
He played nickel back for the Patriots. Apparently, Manningham doesn't think Edelman can handle playing the position next Sunday in Indianapolis.
“It’s a different stage,” Manningham said. “This ain’t regular season. That ain’t your real position, so we’re going to try to expose you. It’s all or nothing now. That ain’t your position, this is the Super Bowl and we want you to play that position.”
Four years ago, Manningham watched from his mom's house as Eli Manning and the Giants shocked the Patriots -- and the world -- in Super Bowl XLII.
He hung out with his mom, some family members and a few friends in Warren, Ohio.
"It was crazy," he said. "I never thought I'd be on the team the next year and four years later we're going back to the Super Bowl."
Manningham, who will have his immediate family, including his girlfriend and son, at the game in Indy, made just one catch last Sunday in San Francisco, but it was a huge one.
The former Michigan standout hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 8:34 to play to put the Giants up, 17-14.
It's fair to expect more than one catch from Manningham against the Patriots, who feature one of the worst secondary's in the NFL.
"I can't wait," he said.
But will he be nervous?
"No, there's just more people watching," he said.
MCKENZIE HASN'T SEEN SUPER BOWL XVII: Strange but true: Kareem McKenzie has never seen a full replay of Super Bowl XLII.
"It really doesn't serve a purpose at this point," the veteran tackle said. "Maybe a couple years down the road when I'm done playing I'll want to to look back and see what happened. But right now, I'm too busy trying to go ahead and try to get another one. I don't want to focus on the past."
The 49ers, built similarly to the Jets, fell into the same trap. They called passing plays on 58 percent of their snaps, including 24 of 35 plays after halftime. It was unusually high for the 49ers, especially since it was a one-possession game from start to finish -- a 20-17 Giants win in overtime.
Jim Harbaugh probably will be named NFL Coach of the Year, but this wasn’t his finest hour. In fact, the 49ers called pass plays on the first play in each of their last five possessions, eschewing a Ground & Pound attack that churned out 150 yards in the Candlestick muck. He played to the Giants’ strength, rushing the quarterback and defending the pass.
The 49ers were only 4-4 when they passed at least 55 percent of the time; it’s not their deal. Maybe Harbaugh, like a lot of Bay Area fans, got caught up on the Alex Smith bandwagon after his thrilling performance in the divisional round. Smith has improved, no doubt, but he’s no Joe Montana and he has only one weapon, tight end Vernon Davis.
Here’s an inside look at the Giants’ win, with help from ESPN Stats & Information:
MORE HARBAUGH: While we’re on the subject of the 49ers’ coach, we can’t let him off the hook for his play calling at the end of the first half. When he needed to be aggressive, he got conservative, going three-and-out and giving the ball back to the Giants with 1:36 on the clock.
The Giants capitalized. They went hurry-up and made a field goal as time expired, taking a 10-7 halftime lead -- huge points, as it turned out.
FIVE SECONDS TO GLORY: It may have been the slowest 40-yard sprint of Jacquian Williams' life, but it was the most memorable. Actually, it was only 35 yards, but it still wasn’t a great time.
To get into position for The Strip, his game-changing forced fumble on a punt return in overtime, Williams sprinted 35 yards, unimpeded. After a close examination of the game tape, our stopwatch says it took him 4.8 seconds -- hardly the kind of time that would turn heads at the NFL scouting combine.
But in this case, it was fast enough. Actually, Williams almost over-ran the play, but he reached back as Kyle Williams ran past him, barely getting his fingertips on the ball to knock it loose. That, of course, set up Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal.
THAT’S INCREDIBLE: Eli Manning set team postseason records for completions (32) and attempts (58), and he came within six attempts of tying Bernie Kosar's all-time league mark in the postseason. Without a doubt, Manning’s finest moment was his third-and-15 strike to Mario Manningham for a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Tom Coughlin called it “an incredible football play.” It was. He showed awareness and patience, all in the span of about 10 seconds.
Out of a trips-left formation, Manning noticed Tramaine Brock -- the 49ers’ No. 4 cornerback -- had replaced the injured Tarell Brown. Brock was on Manningham, who ran a deep post. The 49ers made the correct call -- they rushed only three, dropping eight into coverage -- but Manning waited until a window opened.
Tight end Jake Ballard ran a crossing route, freezing safety Reggie Smith for a split second. That opened the window for Manning, who, under moderate pressure, fired a laser to Manningham.
Manning had his eyes on wide receiver Victor Cruz, who ran a right-to-left crossing route. Just as he was about to pull the trigger, Manning noticed that Cruz’s route was disrupted because he bumped into a teammate, Ballard. Manning held up, pulled the ball down and, simultaneously, noticed Pascoe breaking free on a shallow, left-to-right cross.
Touchdown -- the first in Pascoe’s NFL career.
MIDDLE MEN: Because of Manning’s arm strength and their speed at receiver, the Giants are a perimeter passing team, but they changed it up against the 49ers. Manning worked the middle, with 35 of his 58 pass attempts going between the numbers -- double his usual ratio.
Cruz was his main man in the first half, as he abused cornerback Carlos Rogers, but he started to draw double-teams in the second half. That really hurt the Giants on third down; at one point, they failed on seven straight third downs. But they adjusted, as Manning started working the ball to running back Ahmad Bradshaw and tight end Travis Beckum over the middle.
IRON MAN: Obviously, the Giants came into the game hell-bent on throwing the ball, probably a wise move against the 49ers’ tenacious run defense. They ended up calling pass plays on 64 out of 90 snaps, the kind of ratio that got Schottenheimer run out of town. Of course, it makes a difference when your triggerman is Manning, as opposed to Mark Sanchez.
Here’s another way to look at it: The 49ers’ pass rush had 64 shots at Manning and not once -- not once -- did he lose a fumble or throw an interception. That was rather remarkable, considering the soggy conditions. The 49ers treated him like a pinata, hitting him a total of 12 times, including six sacks.
He refused to let go; his team refused to let go.
SIMPLE, BUT EFFECTIVE: Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell didn’t do anything exotic with his game plan; he didn’t have to against the 49ers’ meat-and-potatoes offense.
As usual, Fewell put this game on his front four. In fact, the Giants rushed four or fewer on 28 of 33 drop backs, their highest ratio of the season. They registered only three sacks, which isn’t half-bad, but that number is deceiving.
On third-down passes, Smith was sacked or under duress on seven of 12 drop backs. That explains why the 49ers were an abysmal 1-for-13 on third down. That pressure, coupled with outstanding coverage by cornerbacks Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, choked the life out of the 49ers’ passing game.
Smith completed only one pass to a wide receiver, a pedestrian corps that was overmatched by the Giants. The Giants had only two hiccups, twice leaving a safety in man-to-man coverage against the explosive Davis. The result was 73- and 28-yard touchdowns.
Aside from those breakdowns, the Giants were spot on.
Asked about what was "almost" a touchdown, the Giants wide receiver wasn't happy.
"Almost? Almost, right?" Manningham said. "I ain't catch it. You playing wide receiver you got to have a short-term memory, man. Should've had it."
He will get a chance to rewrite that history on Sunday when the Giants head back to San Francisco for a rematch in the NFC Championship Game. Manningham said his knee felt good, and agreed with the idea that it's better than it has been all season.
Manningham has been a contributing member of the wide receiving corps recently, and had three catches for 31 yards in the 37-20 win over Green Bay last Sunday.
"We're a different team than we was earlier," Manningham said.
It's easy enough to peek around the corner and see the Super Bowl there for the taking. Manningham conceded that could be a risk for a team, but not for the Giants given the fact that they lost to the 49ers earlier.
"It'd be different if we didn't play this team,” Manningham said. "But we played them and we know what they bring. We know we got to win. They beat us last time so we can't look past them."
Although some on the current Giants roster might remember what it feels like to be in the playoffs and win a Super Bowl, Manningham notes that it isn't the wide receivers.
"This our first time as wide receivers being in the playoffs," Manningham said. "I mean, yeah, we're enjoying it, but we know what we're here for. To win it. For real. We're here, why not go win it all? We made it this far."