- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Lovely day here at Milwaukee's General Mitchell Airport, though it was kind of sad listening to the Packers fans on the sports talk radio this morning on the drive here from Green Bay. Honestly, if you've ever been to Green Bay, you need to wonder: what do those people do now?
What we do now is look ahead to Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. It's going to be a different kind of game for the Giants. The 49ers don't have the array of passing-game weapons that recent Giants opponents such as the Packers, Falcons and Cowboys have. They will attack the Giants differently, and the best thing the 49ers have going for them is a defense that looked fast, tough and terrifying for most of the game against the Saints on Saturday night.
San Francisco finished fourth in the league in total defense, allowing just 308.1 yards per game, and first in rush defense by a mile, allowing just 77.3 yards per game. That would seem to bode ill for a Giants team that finished last in the league in rush offense. But the numbers from the head-to-head matchup between these teams in San Francisco in Week 10, even though the Giants lost it, offer some hope for the Giants.
The 395 yards of total offense the Giants had against the 49ers was the fourth-highest total any team posted against San Francisco all season. Only the Eagles (513 in a Week 4 loss), Cowboys (472 in a Week 2 overtime victory) and Saints (472 in Saturday's playoff loss) had more yards in a game against the Niners this season.
Even more encouraging, the Giants had 93 rush yards in that game, which is the fourth-highest total of rush yards any team had in a game against the Niners this season. Marshawn Lynch's Seahawks had 124 in Week 16, Steven Jackson's Rams had 111 in Week 17 and LeSean McCoy's Eagles had 108 in that Week 4 game in Philadelphia. All of those games were victories for the 49ers, but the Giants have run the ball considerably better over the past seven weeks, and in the Week 10 game in San Francisco they did not have running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who was out with a foot injury at the time. Brandon Jacobs had 55 yards on 18 carries, and D.J. Ware kicked in 34 yards on nine carries.
A healthy Bradshaw on Sunday, plus the drastic improvements the Giants have made in run blocking over the past two months, plus the film they can watch of their offense having success against this very tough 49ers defense, are all assets for the Giants as they prepare for the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers likely aren't going to miss as many tackles as the Packers did Sunday, but the Giants have proof that they can move the ball against them anyway. The key, as it always is, will be to avoid the turnovers. The Giants outgained the 49ers by 90 yards in Week 10, but Eli Manning threw two interceptions, and they lost by seven points.
3dDan Graziano and Adam Caplan