Next Level Preview: Giants at 49ers

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
8:38
PM ET
The Giants head back to San Francisco on Sunday for the first time since their 20-17 win over the 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game. Both teams will be coming off dominating offensive performances in Week 5, where each put up more than 40 points.

The Giants trailed 14-0 in the first quarter against the Browns, but behind three Eli Manning touchdowns and 243 rushing yards, their most in a game since the 2008 season, they outlasted Cleveland for a 41-27 win. The 49ers are coming off a 45-3 win over the Bills in Week 5, where Alex Smith threw three touchdowns in a game for just the fifth time in the last three seasons.

Here are some areas to keep an eye on:

• The Giants' rushing game came alive against the Browns in Week 5, especially with runs designed outside the tackles. The Giants got to the edge, rushing for 97 of their 243 yards outside the tackles, after gaining 63 total yards on such runs in the first four weeks of the season. Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled early in last week's game, but rebounded, rushing for 200 yards, with 93 of those yards coming on rushes outside the tackles.

While the Giants were finally able to have some success rushing outside the tackles, the 49ers' offense has been the best team in the league on those rushes all season. The Niners lead the NFL with 497 rushing yards and 8.3 yards per rush outside the tackles. San Francisco will be facing a Giants defense on Sunday that has struggled to defend rushes outside the tackles all season, allowing 7.5 yards per rush, the second-most in the NFL.

• The Giants' offensive line will have to protect Manning from the 49ers' pass rush in order to win this game. In two games against the Giants last season, the 49ers sent five or more pass rushers against Manning on 26.7 percent of his dropbacks. As a result, they were able to sack Manning seven times, with six coming on a five-plus man pass rush. During the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers sacked Manning five times on 15 dropbacks when sending five or more pass rushers. However, when Manning wasn't sacked facing such pressure, he went 16-of-21 passing for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

• Manning was under duress or sacked on 21 of his 62 dropbacks in last season's NFC Championship Game, his second-most in any game since the start of the 2009 season. Manning was sacked six times in that game (second-most since 2007) and under duress or hit on 15 additional throws, completing six of those passes. The Giants' offensive line has done a good job of protecting Manning this season, allowing just four sacks through the first five weeks, the third-fewest in the league among qualified quarterbacks. On Sunday the Giants will have to deal with the 49ers pass rush, which has sacked quarterbacks when rushing four or fewer pass rushers on eight of its nine sacks this season.

• In comparison to the 49ers' successful pass rush, the Giants have struggled when sending four or fewer pass rushers. Through the first five weeks, the Giants have recorded just three sacks when sending four or fewer rushers, down from the 13 they had achieved at this point in 2011. Additionally, the Giants have also allowed over twice as many touchdowns in such situations (two in 2011, five in 2012) and opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage has also risen (61.7 in 2011, 65.5 in 2012).

The Giants' pass rush must get to Smith because when he is under duress or hit this year he is completing an NFL-worst 21.4 percent of passes and averaging just 1.1 yards per attempt with a 1.3 Total QBR.

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