- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game:
1. Wide receivers wanted: Alex Smith's passes to tight end Vernon Davis were the difference in the 49ers' 36-32 victory over New Orleans in the divisional round. San Francisco could use more production from its wide receivers against the Giants. Smith averaged a whopping 20 yards per attempt when targeting Davis, but the averages were minuscule for wideouts Ted Ginn Jr. (3.7), Michael Crabtree (2.8) and Kyle Williams (2.4). Crabtree had only 21 yards against the Giants in Week 10, his second-lowest figure of the season. Time to step up?
2. Breaking tendencies: In Week 10, the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul injured 49ers running back Frank Gore with a violent tackle on a predictable running play from San Francisco's 22 personnel grouping (two backs, two tight ends). At the time, I thought the 49ers could benefit from mixing in downfield strikes when using heavier personnel, especially in short-yardage situations. They have not attempted a pass this season when using 22 personnel with 1-2 yards needed for a first down. They had 21 runs and a quarterback scramble on those plays. The 49ers have called passes 15 percent of the time when needing a yard for a first down. The league average is 30 percent. This might be a good week to break from tendency.
3. Keeping Manning honest: Giants quarterback Eli Manning was 7-of-9 for a season-high 155 yards and two touchdowns when using play fakes against Green Bay last week, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The 49ers should fare much better in this category if their run defense continues to hold up without committing additional defenders to the box. The 49ers' defense led the NFL in fewest rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing first downs allowed. The Giants' offense was 32nd, 32nd and 24th in those categories, respectively.