Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Giants expect different 49ers attack
By Dan Graziano
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We've talked a lot about how the New York Giants team that will play the NFC Championship Game on Sunday is a different team than the one that lost to the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 10. But the 49ers aren't the same team they were that day, either.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, San Francisco dropped back to pass on 67.3 percent of its offensive snaps in their Week 10 victory over the Giants -- the highest such percentage by the 49ers in a game all season. The main reason for that was likely the in-game injury suffered by running back Frank Gore, who finished that game with 0 yards on six carries and whose absence for most of the game changed the 49ers' intended game plan.
The Giants expect the 49ers to feed them a steady diet of Frank Gore on Sunday.
But the Giants insist they weren't fooled. They know the numbers. They know the 49ers' 498 rushing attempts in the regular season were the third-most in the league, behind only the Broncos and the Texans. They know the 49ers' 451 pass attempts were the second fewest in the league, ahead of only the Broncos. They know the 49ers like to run and run and run, and they expect to see a heavy dose of it.
"They're going to stick with it until you stop it," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said Wednesday. "They repeat plays, and for good reason. If I was playing a Madden game and I loaded up the box and ran the ball on you all game, I wouldn't change it either. So it's going to be man-on-man and just making sure we get them out of that game. If we're able to do that, we stand a good chance to come out with a win. If not, it's going to be a long day in San Fran."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin left little doubt in his Wednesday news conference that he was impressed by the 49ers' ball-control numbers. He marveled that they led the league in average starting field position, in opponents' average starting field position, in turnover differential at plus-28 and in fewest turnovers. The 49ers threw five interceptions and lost five fumbles all regular season, tying an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season with 10. In their playoff game Saturday against the Saints, they forced five turnovers and committed just one.
One way they've been able to stay away from turnovers is their reliance on the run game. And even though they didn't see much of Gore the last time, the Giants are wary of him this time around.
"That's a big part of their game plan, to get him running downhill," defensive end Dave Tollefson said. "So we have to stop that. But that's been No. 1 on our list for the last 20 weeks. You've got to stop the run. We're excited for the challenge. You want to play the best this time of year."
Gore had a string of five straight games with at least 100 yards rushing until that game against the Giants. Since then, he's played nine straight games without reaching the 100-yard mark. It's the longest such streak of his career.