The New York Giants showed the world yesterday, why they are the defending Super Bowl Champions. They went into San Francisco and gave a team, considered by many to be the best in the NFL, a good old-fashioned rear end whipping. The 49ers who complained all off-season and pre-season about how they were the better team in the NFC Championship game, were shown that there is no doubt that the Giants are better.
San Francisco controlled the ball for virtually the entire first quarter, but were only able to put three points on the board; the only three points they would score all day. On their third possession, Alex Smith threw a pass on first down intended to Delanie Walker, but it was intercepted by Prince Amukamara who came out of his zone and jumped in front of Walker to make the interception. That interception by Amukamara, completely changed the dynamic of the game.
After the interception Eli Manning and Company drove the ball 67 yards, highlighted by two nice catches by Domenik Hixon, one of them for a 39 yard gain. The drive was capped by a salsa dance from Victor Cruz, who caught his sixth touchdown pass in as many games played. With the 7-3 lead the Giants started to take control of the game.
The defense was able to force a three and out on the Niners next possession and the Giants tacked on three more points.
However, at the end of the half the Giants almost screwed things up badly. With 1:34 left on the clock, New York moved the ball into position for another field goal attempt which was blocked. Okay, the Giants get kicks blocked every season. I am used to that by now. But with 11 seconds left on the clock does the defense need to allow Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball 36 yards for a 52 yard field goal attempt by Akers. Thankfully Mr. David Akers was in a giving mood yesterday, as in missing two field goals that he normally makes against the Giants. So instead of going into the half up 13-3, and then possibly up 10-6, the teams let the score remain at 10-3.
The start of the second half started with a bang. With David Wilson who has become a supreme kick returner, returned the kick 66 yards and set up another touchdown. Which Ahmad Bradshaw banged in, for a 17-3 lead and complete control of the game.
From here on in, New York flexed their muscles, sacking Alex Smith several times and Antrel Rolle intercepting two more passes.
The Terrific: The Giants’ pass rushers finally came to play as a unit yesterday. JPP and Linval Joseph have been solid all year, but Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have been below average at best. New York’s defense generated six sacks and put a lot of pressure on Alex Smith. Who, if everyone is honest with themselves, is not that good of a quarterback. One thing that may be helping this Giants pass rush is that Mathias Kiwanuka has been inserted on the defensive line, replacing Tuck at the defensive end position. If Keith Rivers remains healthy, Kiwanuka will continue to be utilized on the line instead of linebacker.
Not only did the Giants defensive line play great against the pass, but they stopped the 49ers running game in its tracks. Now I was baffled that San Francisco did not run the ball to edges, but kept it inside most of game, which has been the Giants strength against the run. Linval Joseph has been an unsung hero of this defensive line. Joseph has been playing excellent for New York, with rushing the passer and playing the run. With Canty coming back in the coming weeks, the Giants defensive line could return to its dominant form.
Antrel Rolle was absolutely terrific yesterday. He picked two passes off and made great tackles in the running game. Rolle was just all over the field and his two interceptions set up two field goals, that effectively ended the game. Along with Rolle, Prince Amukamara is starting to look like a real cornerback in this league. If he can continue to develop and play well along side Corey Webster, this defense can be an extemely formidable unit.
New York’s running game was great for the second consecutive week. The offensive line pounded Niners in the second half and Ahmad Bradshaw grounded out yards. Bradshaw finished the day with 116 yards and a touchdown with 27 carries, which is pretty special against this defense. If the offensive line is going to continue to block like yesterday, New York will be able to run on anyone.
Along with run blocking, the offensive line protected Eli Manning to perfection yet again. The 49ers punished Eli Manning last year. Yesterday they barely put pressure on him, let alone touch him.
I would be remiss if I did not mention David Wilson, who is the first real kick returner New York has had since Ron Dixon. Yes, the Giants finally have a real kick returner, and just not real, this guy is becoming a game changer on the kick return unit. In fact his kick return to start the second half, kick started the dominance of the Giants that followed.
The Disappointing: Not much to say here, other than the fact that the offense could not convert Rolle’s interceptions into touchdowns. Against better offenses, that could be the difference between a win and a loss, but yesterday’s game was never in doubt.
The Giants come back home and take on the Washington Redskins. This sounds crazy, but the Giants cannot lose next week. And you might say how can you possibly say that. One reason and one reason only. New York cannot fall to 0-3 in the division. If they do, they make every division game from there on in a must win. But for now bask in the glow of destroying the 49ers in San Francisco.