I wrote about some takeaways after re-watching the first Giants-49ers game on Thursday. The post got so long, I broke it into two parts.
Here’s what we learned from the first matchup when New York had the ball:
1. The 49ers mostly double teamed Hakeem Nicks, which left Victor Cruz in single coverage against Carlos Rogers and Mario Manningham matched up against rookie cornerback Chris Culliver.
Yes, Rogers picked off Manning twice and won some battles. But this is a matchup the 49ers have to be worried about. Cruz beat Rogers badly a handful of times. Sometimes he’d have three steps on Rogers.
2. Culliver may be a target for the Giants offense. The rookie is a physical player that has held up very well his season overall, but he got a lot of attention from the Saints last week and Manningham had success against him in Week 10. There were two near misses to Manningham that would have tied the game.
3. The 49ers didn’t blitz a lot in the first game. When they did blitz, Eli Manning made them pay.
4. Manning is so much better with pressure in his face than he was early in his career. Maybe you can teach pocket presence. He made a number of gorgeous throws into small windows with a defender coming right at him. The 49ers will have to take their chances he can’t do that again.
5. Even though Manning played very well overall, the difference overall was his two interceptions. One came on apparent miscommunication with Manningham when the receiver stopped his route. These are the types of mistakes Mannning has mostly avoided this season. The 49ers are the league’s best at forcing turnovers.
6. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie is a big problem for the Giants. He is going to struggle to hold up on passing downs against Aldon Smith. It got ugly a few times in the first matchup.
The Giants tackles in general might be the weak spot of this team. If McKenzie holds up and David Diehl and the Giants guards can battle Justin Smith, the Giants have a good chance. I have my doubts they will hold up. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 49ers defense made the Giants offensive line look awful. Both of the tackles could get overmatched.
7. The Giants had some success running early against the 49ers, but it didn’t last. Ahmad Bradshaw missed the last game. It’s a lot harder to run outside against the fast 49ers linebackers, but using Bradshaw on some inside runs is a better idea that rolling with Brandon Jacobs too much.
8. The 49ers defense is the best in the league at tackling. They won’t allow yards after the catch like the Packers did last week. Dashon Goldson has great range and can make Manning pay for any lazy throws.
9. Jake Ballard beat Patrick Willis a few times in the first game. If that happens often, the 49ers are in trouble. I would not expect it to happen often.
10. Manning isn’t thought of as a “gunslinger” but no quarterback tries (and completes) more difficult throws than him. I don’t trust his protection on the outside, so that’s what this game may come down to. Manning will have to be special.
The 49ers will make Manning have to play at a very high level to beat them.