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    "This has been the longest week of Jason Pierre-Paul’s NFL career.

    At least that’s the way it sounds.

    “It felt like a long week,” the Giants’ defensive end said today of the
    buildup to Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the 49ers. “We came in and we
    were ready to go. After Green Bay, we were ready to go. It just feels like it’s
    been a long wait and tomorrow’s Saturday, get on a plane and head out

    If he thinks this was a long wait and some serious buildup, wait’ll he sees
    what it’s like if they win this game and spend the next two weeks talking about
    the Super Bowl.

    “Yeah, we’re going to be ready for that,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a great
    thing. We’re just ready to go out and play great football. I’m excited, the
    whole team is excited, just ready to get on the plane. If we could get on the
    plane now we would. We just gotta wait.”

    It was pointed out to Pierre-Paul a victory on Sunday could cost him a trip
    to the Pro Bowl.

    He doesn’t care.

    “Nah, I’m not thinking about Hawaii,” he said. “I’m thinking about the Super
    Bowl right now and just going to take care of this team.”

    * * * *

    SUNDAY’S GAME: at San Francisco 49ers, Candlestick Park, NFC
    Championship Game, 6:30 p.m., Fox


    Offense: Again, we’ve broken this thing down every which way
    possible, so just a brief rundown here to tie up some loose ends.

    Offensively, I was wondering what kind of coverage the Giants expect to see
    from the Niners. TE Travis Beckum, talking today, said he’s
    anticipating man looks from San Fran.

    “A lot of man coverage,” Beckum said. “Last week, they manned up (LB)
    Patrick Willis with Jimmy Graham. So it looks like it’s going
    to be a lot of man coverage, as far as what they did last week.”

    The Giants don’t have a Graham. They
    barely have Jake Ballard at this point.
    But they do have a very good slot
    presence in WR Victor Cruz. Much as CB Carlos
    the salsa after his interception
    , I thought Cruz did a fine job that day,
    especially in his releases off the line. If the Niners play man coverage, they’d
    better do it in spurts because if Cruz gets enough chances, he’ll beat Rogers
    again. I’m wondering if the Niners throw more zone coverage at the Giants than
    they expect right now.

    Defense: The other day we
    wrote about the rain
    and what it would to do the passing games and running
    games. Well, it’ll also have an effect on the pass rushers, specifically the
    Giants’ speed rushers.

    DE Osi Umenyiora likes to take that edge on the speed rush,
    so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles things against Niners LT
    Joe Staley should the field be slick. (Current forecasts
    indicate rain on and off for the next few days, with a 40 percent chance of
    showers on Sunday.)

    “You gotta hold your balance, plant right,” Pierre-Paul said of dealing with
    the slick grass. “It’s frustrating but you still have to play the game of
    football, no matter how it feels.”

    THE LINE: 49ers by 2½. Over-under 42.

    THE PICK: As you’ll see in the vid, I’m going Giants 21,
    Niners 20.

    ONE MORE THING: That Niners running game attempts to go
    right down your throat at times but DT Chris Canty says to watch the edges as

    “They can run it inside, no question about it, but you’d be surprised, there
    is a lot of yardage on the perimeter with their offensive running game,” Canty
    said. “So you have to be cognizant of that, pursuit angles, guys pursuing,
    getting to the football, beating blocks and getting to the football and making
    sure we leverage the football so we can make the proper tackles. There is a lot
    of yards they gain on the perimeter.”


    Excerpt: "Rex Ryan isn't exactly batting 1.000 in his predictions for New York-area
    sports teams. But the Jets coach — for
    what it's worth — believes the Giants
    and Baltimore Ravens will advance to the Super Bowl this year, a rematch of
    Super Bowl XXXV.

    "I can tell you this: There isn’t one Giants fan that wants me to say the
    Giants are going to win this game," Ryan, who has annually guaranteed Super
    Bowls for his Jets team but has not yet delivered, said on WFAN radio today.

    Ryan favors the Giants over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's NFC
    Championship Game, particularly because of how the Giants defense is playing.
    Despite being ranked 27th in the regular season, the Giants defense has found a
    groove over the past several weeks, helped by a healthy Osi Umenyiora.

    "I think San Francisco is playing great defensively. (49ers defensive
    coordinator) Vic Fangio is a guy that worked with me for two years in Baltimore;
    he's done a great job with that defense," Ryan said. "But I think when you look
    at them ... the Giants can throw the football, can move the football better
    against San Francisco than San Francisco is going to be able to move it against
    the Giants."

    Ryan added: "(Umenyiora healthy) makes a huge difference. I just think that
    pass rush -- when you watched the 49ers play the Ravens, that pass rush of the
    Ravens ate San Francisco alive. I think the giants are going to take this game.
    I think Eli (Manning) is hot, I like the fact that both their running backs are
    healthy. So it’s going to be interesting, but I think you could be looking at
    the Giants and Ravens rematch."

    The Ravens won that Super Bowl in the 2000 season, and Ryan won a ring as the
    team's defensive line coach. He admitted he is rooting for his former team in
    the AFC Championship Game against the Jets' rival New England Patriots." Read more...


    "Tom Coughlin was in rare form with the media today, offering stories and
    jokes without hesitation. One such time was when he was asked about Rich
    Seubert, the former Giants guard who was cut during the offseason, being one of
    three honorary Giants captains at Sunday's game in San Francisco.

    "Last year he takes a picture, writes ‘Happy Holidays to me’," Coughlin
    narrated. "So he gives me a picture and I’m thinking, 'What am I gonna do with
    this thing?' And he writes it in red pen. So I put it in my locker and I forgot
    about it. Right around Christmas time I find this picture so I said, ‘Son of a
    gun.’ I got this picture sitting right in front of me, it’s been there for like
    a month and a half so I can look right at Richie, ‘Happy Holidays.’

    He also reminisced about his seven seasons with Seubert.

    "Feisty. Loves to play. Loves to be a part of this team. Loves the New York
    Giants. Plays with every ounce of fiber that he has," Coughlin said. "Gives it
    all, shares it all. Not afraid to get on teammates, not afraid to be the
    rambunctious one in the locker room, he stirs it up better than anybody that I
    have probably ever been around. Sometimes to the point you have to step in

    "But we love this guy. And we miss him. I miss him."

    Eli Manning also recalled his years with Seubert, who went undrafted out of
    Western Illinois two years before Manning arrived in 2001 and spent 10 seasons
    with the Giants.

    "I’m just excited to see Richie out on the field with us. He was a great
    teammate," Manning said. "A guy that when I first came in my rookie year, he was
    around, he was injured. I thought he was 35 years old when I first got here. I
    thought the guy had been here forever but he had only been here a couple years.
    It was an honor to play with him. He was a great leader, a great teammate. A
    great guy around the locker room so I’m excited that he’ll be a part of the game
    on Sunday.

    Seubert has moved with his family to California and has said he looks to
    continue his NFL career next season. He will be joined by Michael Strahan and
    Mark Bavaro as the Giants' honorary captains on Sunday."


    "The surprises on the Giants’ injury
    front didn’t stop with
    the portion of practice open to the media

    Afterward, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was added to the report after rolling
    his ankle. The team listed him as limited today but he’s down as probable for
    Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

    “Rolled it a little bit,” Nicks said. “Same one. Same one I rolled earlier in
    the season. Same one I always roll.”

    Tom Coughlin called it “basketball ankle.” Nicks said he’s been dealing with
    it for a few years now and rolls it twice per season. He said it happened while
    running an in cut today.

    Still, Nicks isn’t concerned.

    “No, got no reason to be concerned about it. It’s an important game,” he
    said. “I’ll put it out of my mind and won’t think about it.”

    Asked about dealing with the ankle on a potentially slick field, Nicks
    replied, “Just tape it up, wrap it up real good. I’ll be all right.”

    At least it's not a new injury for Nicks.

    "Yeah that’s the good thing about it," he said. "Same one I’m used to dealing
    with. Nothing new."

    * * * *

    TE Jake Ballard (knee) is listed as questionable after undergoing what
    Coughlin termed a “procedure” on Thursday.

    Coughlin wouldn’t say what was done to Ballard except to clarify it wasn’t
    surgery. It’s likely he received a shot or had fluid drained. Ballard said the
    procedure took only a few minutes.

    Asked if the team knew the “procedure” would make Ballard feel worse in the
    short term, Coughlin replied sarcastically, “We actually thought it wouldn’t.
    Naturally, we did. What do you think those people do in there? Play cards.”

    * * * *

    Don’t read that last quote the wrong way. Coughlin wasn’t being nasty. He was
    actually on a roll today in what was one of his most humorous press conferences
    of all time.

    He was really on fire when asked if precautions were being taken to stop the
    stomach bug that’s now hit C David Baas, who missed practice today but is listed
    as probable.

    “Like what? Everybody’s wearing masks, everybody’s washing their hands,
    everybody’s doing everything they can,” Coughlin said. “Like when your sister
    came home with whatever and you got it. So there’s where we are.”

    * * * *

    Baas is struggling but QB Eli Manning (illness) is fine. He’s listed as
    probable after practicing fully.

    Also probable: DEs Justin Tuck (shouler) and Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), RB
    Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), CB Corey Webster (hamstring) and LB Mark Herzlich
    (ankle). All were limited today."


    Excerpt: "Once again, Jake Ballard's right knee is a source of concern for the

    The tight end was held out of Friday's practice after having a brief
    procedure done on his knee Thursday night. Ballard told reporters that the
    procedure took "a couple of minutes."

    While both Ballard and head coach Tom Coughlin refused to go into further
    details, neither anticipated it being an issue for Sunday's NFC Championship
    Game against the San Francisco 49ers.

    "Not at all," Ballard said when asked if the knee would be a problem. "I mean,
    they told me they didn't want to go into detail. They just did a little
    something and the knee was a little sore today, so I should be ready to go for
    the game."



    "Giants' DB Deon Grant lowered his aiming point as Ryan Grant leaped to catch a short
    check-down pass and began to spin around. He didn't want to make
    helmet-to-helmet contact on this Grant-on-Grant hit.

    It only served to mush Deon's helmet into the top of his nose as Ryan's
    midsection came down on him, thus dazing the Giants safety and causing momentarily
    blurred vision.

    Minutes later, Grant was back in the visiting locker room at Lambeau Field,
    begging the Giants' doctors to hurry through the concussion test so he could
    help finish off the upset of the defending champion Green Bay Packers.

    "I kept on saying, 'Let's go. Come on, we've got to get the defense back,'?"
    Grant recalled this week after a practice in preparation for Sunday's NFC
    Championship Game against the 49ers. "And they're like, 'No, you're not going
    back in the game. They're going to be all right.'

    "They would not let me go back out there until they took me through the whole

    There were days earlier in Grant's 12-year career when a player could win
    such arguments, especially at this time of the year. The former Seattle Seahawk,
    Carolina Panther and Jacksonville Jaguar recalls when "if you said you could go,
    you could go."

    Not so in today's NFL.

    In response to research about the effects of repeat concussions, the league
    has taken steps to diagnose in-game head injuries by putting players through
    comprehensive tests before they're cleared to return to the game and recently
    installing sideline monitors to review footage of players who might've sustained
    a concussion.

    So far this postseason, the Giants have put three players through concussion
    tests: Grant, Aaron Ross and D.J. Ware. Despite the elevated stakes and the
    short-handed secondary, they followed proper protocol and held Ross out of the
    game against the Falcons when they were uncertain he had even suffered a

    Grant eventually got back in the game and recorded an interception to help
    seal the upset -- but not before proving without a doubt he was only temporarily

    "At the Giants," senior vice president of communications Pat Hanlon said, "if
    there's doubt, they are pulled."

    This Sunday, in what's expected to be a physical matchup in San Francisco to
    determine which team goes to Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants' players can expect the
    medical staff to be just as cautious.

    "I wanted to go in as soon as I came to the sideline but they made me go
    inside for the tests," Ross said. "They said they still didn't know; I said I
    didn't have a concussion because I could remember everything.

    "But it's somebody's life so they really have to take those kinds of

    This past offseason, after the Eagles' Stewart Bradley stumbled off the field
    and then returned to the game, the NFL introduced a standardized test to be
    conducted in all cases where a concussion is suspected. The test includes:

    •?A rundown of physical symptoms visible to the medical staff, as well as
    those only the player can detect, such as double vision or nausea.

    •?A series of questions to check orientation ("What month is it?" "What is
    the day of the week?") plus Maddocks' Questions, developed by physician D.L.
    Maddocks, which apply to the sport being played ("What quarter is it right now?"
    "Who scored last in the game?").

    •?Word recall of a list of five words, three trials of the same words. Then,
    two concentration tests: repeating strings of numbers (from three to six) and
    the months of the year -- both backward.

    •?Balance testing inside the locker room, with motions performed while
    standing with feet together, on one (non-dominant) foot and in a tandem stance
    (with the non-dominant foot in the back).

    •?The final score is calculated and compared to a "baseline" score conducted
    in training camp. If it doesn't match up, the player is held out.

    It all sounds simple, which is why these finely tuned athletes are sometimes
    overcome when they realize their brain isn't operating properly.

    "That's the scary part and that's why some guys get emotional. At the time, I
    did, too," said guard Chris Snee, who left the Week 5 game against the Seahawks
    with a concussion that sent him to the hospital and kept him out the following
    week. "When you can't think of something, it's scary."

    A 300-pound lineman who is arguably the strongest player in the Giants'
    locker room wasn't shy to admit he cried after failing the test.
    "Yeah," Snee
    said, "I lost it a little bit."

    Snee fell onto an official that day and told him, "Get me off the field." Two
    weeks ago, umpire Undrey Walsh saw Ware fall over as he tried getting up and
    then lean to the left while walking.

    "Come on, son," Ware recalls Walsh saying. "You gotta go."

    Ware tried to convince the medical staff he had merely gotten his "bell
    rung," but they saw the footage. Plus, he failed the computerized ImPACT test
    later in the week because his reaction time was slow.

    Despite the importance of the game, and the fact rookie Prince Amukamara had
    to go in for Ross, the Giants took no chances with either Ross or Ware. Just
    like earlier in the season when they hid long snapper Zak DeOssie's helmet so he
    couldn't run back into the game.

    "They're smart about it," DeOssie said.

    And the test is a smart one that can't be beat. Grant said after Sunday's
    game, "I'll pass that test every time." That seemed to suggest he knows ways to
    get around it, but he clarified later in the week he was an engineering major
    who's good in recalling numbers.

    Which is why the baseline test is vital, unless a player intentionally
    botches it.

    "We always joke about that, but we know how serious it is. No one throws it,"
    DeOssie said. "You're risking too much."

    It's all still a bit of science on the fly with an injury that's tougher to
    quantify than, say, a broken bone. But unlike the early stages of Grant's
    career, they're getting closer to doing so.

    "The good thing is now I know what it feels like," Snee said. "Everyone
    always asked me if I ever had (a concussion) and I said, 'I don't think so.' And
    now I can confirm, this is what I went through.

    "I've had my bell rung, I've seen stars. I think that's normal. But this is


    Excerpt: "Time flies, eh? And sometimes, cogent football opinions also sprout wings and
    flee for cover like frightened fruit bats.

    Here’s one example: It was just five months ago that some geniuses (hello)
    were suggesting that Osi Umenyiora might be a distraction this season, while
    other geniuses (hello again) suggested that the Giants would be wise to give the player’s
    agent enough leash to broker a deal for draft picks.

    Yep, it’s Mea Culpa Week around here — headquarters of the crack Lucky To Go
    8-8 Committee — and the livin’ ain’t easy. We thought it would be a good time to
    give Osi the opportunity to address the (ahem) outstanding football intellects
    about their keen August judgment, but the primary ground rules were quickly laid
    out Thursday:

    No contract

    Forward, march.

    Because nothing will detract from the visible joy this defensive end gets
    from this experience, or keep him from his appointed rounds, which we’ll guess
    is located somewhere north of Alex Smith’s solar plexus.

    “Whatever happens at the end of this year happens,” Umenyiora said in front
    of his locker, surrounded by a four-deep horde. “I’m just focused on playing
    football — this is pleasure, and you don’t want to mix business with pleasure.
    It’s fun for me, I’m enjoying it. The business part of it will be taken care of
    later.”


    "It seemed like it was yesterday when Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell were being
    run out of town — again. What a difference a four-game winning streak and a trip
    to the NFC Championship Game make.

    Today, the Giants head coach is being
    discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate and his defensive coordinator Fewell could
    again become a leading head coaching candidate.

    Less than a month ago, before the Giants’ win over the Jets on Christmas Eve, the news media called
    for Coughlin’s head for the umpteenth time as the Giants seemed to be on their
    way to missing the postseason for the third straight year.

    Coughlin understands the fluctuating state that is the court of public
    opinion comes with the territory.

    “I just keep the blinders on and go straight ahead,” Coughlin said. “I don’t
    have anything to do with what is being said on the outside. The priority and
    what I think about it, I don’t let it affect me in any way. I do believe in the
    John Wooden statement: We like praise, we don’t like criticism but if you let
    either one affect your preparation, you have a problem.

    If there’s anyone who can relate with Coughlin about the constantly shifting
    of public opinion in a league focused on recent results it’s his defensive

    This time last year, the Giants had missed the playoffs despite finishing
    with 10 wins and the NFL’s seventh-ranked defense. The unit’s success made
    Fewell, who took over as the Bills’ interim head coach during the 2009 season, a
    hot head coaching candidate and he made his rounds around the league for

    And though his defense is now arguably playing better than ever, its notable
    struggles during the regular season may have scared franchises with head
    coaching vacancies away from making him a top candidate. But that’s the last
    thing on Fewell’s mind right now.

    “I’m just trying to keep the job I have,” said Fewell, who is in his second
    year as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. “I’m happy not to see my name in
    print sometimes, so I don’t know. I’ve been focusing on the job at hand and that
    hasn’t been a concern for me.”


    Excerpt: "San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York promised a safe environment for fans on
    Sunday following what appeared to be a rowdy and hostile 49er base after an
    upset victory over the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.

    According to The San Jose Mercury News, there were 23 arrests made, including
    one for felony battery where the victim broke their nose. Another fan told the
    paper that they were showered in broken peanut shells after they asked a group
    of drunk 49ers fans to stop shouting so loudly near them.

    York said that there is an increase in undercover police planned, who can
    work to neutralize such incidents.

    "I think that was a very small segment from Saints fans and I apologize for
    any rudeness that happened," York said. "We didn't see a spike in incidents, I
    think you saw a lot of 49er fans that were excited to be hosting a playoff game
    for the first time in a long time.

    "We have some messaging going out to season-ticket holders and we want to
    make sure that folks understand that that type of behavior is not tolerated. We
    will definitely have more undercover PD in the stadium this week so if they do
    see that -- we obviously don't want to kick any of our fans out but that's
    what's going to happen if that's the behavior the undercover PD see." Read more...


    Excerpt: "When the San Francisco 49ers head into the locker room after pregame warm-ups
    every Sunday, they huddle together, quiet down and allow their spiritual leader
    to take the lectern.

    David Akers knows heartbreak — shortly before a wild-card game last season,
    then with the Philadelphia Eagles, he found out that his 6-year-old daughter,
    Halley, had a tumor on her ovary. He missed two field goals amid the
    distractions, and the Eagles lost by 5.

    Akers knows that life can be unfair — a trusted business partner and friend
    nearly bankrupted his family when the man swindled them out of $3.7 million in a
    Ponzi scheme between 2007 and ’09. Akers was in court during the preseason,
    testifying in front of a federal jury.

    And so Akers knows the unwavering power of faith, which is why his teammates
    listen in silence and allow him to set the floor for head coach Jim Harbaugh’s
    speech that comes shortly after."


    "Victor Cruz had 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in his first real
    season of meaningful action with the Giants. He now owns the team's all-time
    single-season receiving record for yards, and his year was often defined by huge
    plays -- catching a 99-yard touchdown, beating Nnamdi Asomugha for touchdowns,
    making juggling catches and plenty more.

    Oh, and his
    salsa dance has become known
    throughout the league and metropolitan area,
    and even got him an invite to "Dancing with the Stars."

    Whether it has been feature stories, columns or game-day stories, plenty has
    been written about him, as his success and emergence have been well-documented
    by The Star-Ledger.

    So now, we thought we'd go back in time to give you a sense of just how the
    second-year receiver from Paterson has evolved this season. Check out some of
    the articles written about him and then drop down to the comments
    to talk about Cruz. What we want to know, Giants fans, besides your
    thoughts on Cruz, is if you can think of an undrafted, possible sparkle to
    record-setting star in such little time like Cruz has?

    • Aug. 17, 2010 (preseason): Rookie
    Victor Cruz living a dream after catching three touchdowns against Jets

    • Oct. 30, 2010: Victor
    Cruz staying positive despite season-ending hamstring injury

    • May 10, 2011: Victor
    Cruz joins Eli Manning as QB hosts second week of workouts at Hoboken High

    • Aug. 13: Victor
    Cruz is ready to shine at receiver with Steve Smith gone

    • Aug. 26: Victor
    Cruz aiming to make progress in critical role at wide receiver

    • Sept. 21: Victor
    Cruz learning to get Eli Manning out of 'hot' water

    • Sept. 25: Politi:
    With two touchdowns, Victor Cruz energizes Giants, stuns 'Dream Team'

    • Sept. 27: Victor
    Cruz makes waves with big plays against Eagles

    • Oct. 10: D'Alessandro:
    Big plays, both good and bad, continue to define Giants wideout Victor Cruz's

    • Oct. 16: D'Alessandro:
    Victor Cruz has risen from Paterson to the NFL, driven by his father's memory
    and mother's strength

    • Nov. 8: Victor
    Cruz, Jake Ballard developing into key players on offense

    • Nov. 16: Victor
    Cruz learns from night-club shooting he's far from anonymous

    • Dec. 14: Victor
    Cruz becomes household name as he nears single-season receiving record

    • Dec. 25: Victor
    Cruz's 99-yard TD vs. Jets gives Giants momentum

    • Dec. 25: Jets
    know all about Victor Cruz after loss

    • Dec. 28: Victor
    Cruz doesn't think he's a Pro Bowl snub

    • Jan. 1, 2012: As
    Giants prep for Cowboys, Victor Cruz draws unprecedented attention

    • Jan 2: Victor
    Cruz torches Dallas Cowboys' secondary

    • Jan. 3: D'Alessandro:
    Victor Cruz puts Giants one step closer to their goal with his astonishing

    • Jan. 4: Falcons
    WR Roddy White says Victor Cruz is in for 'rude awakening' and 'good pay day'
    next year

    • Jan. 5: Victor
    Cruz's breakout season doesn't surprise Giants

    • Jan. 6: Victor
    Cruz turns down 'Dancing With The Stars' offer, says maybe in the future

    • Jan. 8: Victor
    Cruz, Tony Gonzalez highlight growth of Hispanic players in NFL

    • Jan. 8: Politi:
    Giants' Victor Cruz is a walking, breathing 'message of hope' for

    • Jan. 16: Victor
    Cruz eager for another dance with San Francisco's Carlos Rogers

    We posed the question earlier, and we'll ask it again: Can you think of
    another player who has gone from undrafted, possible sparkle to record-setting
    star in such little time?


    "Tom Coughlin said he hoped it was just a 24-hour bug and Victor Cruz
    dismissed any concern about it. All in all, the Giants weren't worried when
    their Eli Manning couldn't finish yesterday's practice because of a stomach
    illness and for good reason. Manning was back out on the field today during the
    portion of practice open to the media and looked fine, doing his normal routine.

    For the second day in a row, Ahmad Bradshaw is the only Giant not practicing.

    Bradshaw, who has not practiced more than once a week since his return from a
    foot injury, is expected to participate tomorrow.

    The other five players on yesterday's injury report -- LB Mark Herzlich
    (ankle), Justin Tuck (shoulder), Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and Corey Webster
    (hamstring) -- are practicing today after being limited yesterday."


    : If you had wagered Nov. 13 that the matchup between the
    Giants and San Francisco 49ers would be a dress rehearsal for the NFC
    Championship Game, your recollection is strong. No teams have met more in the
    postseason -- Sunday's game with tie an NFL record with the eighth meeting
    between the teams, all since 1981. The
    matchups have produced agony and ecstasy for both sides
    -- and success in
    the Super Bowl. Between 1981 and 1990, four times the winner of the postseason
    brawl between the clubs lifted the Lombardi Trophy. "There are a lot of memories
    [of this rivalry], and they went from maybe the great, to the greatest, to the
    worst," former Giants quarterback Phil Simms told "I remember our
    playoff victories in our stadium, and of course, I remember the playoff losses
    out there, too. The games were awesome, and there was something very good about
    it. We always knew somewhere along the line, it was going to be about us and
    them there in the mid-to-late '80s.''
    As an accompaniment to its Giants-49ers coverage, Sports Illustrated put
    together a photo gallery depicting the postseason matchups between the teams
    since 1981. A retrospective was also posted
    earlier this week on

    Jerry McDonald, San
    Jose Mercury News
    : The 49ers secondary has received praise all week. The
    unit leads the 49ers' determined defense from the back, with assured coverage
    and a knack for creating turnovers. The unit will be tested by Eli Manning
    Sunday, and safety Dashon Goldson will be hobbled. He sat
    out Wednesday's practice
    with an ankle injury.

    : Delanie Walker, a valued blocker from the tight end
    position, returned to practice Wednesday in a limited capacity. Walker
    is wearing special padding to help protect his jaw
    , which he broke in two
    places on Christmas Eve. Ted Ginn, who has an injured knee, and Jonathan
    Goodwin, who has an injured left leg, sat out.

    Mark Purdy, San
    Jose Mercury News
    : Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who led his team down
    the field twice in the fourth quarter to beat the New Orleans Saints last
    weekend, has been profiled ad nauseum. The Mercury News quotes former 49ers
    quarterback Steve Young outlining Smith's progress. The San Francisco Chronicle
    presents Smith through
    the analysis of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman
    , like Young a
    Hall of Famer.

    Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : Smith and Manning are both former No. 1
    overall draft picks, and Sunday's game will mark only the second time
    quarterback's picked No. 1 will face off in a conference title game. Smith said,
    though, that Manning faced a set of unique circumstances that he did not even
    though they share a draft slot.

    Mike Taugher, San Jose
    Mercury News
    : Since a power outage cut the lights at Candlestick Park during
    a Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers a month
    ago, the city and PG&E, the local power provider, have spent nearly a
    million dollars to assure the incident will not be replicated.
    In his press conference Wednesday, Jim Harbaugh gave this assessment of his
    opponents Sunday: "Class, class team that also is a cruel team. They don't give
    you things. They don't let you have what you want."


    "Star-Ledger writers have been breaking down the X's and O's of this Giants-49ers matchup all week and will
    continue to do so leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship. So you know about key
    players and battles on both teams, but that doesn't always cover all of the
    possible intangibles you might be thinking about: the
    , the Giants' road-warrior mindset; the revenge tour, etc.

    So taking all things into consideration, it's time to get the good vibes
    going, Giants fans. Here's your chance to turn the non-believers into believers.

    It's simple: Tell us your top three reasons why the Giants will beat the
    49ers on Sunday. Could be related to X's and O's; could be a trend; could
    something involving a superstition; could be because user Carbo will pick the
    Niners! Point is, it could be anything. Drop down to the comments
    section and start talkin'."


    Excerpt: "Spencer Paysinger had a hunch the kick was coming their way and let Victor
    Cruz, standing behind him as part of the hands team on kick return, know right

    “I told him, ‘Vic, it’s coming our way, I’m 100 percent sure,’?” the Giants rookie linebacker recalled of the
    play in Sunday’s divisional-round game against the Green Bay Packers. “He was
    like, ‘Are you serious?’ And I said, ‘I can bet you right now it’s going our

    Sure enough, although Green Bay lined up one more player on the opposite
    side, Mason Crosby shifted the direction of his on-side kick to Paysinger at the
    last second.

    The ball rolled through Paysinger’s legs, but Cruz pounced on it with the
    Giants leading 30-20 and 4:46 remaining. The Giants then used the short field to
    seal the 37-20 win with a 14-yard Brandon Jacobs touchdown run.

    It was the second on-side kick the Giants recovered Sunday — the first was a
    surprise attempt to steal a possession early in the second quarter when, again,
    the Giants weren’t fooled.

    But the Giants weren’t foolproof in a similar situation against the 49ers
    back in Week 10 of the regular season, when David
    Akers caught the Giants napping
    late in the first half, perfectly chipping
    an on-side kick to his left where Paysinger and wide receiver Ramses Barden were
    lined up. Both players were caught off guard, taking three steps back before
    realizing Akers’ trickery."



    Excerpt: "No one thought much of the Giants’ loss in San Francisco on Nov. 13. It was
    dismissed by most as nothing more than the start of another Big Blue second-half

    But the Giants knew better. They knew everyone was underrating
    the 49ers. They knew how tough the Niners really were. That’s why Brandon Jacobs
    promised, “We will see them again.” Tom Coughlin refused
    to accept that it was a bad loss.

    “This is a game against a team that was
    7-1 in the NFC,” Coughlin said after the 49ers beat the Giants, 27-20. “It’s not
    that we played poorly. We didn’t play well enough to win. That’s

    That really sums it up. The Giants played a good game against a team
    that would prove to be one of the best in the NFL this season. It went down to
    the final seconds, when a potential game-tying pass from Eli Manning — in the
    direction of a possibly open Victor Cruz — was
    batted down at the line of scrimmage by 49ers DT Justin

    “We understand that game came down to the wire and we were one
    play away from potentially winning that ballgame,” said Cruz. “It’s a little
    sweet to go out there and play a team that we’ve already played and know that
    we’ve fought tooth-and-nail.”

    Added safety Antrel Rolle: “I think
    we played a pretty good game all around. But I think it could definitely get

    That’s the good news for the Giants, as they head into their
    rematch in the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on Sunday night — there
    is definite room for improvement. Manning threw for 311 yards in the first game,
    nearly led a spectacular fourth-quarter comeback, and was backed by a battered
    defense that yielded only 305 yards, but there were still plenty of things that
    went wrong.

    Here are five of those problems that the Giants need to avoid
    in the rematch. If they do, their next stop could be Super Bowl XLVI:

    The 49ers don’t make a lot of
    mistakes, which is a big reason they’ve been so successful with Alex Smith
    at quarterback this season. They are a plus-28 in turnover ratio, “which is
    amazing,” Tom Coughlin said, and they play strong defense. That means their
    opponents won’t get many opportunities to score, so they have to take advantage
    when they do.

    In the first meeting, the Giants’ didn’t. There was Mario Manningham’s
    drop of a potential, game-tying, 42-yard touchdown catch on the final drive.
    Late in the first half there was an even worse drop by Victor Cruz, one play
    before Manning threw an interception.

    Here was the worst, though: The
    Giants’ first two drives got them inside the 49ers’ 10, and both times they left
    with field goals. They compounded that on their final drive when they had three
    shots from the 49ers’ 2 and came away with nothing.

    In all, they ran 15
    plays on four trips into the red zone, took only two shots at the end zone and
    came away with 13 points. In a game where points will be at a premium, that
    simply won’t do.

    The Giants knew going into that first
    meeting that they had to stop Frank Gore, arguably the
    best running back they faced all season. They had help, though, because he hurt
    his ankle a week earlier and wasn’t 100% healthy. He tried, but the Giants
    stoned him. He carried six times for zero yards.

    Then Gore reinjured his
    ankle and left the game. His backup, Kendall Hunter, came
    in and averaged 6.7 yards per carry.

    It’s hard not to wonder how much
    damage Gore (1,211 yards this season) could’ve done considering Hunter gained 40
    yards on just six touches — all in the second half. Hunter’s first carry went
    for 11 yards and he later added a 17-yard touchdown on a play where he should’ve
    been stopped at the line of scrimmage.

    The Giants have been much better
    against the run lately, giving up only 194 rushing yards total over the last
    three games, if you take away the 66 gained by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Smith
    can run a little, however, and he had 27 yards on six carries against the

    Regardless, with Gore healthy, the Giants’ task is tough. “We
    expect to see a healthy Frank Gore,” said Justin Tuck. “Obviously
    it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”

    That big touchdown run by Hunter was
    the second of two alarmingly bad miscues that took place over the course of 65
    seconds early in the fourth quarter. Rookie linebacker Greg Jones
    was right in the middle of both of them.

    Jones was forced into unfamiliar
    situations because veteran Michael Boley
    suffered a hamstring injury at the end of the first half, which, as safety
    Deon Grant
    explained, threw the entire defense off. “Guys were just out
    there guessing, just switching around,” Grant said. “Guys were getting more
    playing time than they expected.”
    That was first evident on tight
    end Vernon Davis
    ’ go-ahead, 31-yard touchdown catch on a simple crossing
    route. It was easy to defend, but a confused Jones let Davis run by unabated.
    Jones also appeared to be the one late to the hole at the line of scrimmage a
    minute or so later, when Hunter cut through the opening for his 17-yard
    touchdown run.

    What the Giants learned there is that though the 49ers’
    offense is underwhelming, they have the talent to make you pay for mistakes.
    That’s especially true of Davis, who must be constantly watched.

    very explosive, a deep threat,” said Rolle. “Once he gets the ball he can get up
    field. He can make defenders miss. I think that’s what makes him pretty special
    at his position.”

    Linval Joseph had a
    sack in the second quarter, and Osi Umenyiora had a
    big fourth-quarter sack that allowed the Giants to get the ball back with 6:35
    remaining. But for the most part, the pressure on Smith was inconsistent, if not
    non-existent. There might not have been a game all season in which Jason Pierre-Paul
    had less of an impact, and he was more of a factor than the hobbled Justin

    The result was that Smith, a quarterback that nobody was sure of at
    that point in the season, was allowed to complete 19 of 30 passes for 242 yards
    and threw only one interception. In other words, he wasn’t rushed into many
    mistakes. The Giants were just beginning a terrible stretch in which they
    recorded only 11 sacks in a seven games.

    They’ve had 17 in their last
    four games, meaning the pressure is likely to be turned up a lot more on Sunday
    night."


    Excerpt: "It’s raining already in San Francisco, and the forecast says it won’t stop
    until Monday. That means the notoriously bad field at Candlestick Park has the
    potential to be a big bowl of mud.

    Not that the Giants care — especially on defense. It won’t affect their game
    plan one bit.

    “Not in this game,” said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. “Doesn’t
    matter. This is the championship game. It doesn’t matter. You fight all year to
    get here. It can snow, it can hail, it can rain, whatever it wants to do. We’re
    going to be there to play.”

    “Any weather,” added defensive end Osi Umenyiora. “It
    doesn’t really matter whether it is cold, rainy, snow or sunshine, it is going
    to be a good game regardless.”

    There has never been a middle ground
    with Tom Coughlin, and he’s
    well-aware of that. A month ago some in the media were calling for him to be
    fired. In the Daily News on Wednesday there was a story about the possibility of
    him eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame.

    How does Coughlin deal with the seemingly constant reversals of his

    “I just keep the blinders on and go straight ahead,” he said. “I don’t have
    anything to do with what is being said on the outside.

    “The priorities and the way that I think about it, I don’t let it affect me
    in any way.

    “I do believe in the John Wooden statement:
    We like praise. We don’t like criticism. But if you let either one of those
    things affect your preparation then you’ve got a problem.”

    Mark Bavaro, Michael Strahan and
    Rich Seubert, all of
    whom appeared in NFC title games with the Giants, will serve as honorary
    captains for their old team on Sunday night."


    "The Giants will get on their charter flight to San Francisco on Saturday and
    immediately transform into their alter ego: The Big Blue Road Warriors.

    If home is where the heart is, the road is where the victories are for the
    Giants. They don’t plan to leave their season in San Francisco during Sunday’s
    NFC Championship Game against the 49ers at Candlestick Park.

    will take his customary seat in coach and leave first class to the
    veterans and the big guys who need the extra leg room. It’s a business trip —
    the standard cliché for coaches — and Coughlin sets the tone by requiring suits
    and ties on the road.

    His rules may be a bit suffocating, but they
    clearly send the right message: Road trips are a bonding experience. They are a
    team and it takes a team to get to the Super Bowl.

    The Giants won three
    playoff games on the road on the way to their Super Bowl XLII victory over the
    Patriots four years ago. They were a wild-card team and beat the NFC South
    champion Bucs in Tampa in the first round. Then they went into Dallas and
    eliminated the Cowboys, the No. 1 seed. Then it was on to Green Bay, where they
    beat the Packers, the No. 2 seed. That Giants team also won its last seven
    regular-season road games.

    This year, as the NFC East champs, the Giants
    had a first-round home game against the Falcons. They beat them, 24-2. Then they
    went back to Green Bay and beat the Packers, 37-20, again taking out the No. 1
    seed in the divisional round. Now it’s on to San Francisco, where the 49ers are
    the No. 2 seed.

    Symmetry? Perhaps. The same results? We’ll

    Coughlin has six road playoff victories in his NFL head coaching
    career. One more and he ties Tom Landry for the most

    Eli Manning is tied for
    the most road playoff victories, at four, with a group of quarterbacks. One more
    and Manning will be first in NFL history.

    “This guy on the road — he’s
    phenomenal,” an NFL source said.

    Manning has a laid-back personality and
    doesn’t get rattled. That helps when 70,000 people are screaming.

    “Eli is
    tough. He’s sober in a storm. He gets it,” the source said. “The things that he
    has, like his brother, is he breeds confidence to his teammates. When he’s under
    center, they think they can win. It’s a very difficult dynamic for a quarterback
    to have. It’s not just about him believing in himself, it’s about teammates
    believing in him. It’s rare. All the great ones have it.”

    So, what is it
    about the road that brings about the best in the Giants?

    “It’s just the
    concept of us against the world, I guess. You don’t have anything else to fall
    back on except your teammates,” Justin Tuck said. “I
    think that goes a long way with building trust, with building that belief in the
    fact that, regardless of who we go face, if we just take that corps of guys,
    those 53 guys and the coaching staff and owners on that plane going to wherever
    we go, we can come out victorious. That’s just a mind-set that has been
    instilled in us ever since Coach Coughlin has been here.”

    The Jets found
    out the last two years just how tough it is to win three road playoff games. But
    it can be done. The Giants did it four years ago. The Packers did it last year,
    winning in Philly, Atlanta and Chicago. The Steelers did it in 2005, going
    through Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver.

    The Giants made things just
    a bit easier for themselves this season by winning the NFC East and reducing by
    one the number of road playoff victories they needed to get to Super Bowl XLVI
    in Indianapolis.

    Teams either shrink with the pressure created by a
    hostile environment or they create an us-against-the-world mentality and use it
    as a unifying force. In the Super Bowl era, the Giants have never lost an NFC
    Championship Game. They beat the Redskins (1986) and Vikings (2000) at home and
    the 49ers (1990) and Packers (2007) on the road.

    The game 21 years ago
    against the Niners is something Coughlin will use in his pregame preparation. He
    was on Bill Parcells’ staff
    as the wide receivers coach. The 49ers had won back-to-back Super Bowls and were
    attempting to become the first team to three-peat. They had defeated the Giants,
    7-3, at Candlestick during the regular season.

    The Giants survived that
    NFC title game, 15-13, without scoring a touchdown. They won on Matt
    ’s 42-yard field goal on the final play. The 49ers, who had lost Joe
    on the previous series when he was crushed by Leonard Marshall,
    had a first down at the Giants’ 40-yard line and were trying to run out the
    clock with Steve Young
    at quarterback.

    Young handed to Roger Craig,
    who was hit by Erik Howard, with Lawrence Taylor
    recovering the ball at the Giants’ 43. There was 2:36 left. The Giants moved 31
    yards in six plays to position themselves for Bahr’s field goal.

    knows there are lessons his team can learn by hearing about that game.

    have thought about that and we will talk about some of the things that occurred
    there, but only from the standpoint of the history and the tradition and what a
    great event that was at that particular time,” he said. “That was a long time
    ago and I think some of our players, because they are historians, will know a
    little about that game and the great players that played in that

    It was the game when the Giants first turned into road warriors.
    Two decades later, they are back where that mentality started and trying to do
    it again."


    Excerpt: "The
    last time the Giants made an incredible, improbable Super Bowl run in 2007, Mathias Kiwanuka
    was on the team, but he wasn’t running with it.

    Kiwanuka was on injured
    reserve with a fractured left fibula – an injury that occurred just as the
    Giants were gathering steam for the stretch run. And just a season ago Kiwanuka
    wasn’t even sure he would ever play football again after suffering a herniated
    cervical disk three games into the season.

    As the Giants prepare for the
    NFC Championship Game at San Francisco on Sunday, it has been hard to find a
    happier player in the Giants locker room this week than Kiwanuka. He is one step
    away from playing in his first Super Bowl.
    “It’s huge. There’s no place that
    I’d rather be right now than right here with these guys,’’ Kiwanuka said at the
    Giants’ training facility on Thursday afternoon.

    There is nothing that
    makes a player appreciate the kind of run that the Giants are on now than a
    player who missed it the first time with an injury and who suffered another
    injury that had him contemplating not just his career, but his life.

    victory over the 49ers will give Kiwanuka the opportunity to play in a Super
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Howdydoo and Thank You.


    • #3
      Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012 - 10:00 A.M.

      [quote user="ashleymarie"]Howdydoo and Thank You.[/quote]

      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


      • #4
        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012 - 10:00 A.M.

        thanks Ro...

        the anxiety is starting to build....

        "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
        You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012 - 10:00 A.M.

          [quote user="GameTime"]

          thanks Ro...

          the anxiety is starting to build....


          Can't wait for the game to start
          “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012 - 10:00 A.M.

            thanks Roanoke! [B]

            we are almost there! all we need is a chance!



            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2012 - 10:00 A.M.

              [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

              thanks Roanoke! [B]

              we are almost there! all we need is a chance!


              We are reaching the mountain top, one game at a time.
              “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1