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    "Giants (11-7) at San
    Francisco 49ers (14-3)

    NFC Championship Game
    Today, 6:30
    Candlestick Park, San Francisco
    TV: FOX
    Radio: WFAN 660-AM


    The quarterback play

    We’ve heard it many times: Alex Smith has had a nice, breakout season after
    six underwhelming years, but he’s nothing more than a game manager; the 49ers
    rely on defense and special teams — not their quarterback — to win football
    games. The numbers prove it: Though he threw just five interceptions, he also
    has just 17 touchdown passes and was 20th in the NFL in pass attempts. But last
    week, Smith proved he may be more than that, orchestrating two long scoring
    drives down the stretch against the New Orleans Saints, including the
    game-winning touchdown pass with 9 seconds remaining. Today, the task will be
    more difficult, as he’ll face a relentless Giants pass rush and a back seven
    that has come together over the past month. On the other side, Eli Manning has
    been nearly flawless in the postseason, throwing for 607 yards and six
    touchdowns to just one interception through the two playoff games. While Smith
    has taken the step from bust to game manager, Manning has gone up the next rung,
    elevating to one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. Both teams will seek to
    establish a run game — the 49ers depend on it more than the Giants — but
    ultimately this game could be decided by which quarterback makes more big

    The field
    position battle

    The 49ers are not about the flashy statistics and highlights, but their game,
    predicated on defense, running the ball and special teams, has proven to be a
    winning formula. Part of that formula is winning the field position battle,
    which they do on a weekly basis. The 49ers’ average drive start during the
    regular season was the 33.38 yard line and their opponents’ was the 24.3 yard
    line, both best in the NFL. The numbers were the product of having the league’s
    punter (Andy Lee)
    and return units.


    10. Sept. 6, 1992: 49ers 31, Giants 14
    9. Jan. 15, 1994: at San Francisco:
    49ers 44, Giants 3
    8. Oct. 1, 1995: at San Francisco: 49ers 20, Giants
    7. Nov. 30, 1998: at San Francisco: 49ers 31, Giants 7
    6. Sept. 5, 2002:
    49ers 16, Giants 13
    5. Jan. 5, 2003: at San Francisco: 49ers 39, Giants
    4. Nov. 6, 2005: at San Francisco: Giants 24, 49ers 6
    3. Oct. 21, 2007:
    Giants 33, 49ers 15
    2. Oct. 19, 2008: Giants 29, 49ers 17
    1. Nov. 13,
    2011: at San Francisco: 49ers 27, Giants 20

    Remember when ...
    The Giants and 49ers last met in the
    NFC Championship Game? It was 21 years ago this past Friday, at Candlestick
    Park, where the top-seeded 49ers, then the defending Super Bowl champions, were
    favored against the second-seeded Giants. It was a defensive battle throughout,
    with only field goals on the board through the first half, which ended in a 6-6
    tie. The 49ers scored the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter on a
    61-yard pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor that gave the hosts a 13-6 lead.
    But the 49ers didn’t score the rest of the way and the Giants eventually came
    within a point, 13-12, after two field goals. And as time expired, Matt Bahr
    nailed his fifth field goal, a 42-yarder, to send the Giants to Super Bowl XXV,
    where they defeated the Buffalo Bills.


    1. The 49ers’ pass defense can have trouble
    A quick
    glance at the final regular-season statistics indicate the 49ers’ pass defense
    is average in today’s NFL. The 49ers finished 16th against the pass, having
    allowed 230.9 yards per game during the regular season. Against the league’s
    most prolific throwers, the Niners can be exploited. Last week, Drew Brees threw
    for 462 yards and four touchdowns. It was the third time this season the 49ers
    allowed more than 400 yards passing — and the sixth game in which an opposing
    quarterback accumulated more than 300 yards. One of those 300-yard passers was
    Eli Manning, who threw for 311 against the 49ers in Week 10, completing his
    first 10 passes before cooling off. Much like the Packers, the Niners rely on
    forcing turnovers — they led the NFL in turnover margin — to offset their
    deficiencies on defense, a risky strategy for any defense. Ask Green Bay.

    2. Besides Vernon Davis, Alex Smith’s targets are limited

    Davis’ performance
    against the Saints — seven receptions for 180 yards, a
    postseason record for a tight end, and two touchdowns — was impressive by any
    measure. What makes it more amazing was the Saints knew where the ball was going
    and still couldn’t defend him. Outside of Davis, the 49ers have one legitimate
    target for Smith, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who finished the regular
    season with 72 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns. But against the
    Saints, Crabtree had a few drops and managed only four catches for 25 yards.
    Besides Davis and Crabtree, the 49ers, who cut veteran Braylon Edwards at the
    end of the regular season, don’t have a receiver with more than 20 receptions
    during the regular season.

    3. The Giant had success stuffing the run in the teams’ first meeting

    Yes, Frank Gore was dinged up, battling an ankle injury in the
    Week 10 meeting on Nov. 13
    , but he played in the first half and was held to
    zero yards on six carries. A closer look shows that even a healthy Gore could
    have been challenged with how the Giants were sniffing out the run and stuffing
    run plays in the backfield. The 49ers had more success running the football in
    the second half with Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon — they finished with 77
    rushing yards as Michael Boley was sidelined in the second half with a hamstring
    injury. Gore will be healthy today, but the Giants have been stingy against the
    run lately and should draw some confidence from their performance back in Week


    Alex Smith had some huge plays last week
    against the Saints, but Eli Manning has thrown for 607 yards and six touchdowns
    through two playoff games.
    Edge: Giants

    Running back
    Frank Gore was dinged up in the teams’ first
    meeting with an ankle injury, but he’s healthy this time
    Edge: Niners

    Wide receiver/Tight end
    Vernon Davis may be the most
    dangerous target on either team, but the Giants’ trio of wideouts trumps
    everyone else the 49ers have.
    Edge: Giants

    Offensive line
    According to Football Outsiders, the
    Giants’ offensive line was ranked sixth in the NFL in pass protection and the
    run game has come on of late.
    Edge: Giants

    Defensive line
    If there was a pass rush that could
    perhaps compete with the Giants’ it’s the Niners, but the Giants’ front four is
    the league’s best.
    Edge: Giants

    With All-Pro inside linebackers Patrick
    Willis and NaVorro Bowman patrolling the middle and rookie Aldon Smith rushing
    from the outside, this unit is a force.

    The 49ers have a physical group led by the
    hard-hitting Donte Whitner, but the Giants’ back end is coming together at the
    right time.
    Edge: Giants

    Special teams
    The 49ers have the league’s first-team
    All-Pro picks at kicker (David Akers) and punter (Andy
    Edge: Niners

    Punter Steve

    1. It’s supposed to rain today. Even though you’re a directional
    punter, is there ever a temptation to make the returner field it in bad

    Ehh, when it’s raining I might be a little bit more apt to
    aim towards the field versus aiming exactly where I want it. Just for the simple
    fact that it’s raining and all that; you have to leave yourself a little margin
    for error when the ball is wet and stuff like that. But I feel very confident in
    the fact that I got some great athletes and a lot of hungry rookies that have
    done a great job (in coverage).

    2. Have you ever worked with so many rookies before?
    Not even close.

    3. How much of an emphasis has field position been this

    Same for me every week. I’m not putting any extra pressure on
    myself since I’m playing a Pro Bowl punter. It makes no difference to me.
    (Niners punter Andy Lee has) had a great year, and that’s a great special teams
    unit, but I’m not going to try to kick the ball any farther than what I’ve been
    doing. If he hits a 60-yard punt and it gets returned 15 yards, and I hit a
    45-yard punt out of bounds, it’s the same difference to me. His might look a
    little prettier, but they’re both equally effective. He’s got his game style and
    game plan, and I’ve got mine, and right now we’re just going to try to limit the
    number of times that they get to return the ball.

    4. What do you remember from Ted Ginn Jr. in college? (Weatherford
    played at Illinois while Ginn was at Ohio State)

    I punted to him for
    two years. He never really snapped a big one off on me, but he was good and
    fast. I think he’s improved his game a lot as far as making himself more
    valuable to the team, which is wide receiving and everything. But he’s just as
    scary now as he was when I was 20. I wish he would just retire already.


    If the 49ers win today, they will become the 11th different team to represent
    the NFC in the Super Bowl in as many years. The Giants are the only team to
    represent the NFC twice since the turn of this century, losing to the Baltimore
    Ravens in 2000 and defeating the New England Patriots in 2007."


    "The text message lit up Justin Tuck’s phone on the morning of Nov. 30, two
    days after the Giants had been blown
    out by the Saints
    in New Orleans.

    “When you get in,” Tom Coughlin wrote, “come see me.”

    It was probably the lowest point of the season for Tuck, the Giants’
    defensive captain.

    Injuries to his neck, groin, ankle, toe and shoulder had limited him to two
    sacks in seven games played, not to mention knocking him out of four other
    games. He had spent a few seconds on the Superdome turf that Monday, disgusted
    by his inability to bring Drew Brees down. A player who prides himself on hustle
    and hard work got to his feet slowly while Brees scrambled toward the right
    sideline to make a play.

    It was the lost season of Justin Tuck. At least that’s the way it looked at
    that point.

    Discouraged by physical aches, and some emotional wounds that came from the
    loss of a few family members, he admits now he almost gave up.

    “There were a lot of times I contemplated asking to be put on IR,” Tuck said
    the other day, referring to season-ending injured reserve. “I was pretty close a
    couple of times. I just felt as though I was doing more harm being on the field
    some weeks than me being off it.

    “Sometimes it’s pretty easy to fight through pain. That doesn’t necessarily
    mean you’re tough; it sometimes means you stupid.”

    Coughlin was smart. The 65-year-old coach who’s been in the game for over
    four decades knew his defensive leader couldn’t mope any longer. If this
    tattered defense and inconsistent team had a prayer of turning it around and
    making a run, Tuck would have to lead the way. Even if he couldn’t do it
    physically, he could provide a mental lift.

    That text message from Coughlin, and the pep talk of a meeting that followed,
    saved the lost season of Justin Tuck.

    Today, he’ll lead a rejuvenated defense onto the field at Candlestick Park in
    San Francisco for the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, with a trip to
    Super Bowl XLVI at stake.

    “I like the adjustments that he made and he just decided that he’s not going
    to allow any more distractions from the standpoint of the hurts,” Coughlin said
    last week. “He’s made that decision and he’s stuck with it.”

    It wasn’t easy. To get there, this self-proclaimed “country boy from
    Kellyton, Ala.,” had to learn to deal with a barrage of off-field commitments,
    tragedy in his tight-knit family and the run of injuries.

    The biggest blow was a combination of the last two on a whirlwind — or
    rather, a hurricane — of a week in August.


    In August, Tuck’s grandfather, Leroy, died at the age of 84. One month later,
    he lost his uncle. On Jan. 11, another uncle, Spencer, died seven days short of
    his 58th birthday.

    “RIP Spencer Tuck,” Justin tweeted that day, along with a hashtag that read,
    “When it rains it pours.”

    The off-field issues coincided with his injuries, the first of which occurred
    in the Hurricane Irene-postponed preseason game against the Jets. Tuck, who had
    flown back into town that day after attending Leroy’s funeral, collided with
    Vlad Ducasse. What he thought was “just a regular stinger” wound up keeping him
    out of four of the first six regular-season games.

    “You’re doing more damage to yourself and there were some weeks I didn’t feel
    like I was helping this football team,” Tuck said. “And I’m basing this off
    stats. I can’t tell you how me being on the field will affect the play of other

    Tuck would soon find out, and it would be one of the keys to turning his
    season around.

    But long before he got to that point, he had a dazed look. The injuries and
    the heartache prevented him from being the player and presence many expect him
    to be.

    “I lean on him, he leans on me for stuff,” said fellow defensive end Dave
    Tollefson, a teammate of Tuck since 2007. “To know what he’s going through is
    tough on me because that’s hard, man, when you lose family members and then
    you’re constantly battling through injuries.

    “He’s responded in a way that I expect him to and not only being a pillar for
    this football team but for his family.”

    Kellyton is known as “Tuckville” to the locals because to them it feels like
    everyone there is a Tuck. So a year like this one, which began with the death of
    one of Tuck’s uncles last January, has been devastating for them.

    Even to the extended portion of the family in East Rutherford.

    “I’m sure somewhere here in this offseason I’ll revisit some of those things
    and deal with it that way,” he said. “But it’s probably best to not even deal
    with it at this point. You go down, you go to the funeral, you shed your tears,
    you tell your family you love them and you get back on the plane and go back to

    Football has served as a distraction for Tuck and for his family members.

    “The biggest thing I got from family is saying, ‘The way you can make us
    smile is by playing a great game, going out there and winning,’?” he said. “That
    puts it in perspective, them watching me play and getting whatever release they
    get from me competing, playing and winning.”

    There’s a lot on him. Then again, what else is new?


    The first time Doug Hendrickson met Tuck was during a sit-down in the lobby
    of the Notre Dame junior’s dorm.

    “Every student that came up to him was, I don’t want to say in awe, but the
    respect they showed for him was very rare,” said Hendrickson, Tuck’s agent for
    his entire career. “I knew right then this guy was different. He had the look,
    he had the swagger and you could tell, if he played well, he was going to be a

    Tuck was an unassuming member of a stacked stable of pass rushers for his
    first two seasons. In 2007, the former third-round pick emerged as a
    well-rounded player with 10 sacks, a solid presence against the run and a
    monster, two-sack game in Super Bowl XLII.

    Off the field, Tuck was engaging and a media darling. When Michael Strahan
    retired, Tuck became the biggest star in the locker room. He handled it well at

    But this season, the media crunch, his sponsorships with Subway, SoBe and
    Nike, his work with his R.U.S.H. for Literacy charity and the commands of being
    a team leader all caught up with him.

    Early on, he was making promotional appearances or speaking at schools almost
    every Tuesday, the normal off-day for NFL players.

    “I have backed down a lot of stuff,” he said. “Probably 10 weeks ago, I
    canceled all of that and have devoted those days to being in the cold tub in the
    training room.”

    Tuck might be a friend of many celebrities and a hunting partner of
    billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, but he comes from humble roots
    and always prefers to meet as many requests as possible, whether big or

    “But going forward, he’s learned that ‘no’ is often more valuable than ‘yes’
    in regard to, ‘Hey, I can do certain things but I can’t do ’em all,’?”
    Hendrickson said. “I think he learned a lot of that from Strahan, looking at him
    and how he did things and realizing he’s not a second-year guy anymore.”

    Tuck also isn’t a bachelor anymore. He and wife, Lauran, were married in
    April 2008 and his son, Jayce, was born in February 2010. Lauran is working
    toward her master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, so she’s been away
    for a few days at a time this season.

    “You couple everything with injuries and taking some criticism in the press
    for the first time. That’s been tough on him as well,” Hendrickson said. “But
    the one thing about Justin is he’s always risen to the top.”


    The past few weeks, Tuck has been wearing a brace on his left shoulder he
    hasn’t worn since tearing a labrum in 2009. Has he gone for a full exam on the

    “Nope,” he said.

    But the labrum might be damaged again, so no MRI?


    Does he even want to know what’s happening in there?


    The postseason surgery two years ago was supposed to have taken care of that
    issue. But by the time he strapped that restricting piece of equipment on again,
    he had “gotten over all of the mental anguish of this season. It was just one
    more thing.”

    Tuck can thank Coughlin’s pep talk as well as his teammates for getting him
    to the point that injured reserve wasn’t an option.

    “Players (were) coming to me and telling me just me being out there is a plus
    and gets them playing to the best of their abilities,” he said. “That was about
    the time when I started making a turn.”

    Tuck closed the regular season with a sack in the victory over the Jets and
    one against the Cowboys in Week 17. He had four tackles and two quarterback hits
    in the wild-card victory over the Falcons. In last week’s victory over the
    Packers, he had only one tackle but his value was measured in more than

    “The last couple of years, I thought I had to make every play. But this year
    I realized there are 10 other guys on the field with me and they’re pretty good
    too,” he said. “I guess it’s made me more of a team player.”

    It’s all served to make Tuck better.

    But after all of the bumps this season, he has a chance to end on a serious
    high note today and in the next two weeks. Though he’s still somewhat in a daze
    and may not fully comprehend all he’s been through recently until he steps away
    from it, the 28-year-old understands his seventh NFL season has forced him to
    grow in ways he didn’t previously imagine.

    “It taught me that maybe I’m tougher than I give myself credit,” he said.
    “I’ve had better days. But I’m having fun. Being around something like this, you
    understand it’s rare, you don’t often get a chance to be a part of something we
    have in this football team.

    “I would be selfish in my own right to let my personal problems, whatever
    they may be, get in the way of that.”


    "“Good afternoon, Timex Incorporated.”

    Hello. We were wondering if you knew that your building in East
    Rutherford doesn’t have a single clock that keeps accurate time.

    “I beg your pardon?”

    They call this place the Timex Performance Center, but its performance is
    rather ill-timed, as it were — they all run five minutes fast. Who do I talk to
    about that?

    “Are you serious?”

    Madam, maybe you’re frivolous about time in Middlebury, Conn., but here we do
    nothing half-baked. This is completely baked.

    “Hold on, let me transfer you to Gordon in public relations.”

    For a long time — or maybe it was for about five minutes — we’ve been
    intrigued by this curious practice of setting the clocks ahead at the Giants’
    practice facility, which is some sort of time-dishonored tradition, if you will.

    “Yeah, TC Time,” Dave Tollefson explained. “That’s what we call it around

    TC, as in Tricky Chronometry.

    “Coughlin Time,” explains rookie tackle James Brewer. “This is not the Timex
    Center, this is the Tom Coughlin Center. You’re warned about that the day you
    get here.”

    “Then you set every clock you have to TC time — in your car, in your house,”
    added rookie linebacker Spencer Paysinger. “You can’t change the time on your
    cell phone, but you learn to adjust.”

    “Because the fines for being late are steep — there are league rules, but
    around here, we go by TC rules,” safety Tyler Sash explained. “And the No. 1 TC
    rule is you have to be five minutes early to everything.”

    Yes, by now we’ve all heard about the renowned Coughlinian punctuality. The
    Giants head coach sets every clock in the massive complex ahead by five minutes,
    everyone conforms to his weird fixation (except for the microwave in the
    players’ lounge, actually — it’s only three minutes fast), and nobody gives it a
    second thought.

    But when you consider that Timex has splashed its name on the roof of the
    building, in lettering that can be seen from Alpha Centauri, doesn’t anyone find
    that a bit … incongruous?

    “It might be the Timex Performance Center to everyone on the outside, but in
    here, this is the Church of Tom Coughlin, where you’re five minutes early to
    everything,” punter Steve Weatherford said. “And you don’t want to find out what
    happens if you’re only four minutes early.”

    • • •

    “Kaplow Public Relations, hello?”

    Now stay calm, but we have a Category Five PR meltdown about to hit: None of
    your clocks work here at the Timex Performance Center — it’s like they’re all
    possessed by a hyperkinetic parasite.

    “Where did you say you’re calling from?”

    Never mind, this is an emergency — get me Gordon, stat. He’s the only one who
    can handle this looming catastrophe.
    “Gordon and Marguerita are gone for the
    day. I’ll see who’s available.”

    You must hurry. The clocks in East Rutherford have conspired to subvert the
    space-time continuum.

    “Okay, wait, hold on.”

    If you hooked Coughlin up to a personality test, what would it reveal?

    Besides the fact that he is a manic, authoritarian control freak who believes
    every problem can be solved with an obsessive, man-imposed regulation —
    particular with regard to timekeeping.

    In all the best ways, we mean.

    The players wouldn’t touch that one, so we decided to ask someone who
    actually knew what a Myers-Briggs was.

    “First of all, understand that we’re all neurotic — the fallacy is that there
    are non-neurotic human beings,” says Marshall Mintz, a sports psychologist from
    Springfield who has worked with football types on every level. “We all have
    imperfections, and no one is self-actualized.”

    Give it to us straight, Doc. He can take it.

    “Look, you’re talking about Tom’s style falling in the basket of someone with
    an obsessive-compulsive style. But it doesn’t mean that it’s pathological, or
    maladaptive. The reality is, you want guys with those qualities running a team —
    those men being your generals and head coaches and people who are organizing
    others in structured and detailed ways.

    “Sometimes they’re seen as being rather rigid or tense. But it can be very
    adaptive and necessary in those kind of environments — particularly the kind Tom
    works in. The question is whether it becomes maladaptive, and creates problems
    in relationships.”
    Would such a person obsessed with punctuality tend to be
    perfectionists? Meticulous and detail-oriented?

    “Correct,” the good doctor replied.

    Punctilious? Paranoid? Confrontational? Queeg-like? Loopy?

    “Stay on topic,” he said. “Punctuality … is a conspicuous characteristic of
    being intense and sharp in focus. Men like these are not vague in terms of
    attention. They concentrate, and can do it in great detail.

    “Remember how a few years ago, it was ‘Lighten up, Tom.’ And he heard that
    from his team. An unhealthy person would not be able to adapt and make choices.
    Tom sized things up and got feedback and said, ‘Okay, I don’t have to be so
    rigid and intolerant and detached and cold — it’s not conducive to team

    “He accommodated it. That’s a very high level of functioning.”

    Too bad the clocks around here don’t function as highly.


    “Hello, this is Brian.”

    Brian, does the Timex Corporation take it as a chronometric affront that
    clocks in the Timex Performance Center are set five minutes fast?

    “Actually, I don’t know …”

    If the coach’s internal clock malfunctions, do you have the authority to send
    over a factory-trained technician — preferably one with warm but manly hands,
    since Coach is very ticklish?

    “I’ll tell you what, if you put your inquiry in an e-mail, I’ll try to get
    you some answers.”

    Okay, but we’re running out of time. … Haw! Out of TIME, get it? TIME?


    The whole truth: The players aren’t bothered by this in the least. They
    operate in a fast-forward universe, where the successful teams are governed by
    precision and timing. We think we heard that in a bad Al Pacino movie once.

    “It was an easy adjustment for me,” tackle Kareem McKenzie says. “Keep in
    mind, I came from Penn State, where the clocks were always set 15 minutes fast.
    So, five minutes? No big whup.”

    For a while this week, some actually thought TC Time had spawned a fashion
    statement. A number of kids were wearing a T-shirt containing the phrase, “Where
    Trel At,” with a sketch of a casual, what-me-worry Antrel Rolle standing beside
    those words.

    Given Rolle’s propensity to wander off the reservation now and then — it’s
    caused some friction in Coughlin Central — some surmised this T-shirt was a
    backhanded salute to Trel’s occasional tardiness.

    “No! It started with Deon Grant just asking, ‘Yo, Where Trel At?’ and then
    everyone started saying it. That’s the whole story,” Rolle explained. “This has
    got nothing to do with punctuation.”


    The truth is, this obsession with punctuality has been known to foster other
    forms of manic behavior. For example, about once a year, Weatherford drives like
    a bat out of hell and gets tackled by some officious fellow wearing a blue
    uniform and a stern expression.

    For the punter, it’s a matter of simple arithmetic when he challenges the
    speed traps: When you’re late for a Coughlin Appointment, you’re hit with a
    $1,500 fine per minute, with the penalty capping out at $5,000; even if you’re
    caught by the cops and make your meeting on time, you’re talking about a high
    risk-reward ratio.

    “There are times when I’ve driven to work, run into gridlock, and I’ll jump
    on the shoulder,” Weatherford said. “And then I’ll get pulled over for a $200

    Is it worth it? It’s better than getting gobsmacked with a $5,000 citation at
    work. That’s a 96 percent discount. The only drawback is Coughlin has never been
    known to put points on anyone’s license. Yet.

    Some of them take this lifestyle into retirement. Exhibit A: You’d think Rich
    Seubert is ensconced in some post-Coughlin dream cloud in California these days,
    but he’s still on TC Time.

    “You just find yourself used to it, but I’m not sure the family ever does,”
    Seubert said. “So now I make it a habit of being five minutes early for
    everything. My wife hates me for it, and my kids are starting to not like me,
    either — they’re always the first ones to school every morning.”

    TC Time. The enemy of children.

    •?• •

    Anyway, this e-mail came Friday from Herbie Calves, the VP of Sports
    Marketing for Timex. Turns out he knows all about this clock kerfuffle:

    “As you might imagine, we share coach Coughlin’s enthusiasm for
    punctuality. We’re honored the Coach trusts Timex training technology to help
    keep players performing at their best — and we’re equally honored he trusts us
    to help keep the Giants on time. And best we can tell, Coach’s internal clock is
    as sharp as the team’s post-season performance thus far.”

    Well. That’s that, then.

    As long as they know.

    We didn’t ask whether they know about that billboard just a football fields
    away from the practice site — on westbound Route 3 — that features the steely
    visage of Eli Manning. He’s selling — seriously — Citizen watches. A
    subconscious rebellion? No, probably a brand tweaking another brand.

    That’s not Eli’s style, anyway. He’s really like the rest, a Coughlin devotee
    who marches lockstep, lemmings-like, in a parade that may lead all the way to
    the Super Bowl. Five minutes early, presumably.

    “In the grand scheme of things, five minutes isn’t asking for much, and we
    know TC Time works for us,” Tollefson said. “Besides, nobody said we were



    "We get the Giants and 49ers back Sunday at old Candlestick Park. We get so much
    pro football history back at the same time, remember what it was like when it
    was Simms to Bavaro against the 49ers, back when Bavaro looked as if he wasn’t
    just carrying the football under his arm, but about seven San Francisco tacklers
    on his back. Remember Leonard Marshall
    dropping Joe Montana the way he
    did, remember like it was yesterday, and Matt Bahr kicking his
    fifth field goal the last time these two teams played a championship game.

    “We didn’t really get control of that game until there were about three
    seconds left,” Bill Parcells

    We get back LT today and Ronnie Lott and Jerry
    , go back to the day when Jeff Hostetler was
    good enough to beat a team trying to win three Super Bowls in a row. All that.
    Big news. It is only the second time the two teams have ever played with the
    Super Bowl on the line. It just seems like more.

    The Giants won a Super Bowl four years ago, believe truly they are on that
    kind of roll again. It has been longer for the 49ers. But Jim
    has brought them back fast, done that in a year. Now that the 49ers
    have beaten the Saints the way they did last Saturday afternoon, they believe
    they can beat anybody. Starting with the Giants today.

    Of course the other games from the other seasons don’t factor into anything
    once the ball is kicked off. History never does. It is just this season today,
    this game, this chance for one of them to make it to Indianapolis for the Super
    Bowl game. The Giants have had a crazy season, one of the craziest they have
    ever had, the 6-2 start, the 1-5 fall, the 4-0 run that began, really, with Eli
    to Victor Cruz for 99
    yards against the Jets on Christmas Eve.

    The Giants took down the Packers, who were 15-1, oh boy were they. The 49ers
    beat the Saints, who ended the season looking as if they had a better offense
    than Aaron Rodgers and the
    Packers. And you better believe the 49ers rose up and Candlestick rose up in the
    end the way it used to for big games, the kind of game when Montana threw it to
    Dwight Clark, the day
    Clark rose up to make an amazing catch and beat the Cowboys in a championship

    Now here are the Giants and 49ers. Doing it again. Trying to make their own
    history today, both teams, this new imagining of such a great old rivalry.

    I asked Mathias Kiwanuka
    about that the other day, asked if these Giants appreciate what Giants vs. 49ers
    used to mean in pro football.

    “Oh yeah, definitely,” he said. “And that’s why I said we’re carrying the
    torch for guys who’ve come through these halls and have done some tremendous
    things. And you know, at the end of your career you want to be mentioned as one
    of the best teams and as one of the best players. Right now, we’re just going to
    continue to push, but when we get to the point when we’re all old and looking
    back on our careers, hopefully this will be one of the high points.” Read more...


    "Eli Manning has played
    well enough all season to get the Giants to their second Super Bowl in the last
    five seasons. Now the rest of the team has finally caught up to him.

    When the NFL awarded Super Bowl XLVI to the House That Peyton Built in
    Indianapolis, it appeared the Colts had a good chance to be the first team to
    play the Super Bowl on their home field. It was easy to envision Peyton Manning
    driving down the field in the closing minutes for the winning

    Well, Manning could still provide last-minute drama in Indy —
    it would just be the Manning who is no longer the other Manning. If the Giants
    beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night at Candlestick Park,
    then Eli Manning gets to play the Super Bowl in the town where Peyton has been
    king since 1998. That would be a pretty neat story. If he wins the game, he
    leads Peyton 2-1 in Super Bowl victories.

    “We have to go out and play a
    great game,” Manning said. “It’s whatever it takes.”

    The Giants and 49ers
    have met seven times in the playoffs since 1981 and four times the winner has
    gone on to win the Super Bowl: The 49ers in 1981 and 1984 and the Giants in 1986
    and then in 1990 in the NFC Championship Game. And now, the Giants and Niners
    are playing well enough to beat the Patriots or Ravens.

    Even though Eli
    already is a Super Bowl MVP — he won the award one year after his brother — this
    has been his breakout season. He has taken his game to a different level — yes,
    an elite level — and has been even better in the Giants playoff victories over
    the Falcons and Packers. He has thrown for a combined 607 yards with six TDs and
    only one INT.

    He threw for nearly 5,000 yards during the regular season
    with 29 TDs and 16 INTs, but the Giants were just a 9-7 team. They played like a
    9-7 team. But they are no longer playing like a 9-7 team. This is the team they
    thought they would be all season: A quick strike offense and an aggressive
    playmaking defense.

    When they started the season 6-2, it gave the Giants
    a false sense of security. The Patriots were the only team they beat in the
    first half that made the playoffs. In fact, the Patriots are the only team they
    defeated during the regular season that finished over .500. But starting with
    the 15th game against the Jets in the grudge match, Justin Tuck caught his
    second wind. Osi Umenyiora
    returned the next week against the Cowboys and the two are dominating like they
    did in the 2007 Super Bowl run.

    When the pass rush is overwhelming, it
    covers up for the secondary, which in a three-game stretch in late November to
    early December was ripped apart by Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tony
    . They tortured the Giants with 12 TD passes — four apiece — and 1,037
    passing yards. But now the Giants have held Matt Ryan and
    Rodgers to 424 yards passing and one touchdown in the playoffs. One month later,
    Rodgers threw for 119 fewer yards and three fewer TDs against the

    The Giants are on a four-game winning streak. They are not only
    winning. They are dominating. They beat the Jets by 15, the Cowboys by 14, the
    Falcons by 22 and the Packers by 17. When their season was stalled at 7-7, their
    first two victories were by more than 10 points, but the next five were by a
    total of just 17 points.

    Tom Coughlin’s talk
    with Tuck before the Jets game was the turning point of an injury-plagued season
    for him. Tuck was at the point he could either put the injuries to the side or
    he could let them drag him all the way down. He has been a force in the last
    four games — he had a sack against the Jets and the Cowboys and although he
    didn’t get one against the Falcons or Packers, he has been disruptive. He is
    playing with fresh legs.

    “It’s been one of those years where when it just
    seems like you have it right and your body is starting to feel good, something
    else happens,” Tuck said. “When that happens, obviously there are going to be
    people questioning you about where your heart is and things like that. My
    teammates know where my heart is, my coaches know where my heart

    Only the physically gifted can play in the NFL. Only the mentally
    strong survive.

    “I just came to the realization that I’m not going to be
    healthy this year, I’m not going to put up the stats that I’ve put up. But that
    doesn’t mean that I can’t help this football team win games,” Tuck said. “At the
    end of the day, that’s the end goal. That’s what I mean about blocking all the
    other stuff out.”

    Umenyiora came back against the Cowboys after missing four games with an
    ankle injury. He had two sacks against the Cowboys, one against the Falcons and
    two against the Packers with a forced fumble. He has perfected the strip sack -
    a Lawrence Taylor
    specialty. His arm comes down like a hammer on the ball.

    “He is always going 100%,” Coughlin said. “He is always, always looking to
    make a play.”
    The Giants were virtually a two-man team this season: Manning
    on offense and Jason Pierre-Paul
    on defense. Now they are a complete team.

    They’re one game from the Super
    Bowl in Indianapolis. Maybe Peyton will have them over for


    "The Giants didn’t set out on this journey hoping to find redemption. They’re
    not flying across the country looking for revenge.

    This game, to the
    Giants, is not about evening the score with the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, it
    has nothing to do with the 49ers at all.

    “They’re just in the way of
    where we want to be,” said linebacker Michael
    . “Obviously, that’s the Super Bowl.”

    Incredibly, the Giants,
    who were once hanging on the edge of what Justin Tuck called a
    “historical” collapse, are now just one win away from a chance to make a
    different kind of history. They will play the 49ers Sunday night in the NFC
    Championship Game at rainy, wind-swept Candlestick Park.

    The winner will
    represent the NFC in Indianapolis on Feb. 5 in Super Bowl XLVI.

    Try to
    remember how improbable that seemed in the heat of the summer, when the lockout
    ended in late July and the Giants looked like they were standing still. When
    Giants GM Jerry Reese made his
    vow that Big Blue would make the playoffs “and make a run,” the laughter was
    everywhere. He insisted the team was building — not rebuilding — and nobody
    believed that was true.

    Then came the injuries that ravaged the Giants,
    the failures of the defense, the start of the “historical” second-half collapse
    when they ruined a 6-2 start with five losses in their next six games. They were
    on the brink of elimination, facing an uncertain future, and nobody considered
    them a contender at all.

    Yet, here they are, in their second conference
    championship game in the Tom Coughlin/Eli
    era. The Giants (11-7) have won four straight games, are fresh off
    an upset of the 15-1 Green Bay Packers (now 15-2) at frigid Lambeau Field. They
    have channeled the “Road Warriors” that won that miracle Super Bowl four years

    And, while this may not have been their primary goal, they’ve done
    exactly what that famous 2007 team kept doing: The Giants really have proven
    everybody wrong.

    “That says a lot,” said breakout receiver Victor
    . “We had to battle through a lot of injuries early on this year and a
    lot of question marks. Just to overcome that and for guys to shine and step up
    and play well has been tremendous for our confidence. We’ve been building off
    that ever since.”

    “The ride didn’t go the way you wanted it to go, but we
    did what we set out to do this season,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “That
    was to win our division and have a chance to play in the postseason. We granted
    ourselves that wish.”

    They’ve had other wishes granted lately, too, which
    has been part of the fun of this unexpected ride. They were desperately hoping
    for another shot at the Packers after they nearly spoiled Green Bay’s attempt at
    an unbeaten season on Dec. 4, before losing 38-35 on a last-second field goal.
    They got that wish last Sunday and they took advantage, hammering the Packers
    37-20 in an NFC divisional playoff game.

    That earned them a second wish:
    A rematch with a 49ers team that beat them 27-20 in San Francisco on Nov. 13 by
    the narrowest of margins — the fingertip of defensive end
    Justin Smith
    , who batted what likely would’ve been a game-tying touchdown
    pass by Eli Manning out of the air.

    When that game was over, Giants running back Brandon
    predicted “We will see them again.” And when the 49ers (14-3) stunned
    the New Orleans Saints last Saturday, as soon as the Giants held up their end in
    Green Bay the rematch was assured.

    The first 49ers game was a brutal,
    physical game, which is one reason why Giants defensive tackle Chris
    said he’s expecting a “bloodbath” in what could be terrible weather
    conditions. The 49ers, behind Frank Gore — who played
    with an injured ankle against the Giants in November and had only six carries
    for zero yards — have the NFL’s eighth-ranked rushing attack (127.8 yards per
    game). They also have the No. 4-ranked defense and the best rushing defense,
    which has given up an average of just 77.2 yards on the ground.

    and defense weren’t the Giants’ strengths for much of the season, but they might
    be now. The Giants’ defense has been brilliant for the last month, especially
    their revived pass rush that has totaled 17 sacks in the last four games.
    Meanwhile, the Giants have averaged 112.7 yards per game on the ground since the
    start of December, including 267 yards in two playoff games.

    So yes, a “bloodbath” is exactly what the Giants expect.

    “I heard
    that,” said linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka.
    “That’s this kind of football. You get two teams like this who want to run the
    ball and want to stick to their game plans as much as possible, which is line up
    man to man and see who is a tougher guy at the end of the day. These are the
    kinds of games I live for.”

    It’s what they used to call “Giants football”
    before they spent the first 3-1/2 months with their fortunes riding on Manning.
    They were still that team on Nov. 13, when Manning’s attempt at more last-second
    heroics was tipped away. The Giants can still see that deflection and Cruz
    running free toward the end zone. They still think about that golden opportunity
    they let slip away. Would revenge be sweet for the Giants?Absolutely it would,
    even if it’s not the most important thing they seek.

    “It’s very
    motivating,” Cruz said. “We understand that game came down to the wire and we
    were one play away from potentially winning that ballgame. 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 with them.”

    Put another way, it’s about unfinished
    business. And if there has been one consistent theme to this surprising season,
    it’s been that the Giants want none of that.

    “Never quit. We have to
    finish what we started,” Boley said. “We started the season on a good note. It’s
    not how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s been one of the things that Tom
    (Coughlin) has said to us from Day 1, as soon as we stepped in here for training
    camp. Finish. Make sure we finish everything we do.”

    Now they have a
    chance to do exactly that. They can back up all the guarantees from Reese and
    Rolle and Cruz and so many others by going back one more time to make right what
    once went wrong.

    They’ve already taken a quantum leap from the
    struggling, injury-plagued team that was falling apart in Week 15 when they
    bottomed out at 7-7. The Giants have no doubt they will prove to the 49ers and
    the world that they have become a much different – and much improved –

    “I think we are a team that is ascending,” Tuck said. “Obviously
    the last couple of weeks we have played pretty well in just about every phase of
    the game. Momentum for us right now is sky high. It’s something that we
    hopefully can continue to ride into the Super Bowl.”

    “We’re not going to
    be denied at this point,” Rolle added. “We understand what we have as a team.
    It’s not all about talent. It’s about chemistry. We’re gelling at this point.
    Coaches and players are on the same page at the same time.

    “We have one
    goal in mind, which is to win the championship.”

    And that would be the
    greatest redemption of all."


    "Ahmad Bradshaw was
    supposed to be blocking, but he had his own ideas.

    So on this critical
    first-and-10 from the Giants’ 49 two weeks ago in a wild-card playoff game vs.
    the Falcons, Bradshaw did what he does best. As two pass-rushers flew toward
    him, taking aim at Eli Manning, Bradshaw
    threw a quick, almost half-hearted block, then turned around, clapping for the

    Just before the Falcons drove Manning to the ground, the
    quarterback released an underhanded pass. Bradshaw caught it and tried to juke a
    pair of defenders. Eventually, he settled for a one-yard loss, but it was better
    than the seven-yard sack Manning was destined to take, and it kept the drive

    Five plays later, the Giants scored the only touchdown they would
    need to beat Atlanta. And two weeks later, backup QB David Carr still
    marvels at Bradshaw’s headiness on a play that hardly jumped out on the stat

    “Ahmad was supposed to be blocking the whole time, but he sees
    it’s not there,” recalls Carr. “Eli can underhand toss it. So you get two or
    three yards (farther) instead of losing eight. That’s a plus-six-yard
    And those are the kinds of plays that Ahmad Bradshaw has routinely
    made this season, a key reason that the Giants can feel confident in today’s NFC
    Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.

    The last time they
    faced the 49ers, they fell, 27-20, and Bradshaw, who was nursing a broken foot,
    did not even make the trip West, and a punchless Giants rushing attack scratched
    and clawed its way to just 3.2 yards per carry against the league’s finest
    rushing defense.

    On Sunday, however, Big Blue will have its most
    versatile tailback in uniform, completing its dangerous offense.

    ready to make plays,” says Bradshaw, who practiced just once last week. “I’m
    feeling healthy, and I’m feeling good.”

    Bradshaw spent the entire season
    making heady plays and functioning as Eli Manning’s safety valve in the passing
    game, while simultaneously cutting down on his own errors. A season ago, he
    nearly lost his grip on the starting job, literally. Bradshaw put the ball on
    the ground seven times in 276 carries last year, with the Giants losing all but
    one of them But this year he’s seen a marked improvement fumbling only once in
    171 carries and none so far in the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride no
    longer fears putting the ball in Bradshaw’s hands, and that has allowed the
    fifth-year tailback to quietly replace departed wideout Steve
    and tight end Kevin Boss in the
    passing game.

    “Ahmad’s done a great job catching little passes and
    getting yardage, getting big plays,” says Manning. “He’s just one of those
    players where you want to try to create touches for him, whether it’s the run
    game or screens, little check-downs where good things seem to happen. He makes
    guys miss. If you can get the ball in his hands, good things usually

    And when you get Bradshaw on the field, the Giants win. Want to
    know how a 7-6 team just praying to make the postseason has climbed to the brink
    of the Super Bowl? Look no further than Bradshaw’s return from a broken foot
    against the Green Bay Packers at the start of December.

    Including the
    postseason, the Giants have gone 5-2 since he re-entered the lineup, continuing
    a run of solid play with Bradshaw on the field. They are 10-4 with Bradshaw in
    action this season, just 1-3 without him, and their explosive offense cranks out
    26.9 points per game when Bradshaw suits up, 7.4 points per game better than
    their average without him.

    Even in an injury-plagued campaign that saw
    him post a career-low 3.9 yards per carry, Bradshaw has remained one of the most
    indispensable pieces of the Giants offense.

    “Whenever you can add
    somebody with Ahmad’s skills to an offense, we’re gonna progress, period,” says
    offensive lineman Kevin Boothe. “We were
    just fortunate enough to get him back. In whatever capacity we could have him,
    we need him.”

    The Giants cannot replace Bradshaw as a runner or receiver.
    As a runner, he is the team’s most effective short-yardage runner, a tailback so
    slight that Boothe says “you lose him in the pile.” He stretches defenses
    sideline-to-sideline in a way that neither Brandon Jacobs nor
    D.J. Ware can, and, even on a broken foot, he remains the team’s most reliable
    blocking back.

    “The way he chips (on blocks) is amazing,” says Carr. “One
    of the best blocking backs I’ve been around.”
    His return has also bolstered
    the shaky rushing attack. The Giants struggled to run the ball all season, but
    when Bradshaw returned, Boothe says, blocking became a little bit easier. Even
    if the results did not consistently show on the stat sheet, linebackers were a
    half-step slower to attack the offensive line, and the versatility of the
    Giants’ playbook practically doubled.

    “Him and Brandon, they’re so
    different,” says Boothe. “You can run plays over and over again, and it’s a
    different look, you’re getting a different running back. You’re getting a
    compact guy one play, then you’re getting a big bull the other. They balance
    each other out.”

    But that all pales in comparison to how important he has
    become to Manning. For years, the quarterback routinely dumped the ball off to
    Smith and Boss when he was in trouble, subliminally trusting both veterans to
    get open.

    When GM Jerry Reese let that
    pair go in the offseason, Manning was forced to learn to work with receiver Victor
    and tight end Jake Ballard.
    Eventually, the quarterback learned to do that, and both second-year players
    outperformed the veterans they replaced.

    But neither Ballard nor the
    salsa-dancing Cruz has proven to be an underneath target. Both players - and
    explosive receiver Hakeem Nicks - excel
    at making things happen down the field in the Giants’ pass-happy offense. Thus
    Bradshaw has become Manning’s trusted bailout target.

    “He’s that guy now,
    the underneath,” Nicks says of Bradshaw. “You put the ball in his hands on a
    short pass and he can get you a few yards or he can bust a big

    Often, Bradshaw makes his plays in the passing game by carefully
    reading the defense, then deviating from the scripted play. Carr says he often
    sees Bradshaw break off a route as soon as he sees an opening - much like a
    traditional slot receiver might do - and he often watches the tailback do as he
    did against Atlanta, throwing a quick block then sliding to an unguarded section
    of grass.

    “I just try to give Eli a target,” Bradshaw says. “That’s all
    I’m trying to do. I’ve been doing this stuff my whole career; it’s nothing

    Carr disagrees.

    “He’s probably one of the best around
    when it comes to finding the soft spot in the defense,” says Carr. “Even if he’s
    not supposed to be around the ball or be a receiver, he finds a soft spot and
    gets it done.”

    For better or worse, that has allowed Manning to play at
    his best with Bradshaw on the field, sitting in the pocket longer to search for
    big plays downfield, all the while knowing that he has a reliable checkdown
    option likely clapping for the ball if nothing is available. It’s no wonder
    Manning has a solid 2.3:1 TD-to-INT ratio with Bradshaw in the lineup. In the
    four games Bradshaw missed, however, Manning threw seven TDs and five

    And it’s little surprise that the Giants suddenly feel confident
    in their rushing attack. The fearsome San Francisco defense can throw everything
    it can at these Giants.

    Bradshaw is hardly worried.

    “It’s just
    about making plays man,” he says. “That’s it.”



    "Some of them wouldn’t even say the words and shot icy stares at questioners
    who did. You weren’t going to hear “Super Bowl’’ out of the mouth of Chris
    Canty, who didn’t even want to acknowledge what’s at stake tonight for the

    “We’re not going out there to win the NFC Championship,’’ Canty said,
    explaining that his only focus was on the process of beating the 49ers, not the
    prize that might follow.

    Others, mostly the younger ones, could not contain themselves.

    “I’m 60 minutes away from a dream,’’ Hakeem Nicks said. “It’s something we
    look forward to as a team, something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life,
    since I’ve been playing football, and it’s coming.’’



    Some, mostly the veterans who have been here before, appreciate this ride
    because they understand it doesn’t come around often enough.

    “I’ve actually said that to a few people in my family and so on, just having
    been away from
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Great work as usual Roanoke!
    Only seven and a half hours to go.


    • #3

      [quote user="fourth&forever"]Great work as usual Roanoke!
      Only seven and a half hours to go.[/quote]

      [Y] But who's counting? []
      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


      • #4

        [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="fourth&forever"]Great work as usual Roanoke!
        Only seven and a half hours to go.[/quote]

        [Y]* But who's counting?* []
        tick tock. I have to stop clock watching.


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 10:50 A.M.

          LOL we're all doing it
          “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: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 10:50 A.M.

            thanks Roanoke! [B]

            lets get this on G-Men. knock these 9ers down and keep 'em down in that mud! [] [:@]

            Go Giants!



            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 11:30 A.M.

              Great job bro, an ALL IN awesome work RF, Thanks !
              " Success is never final, but failure can be " B.P.


              • #8
                Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 11:30 A.M.

                Thank you. It is FINALLY Sunday. Giants are going to roll and beat SF!!


                • #9
                  Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 11:30 A.M.

                  [quote user="ashleymarie"]Thank you. It is FINALLY Sunday. Giants are going to roll and beat SF!![/quote]

                  [B] I believe we will do as you say
                  “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                  • #10
                    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 11:30 A.M.

                    [quote user="G-Men Surg."]Great job bro, an ALL IN awesome work RF, Thanks ![/quote]

                    [Y] We are all in this together and it will prove to be too much for the 49ers
                    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                    • #11
                      Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1012 - GAMEDAY - 10:50 A.M.

                      [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

                      thanks Roanoke! [B]

                      lets get this on G-Men. knock these 9ers down and keep 'em down in that mud! [] [:@]

                      Go Giants!


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