Excerpt: "The beating the 49ers gave Eli Manning last Jan. 22 was written all over the quarterback's once-white jersey.
The 49ers hit him 18 times, including six sacks, the most Manning had absorbed in any game last season. By the end of the NFC Championship Game, grime speckled his face, his left shoulder was a dingy gray, and his left wristband and arm were caked in Candlestick Park mud.
The problem for the 49ers is Manning kept getting up.
"A lot of people don't give him the respect he deserves," said Manning's chief tormentor that day, defensive end Justin Smith. "I think he's definitely one of the top three, four quarterbacks in the league. … We're going to have to have the same philosophy going into this one that we had in that last one – hold him down."
The Manning vs. Smith & Co. battle is such a central theme in today's game that the two sides began fighting it days ago." Read more...