Excerpt: "The strength of the NFL resides in the NFC and this week’s matchup was a battle of two of the best. The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants visited everyone’s power-ranking-darling San Francisco 49ers with the Giants taking advantage of three interceptions from quarterback Alex Smith to roll to a 26-3 victory. Smith’s poor play was the story of the game as his three blunders led to 13 Giants points, including their first touchdown.
For the Giants, it’s a big road win for the standings, but perhaps even more importantly, they showed the ability to run the ball against the hard-nosed 49ers defense. Despite winning a championship with little to show from the running game last season, New York’s ability to play a physical game up front adds another dimension to a team that is already among the league’s best.All is not lost in San Francisco as the 49ers’ 4-2 record puts them in a three-way tie atop the NFC West. They need to return to the mistake-free, physical football that encompassed the first five games of their season. There’s no time to sulk as fellow NFC West frontrunners, the Seattle Seahawks, come to town this Thursday night.Let’s take a look at how the Giants were able to win their second consecutive game against the 49ers at Candlestick.
New York Giants - Three Performances of Note
Pass Rush Returns
Despite their reputation, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Giants pass rush. They were back on track last Sunday, and they were carried by an unsuspecting pair. While defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora get most of the accolades, it was Justin Tuckand defensive tackle Linval Joseph who made the most impact in this game. Tuck is hardly an unknown commodity, but he’s been streaky at best as a pass rusher dating back to last season. He came into this game with only six QB disruptions (sacks, hits, hurries) on the season and more than doubled that total with his one hit and six hurries. He got around 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis on multiple occasions, including forcing Smith to step up in the pocket on his first interception with 14:02 to go in the second quarter. Tuck’s exemplary work came on only 26 pass rush attempts and Sunday was clearly his best game of the season at +2.8 overall (+3.2 pass rush).As for Joseph, he added three disruptions of his own with two hurries and a sack which represented the first charged to 49ers RG Alex Boone all season. Joseph beat Boone to his outside shoulder on the 2nd-and-4 play, and set San Francisco back into a 3rd-and-long situation that eventually induced yet another interception out of Smith.
Wide Receiver Production
It seems as if Eli Manning is throwing to a different group of wide receivers every week though the results have been consistently good. Victor Cruz (+2.6) has returned back to his 2011 form in recent weeks after a poor first game while Domenik Hixon has been the latest Giants wide receiver to garner the spotlight. While Cruz is generally best out of the slot, it was out wide where he did most of his damage in this game. He ran one of his classic double moves that turned into a comeback along the sideline where he made a nifty catch to stay in bounds at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter. He was lined up outside on his touchdown as well where he created good separation on cornerback Carlos Rogers with a post pattern before snaring the firm throw from Manning for their first score of the game.As well as Cruz played, it was Hixon who stole the show in his 22 snaps. It was a second quarter to remember as picked up all four of his receptions. It started at the 12:35 mark as he gained a step on Chris Culliver and made an outstanding adjustment to catch the slightly off-target throw for Manning for a 39-yard gain. Hixon showed his body control again as he beat Culliver on a comeback route on 3rd-and-8, making another great catch along the sideline. He did more fine work on the same route with 1:05 to go as he once again beat Culliver and made the diving catch to keep the chains moving during the Giants 2-minute drill. This was Hixon’s third straight strong game despite his decrease in playing time due to the return of WR Hakeem Nicks.
Weak Link on the Line
After Manning saw as much pressure as any quarterback in the league last season, the Giants offensive line has taken a step forward here in 2012. Right tackle Sean Locklear has already been better than last year’s starter Kareem McKenzie though Sunday was Locklear’s worst game of the season with a -2.5 grade. The four disruptions surrendered are not a season high, but they came on only 29 pass block attempts. Locklear barely got off the snap against Ahmad Brooks at the 9:58 mark of the third quarter and Manning was forced to make a quick, inaccurate throw. It was more of the same at the 6:59 mark later in the quarter as Brooks’ quick pressure forced Manning to vacate the pocket at the top of his drop. Locklear’s inability to even slow Brooks down on those two plays prevented the Giants from converting key third down opportunities." Read more...