By Jerrell Richardson
After outscoring their past two opponents by a combined 79-3, San Francisco had the tables turned on them this week and were on the other side of a blowout. This game pitted two of the NFC’s best, but looked more like a mismatch, with the New York Giants outplaying San Francisco in all phases of the game and sending a message with their 26-3 win. There was a lot that went wrong for the 49ers, but it was clear that the Giants were the better team on Sunday. New York outplayed them on offense, defense and special teams and the scoreboard showed it.
Alex Smith looked nothing like a player who was just named the FedEx Air player of the week. He finished the day 19-for-30 for 200 yards and no touchdowns ans three interceptions.
With the rest of the team struggling, it was up to Smith to make a difference and he failed. The question this season has been if Smith has progressed enough to win a game for his team. Sunday, the Giants showed that he is far from elite and not capable of matching points with a great offensive team. Smith missed several deep throws, made bad reads and did not seem comfortable at any point past the first quarter. Grade: D-
As Alex Smith struggled, so did the offense, but a lot of blame can go to the offensive line. After a strong start in which it appeared that they had the formula for moving the ball, things went from bad to worse for the offense, as the line was unable to stop the Giants from disrupting the game plan. The line was unable to clear holes in the running game, or give time to their quarterback. Due in large part of the inability to move the ball on the ground, the team had a total of 17 rushing attempts. For a team that previously looked unstoppable on the ground, to have Frank Gore total 36 yards and Kendall Hunter only 26 is shocking. Despite the recent explosion in the passing game the run is still the key to their success and with no running game, the offense was doomed.
When given time, the passing game had limited success with eight different players making a reception. Randy Moss caught two deep passes while Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree had modest days, but due to a relentless pass rush they were just as ineffective as the last time the teams met. Vernon Davis was only targeted five times and the passing game took a major step back after last week. To score three points is never going to be a good day at the office for the offense. Grade: D-
The defense played well. The scoreboard does not reflect it, and they did give allow a 100 yard rusher and a rushing touchdown at home, which almost never happens, but they were on the field for most of the second half and their offensive colleagues never sustained a drive to let them catch their breath. Giants receiver Victor Cruz got the better of 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, finishing with six catches and a touchdown, but it was Eli Manning spreading the ball around that allowed his receivers to make plays when the coverage dictated it. Rogers did have a chance to put his stamp on the game with an interception that he flat-out dropped. New York ended up with a field goal and there was a lot of green in front of Rogers, wasting the chance for a 10-point swing and losing the chance to breath some life into a crowd that was just waiting for a reason to explode.
When considering Eli Manning is one of the best in the game at his position, holding him to 193 yards is not that bad. Nor should the defense hold their head for allowing 100 yards and a rushing touchdown to Ahmad Bradshaw, as he too is one of the best at his position, and still had to earn all of his 116 yards. As was expected, it was tough for the Giants to move the ball in the first half, but they stuck with the run and in the end they saw the benefits as they wore down the 49ers defense. Defensively San Francisco certainly could have played better but it was 10-3 at the half, and they held the Giants to field goals on both of Smith’s 3rd quarter interceptions, which stopped it from getting even uglier. Grade: C
Lost in the winning ways this season, has been how awful the San Francisco special teams unit has been in covering their opponent’s return game. They are pretty much the worst statistically in both categories and it burned them again Sunday. Trailing by a single touchdown at the half, the opening drive was monumental for both teams, and the Giants 66 yard kick return to start the 3rd quarter set up their only touchdown and put the momentum squarely behind the away team.
David Akers, who is usually automatic, missed two kicks that would have changed the direction of the game and kept the score closer. No kick is a chip shot in the winds of Candlestick, but he has set the bar and was expected to make both of his attempts. He finished the day an uncharacteristic 1-for-3, failing to help his team grab the lead on their impressive opening drive that stalled. Grade: D-
It’s Just One Game
Although they were beat rather convincingly, there is no reason to panic. This game was closer then the scoreboard showed, and the team can compete with the New York Giants. This game is just a reminder that they still have a lot to develop and learn, as the players and coaches were all outmatched on Sunday by their opponent. The New York Giants are the defending champs for a reason, as it’s not as much of a let down as the team’s loss to the Vikings. With the loss the team, is looking up at the Cardinals and Seahawks in the division, and with both teams up next, San Francisco will answer a lot of questions before their bye in Week Nine.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.