The San Francisco 49ers, despite being the home team against the Saints, weren’t favored to win. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis came up as winners in an epic fourth quarter, and the rest is history. The New York Giants weren’t supposed to beat the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau, but Eli Manning and the G-Men are simply too hot to stop right now.
All that good karma for both teams will collide at Candlestick park on Sunday, who have recently been winning in unfamiliar ways, which mostly goes to the 49ers. Alex Smith isn’t supposed to throw the ball 42 times in order for the 49ers to win. The key to success this year was the defense, moving the chains on the ground and Smith not trying to do too much, which worked out very well, as Smith finished with a 17-5 TD-INT ratio, and the 49ers finished the season 13-3.
Against the Saints, it was a different story, with the fourth quarter turning into a shootout. Smith averaged 27.8 attempts a game during the regular season, but threw 42 times against the Saints. Not the usual recipe for success, but Smith in 2012 is a different quarterback than he was a year ago. Confident, and has enough behind him to allow him to take risks. Having arguably the best defense in the NFL, that forced the Saints to turn the ball over six times in the first quarter, has that effect on you.
The Giants used to be a very good running team, with Eli being somewhat of an X-factor, prone to implosions and turnovers. This year? None of that. The Bradshaw-Jacobs combination hasn’t been exactly tearing up the field, and Manning has stepped up, turning into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. His offensive line has suddenly become impregnable, while Manning remains elusive and very difficult to sack.
The 49ers have the Smith combo which is pretty hard to stop, and Manning’s elusiveness will be tested more than in the previous games. Manning was sacked only once against the Packers, who don’t excel in reaching the quarterback. Manning has been sacked just six times in the last five games. The 49ers have to disrupt his rhythm put manning on the ground more than one or two times in order to stop the Giants.
If there’s a defensive line that’s good at getting to the quarterback and throwing him off his game, the Giants have it. Umenyiora, Tuck and Pierre-Paul form what is probably one of the more impressive defensive linemen group in recent NFL history, and the 49ers will have to establish a running game early, which didn’t really happen against the Saints, getting Frank Gore going like he did most of the season.
The 49ers have already beaten the Giants this season, 27-20, in California, Week 10, just before the Giants woke up. The Giants are a completely different team than they were two months ago. Still, I believe in this 49ers defense, and suddenly also in Alex Smith, who has enough weapons and growing confidence to take his team to their first Super Bowl since 1995.