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Alex Smith's interceptions, short fields allow Giants to dominate an otherwise evenly matched game.
The New York Giants defeated, er, routed, the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday 26-3. While watching the game, I couldn't believe what was unfolding before me. It seemed that the 49ers were being beaten at every aspect of the game. They gave up six sacks, while recording zero themselves. They gave up 116 yards and a rushing touchdown to Ahmad Bradshaw. David Akers missed two field goals. They failed to get into the red zone. But the absolute dagger was the trio of interceptions that Alex Smith threw.
The 49ers were in the game through the first half. There seemed to be a critical turning point when Tarell Brown blocked a 40-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal after Tom Coughlin inexplicably called time out with 15 seconds left on the clock. The block, coupled with the time out, allowed the 49ers a shot to get into scoring distance and Colin Kaepernick completed a 36-yard strike to Mario Manningham to get within David Akers' range. Akers miss the field goal.
While the first half was underwhelming, the second half saw the wheels come off the bus. The Giants' David Wilson took the opening kickoff 66 yards to give the Giants the first of three consecutive short fields. They pushed the ball into the endzone with an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown run. The 49ers, down 17-3 needed to respond, and instead, Alex Smith threw an interception to Antrel Rolle, who returned it to the 12-yard line. The Niners' defense held, forcing three straight incompletions, and the G-men settlled for a field goal. The 49ers, upon receiving the kickoff, turned the ball back over within three plays, again via an Antrel Rolle interception of Alex Smith, this time returned to the 5-yard line. The 49ers defense held, once again, allowing 1 yard on three plays and the Giants tacked on another three points. That's 13 points, on 33 yards of offense, in less than nine minutes with the 49ers barely touching the ball. Any team that has a stretch like that, can expect to lose the game.
There was much hand wringing about the 49ers getting gouged on the ground. It should be noted that 67 of those yards came on a fourth quarter drive that resulted in the final points of the game, and happened well after the game was out of reach. That's not an excuse for the best front seven in football to not be able to stop the run, but up until that final scoring drive, the defense did their part in holding the Giants offense in check.
A look at the game stats reveals that the two teams were fairly well matched in many key statistical indicators. The Giants gained 342 yards on offense while the 49ers gained 314. The Giants went 5/15 on third down while the 49ers went 4/14. Giants gained 5.3 yards per offensive play while the 49ers gained 5.2. Heck, both teams had 49.8 yard punting average, although the Giants punter, had a touchback, giving the 49ers the nod in that category. While none of this indicates that the 49ers deserved to win this game, it doesn't equate to a blowout without the interceptions. This was Alex Smith's worst game in years and he was never going to be perfect all season. It is, however, hard to escape the fact that we've played six games this season, and have come out flat in two of them. They also happen to be against the two teams we've played that currently have a winning record. That's not the mark of a champion.