The question before the house is whether the Giants were really that good last week when they…
Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel
The danger, as it has been explained hundreds of times, is that teams tend to look past the inferior opponent, feeling that they might only have to show up on the field to cause the other guys to quake in their expensive Nike shoes.
Then they lose. It was a "trap game," you see, except they did the trapping themselves.
This is the situation in which the Giants find themselves this week. They are fresh from a startling 36-0 punishing of the Washington Redskins, and they are flying off to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, who just beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to run their record to 2-5. The Giants, on the other hand, are 5-2.
Coach Tom Coughlin has tried all week to cast the 49ers as a stronger team in an effort to get his players to show respect and take the game seriously.
"The 49ers are 2-2 at home," Coughlin said. "They have played extremely well there. That is a very physical team and they run well. They have two excellent running backs (Kevan Barlow and rookie Frank Gore) and solid offensive and defensive lines."
He stopped short, however, of offering high praise for the quarterback. It isn't Alex Smith, the NFL's first overall draft pick this year, and it isn't Ken Dorsey, the backup. Both are injured.
The quarterback Sunday will be Cody Pickett, first of San Francisco's two seventh-round draft choices in 2004. He threw one pass last week, a 10-yard completion.
"Pickett is very mobile," Coughlin said. "He is big (6-3, 227) and he can run. Hey, he has even been on their special teams, and when he came in last week to hold on to the victory, it didn't look like the bright lights bothered him at all."
One final thing. Being the favorite in a "trap game" usually means you are favored by a double-digit point spread.
Not that the Giants are used to this - the last time it happened they were 101/2-point favorites over Atlanta on Nov. 9, 2003. The Falcons were without quarterback Michael Vick. Kurt Kittner was going to be playing.
Atlanta won 27-7.
SERIES HISTORY - This will be the 25th regular season meeting between the teams and the 49ers hold a 13-11 lead. However, there have been seven postseason meetings and the Giants have a 4-3 edge in those. Perhaps the two most memorable games in the series were both postseason affairs. The Giants beat the heavily favored 49ers on Jan. 20, 1990, on five Matt Bahr field goals to take a 15-13 decision and advance to Super Bowl XXV. Then the teams played on Jan. 5, 2003, and after the Giants built a 38-14 lead the 49ers came back to take a 39-38 victory when two officials missed a flagrant pass interference call when guard Rich Seubert, who had reported as an eligible receiver, was tackled near the goal line.
"We should never have allowed them to catch up," said then-coach Jim Fassel. "One play didn't lose that game for us and one missed call didn't, either."
--So sure was the NFL that the 49ers were going to win the 1991 NFC Championship Game and move on to Super Bowl XXV that the team's share of Super Bowl tickets had been shipped out to San Francisco. When the Giants pulled off the upset, their ticket manager, John Gorman, flew home on a red-eye flight with the nearly priceless tickets in his possession.
--So sure were the 49ers of victory that owner Eddie DeBartolo had reserved the entire third floor of the NFC team hotel for offices and shipped equipment across the country; the Giants were pleased to use the supplies that were in place, courtesy of the 49ers.
--RB Tiki Barber was named NFL Offensive Player of the Week for his 24-carry, 206-yard performance against the Redskins last Sunday. He was within 13 yards of the team's all-time single game rushing record (1950, Choo Choo Roberts) but voluntarily took himself out for the entire fourth quarter. "I have to leave some of the record intact," he said, "or I won't want to keep playing if I get them all too soon."
--The Giants lead the NFL with their 29.9 points per game average and they are second in the league with a plus-12 turnover differential.
--The Giants scored 34 TDs last season and already have 23 this year; they had 12 TD passes last year and have already exceeded that with 13.
--LG David Diehl, who hasn't missed a game since he was drafted in 2003 (fifth round from Illinois), and who is at his third position - he was the RT in '03, the RG in '04 - says there is no way the Giants will look past the 49ers. "You have to focus on the precious present," he said. "The fact that we're in first place (in the NFC East) now doesn't mean a thing. After the 16th game, if we're still there, then we've got something."
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 - The 49ers have won 10 of the last 12 meetings with the Giants.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "People like fans and announcers don't realize the defensive concepts involved in pass coverage. They see me playing 8 yards off a guy on third-and-6 and they think it's a mistake. It all depends on the formation we're in. You never intentionally give up a first down." - Giants starting RCB Curtis Deloatch.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
There is no additional information, according to Giants coach Tom Coughlin, on RCB Will Peterson.
"It's day to day, week to week, what have you," Coughlin said. "He has a bad back and we're just waiting to see some change."
Right now Curtis Deloatch is handling the job and doing surprisingly well, removing much of the pressure on the defense.
--Coach Tom Coughlin disclosed that rookie DE Eric Moore has been "mostly" switched to LB and will get more snaps there in practice from now on. Why? "Because you have a big man who is athletic and can run," he said of the 6-4, 268-pounder from Florida State. "We had a need at linebacker and he looks like he might help us."
--WR David Tyree, a special teams star, missed his first game in two-plus seasons last week with a bruised elbow. "It's feeling better now," he said, "and I really expect to play."
--SS Shaun Williams (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday but should do so Thursday and coach Tom Coughlin feels he is going to be available on Sunday. That is less likely for SLB Carlos Emmons (partially torn right pectoral muscle) and rookie DE Justin Tuck (medial ankle sprain).
--PK Jay Feely, who missed his first FG after 13 straight (a 51-yarder vs. the Redskins) said: "I didn't miss it, the wind missed it for me. I did all the mechanics just right and when the wind takes it, I can't do a thing about that." Feely has made 16 of 17 and had a five-FG day vs. the Redskins. GAME PLAN
The Giants have little or no idea about the performance abilities of Cody Pickett, who will be the 49ers' starting QB because of injuries to rookie Alex Smith and backup Ken Dorsey. Pickett, whose father is a former rodeo rider, has exactly one pass and one completion for 10 yards and two rushes for 12 yards this season.
"The best thing you can do against any team," says defensive end Michael Strahan, "is put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and make him force his throws. Since we don't know much about Pickett, we have no idea how he's going to react. All we hear is that he's a good, tough player."
The Giants have always tried to shut down the running game, and with the 49ers that means putting a collar on veteran Kevan Barlow and rookie Frank Gore. Both have had a satisfying season so far - Barlow has 420 yards in 104 carries and two TDs; Gore has 44 carries for 238 yards, a 72-yard burst and one TD.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Giants RDE Osi Umenyiora will use his quickness and flat-out speed in an attempt to get past 49ers OLT Jonas Jennings, who is nursing a shoulder injury. He is listed as doubtful and hasn't practiced yet this week. His backup is Anthony Clement (6-8, 320), but his quickness is virtually non-existent.
Giants WR Plaxico Burress, who has 40 receptions for 577 yards and five TDs, gets to show his skills to 49ers' RCB Shawntae Spencer, who has four passes defensed but no interceptions. Spencer is 6-1, 179 and Burress is 6-5 and 226.
The 49ers front seven will have to contend with RB Tiki Barber, who had 206 yards last week in 24 carries, and if the running game is effective and the secondary has to come up to support the run defense, QB Eli Manning will have an easier time throwing to Burress, WR Amani Toomer and TE Jeremy Shockey.
INJURY IMPACT: The Giants might be without SLB Carlos Emmons (pectoral), rookie DE Justin Tuck (ankle) and will definitely be without CB Will Peterson (back). WR David Tyree (elbow) is questionable while SS Shaun Williams (hamstring) is probable.
Neither Emmons, Tuck or Williams practiced Wednesday. If Emmons can't play, it will be Reggie Torbor at SLB. Tuck and Williams are backups.
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