In one of the biggest home games in years for the 49ers, they showed up to play and held off a tough New York Giants squad to move to 8-1. This was a huge win to disprove all the doubters who have given the 49ers schedule sole credit for their incredible first half.
What was probably the most impressive thing about this victory, is the 49ers offense was very productive without their hoss in the backfield. Frank Gore left the game early on after carrying the ball just 6 times for a grand total of 0 yards. Gore tweaked his knee in the first half, forcing him to the sidelines and leaving his streak of 100-yard rushing games dead at 5. Fortuanately for San Francisco though, Alex Smith, again had a big day Sunday, and Gores replacement stepped up big in his absence. Rookie back Kendal Hunter had just 6 carries on the day, but made them count, highlighted with a 17 yard scamper in the 4th quarter that ended up being the game deciding score. Eli Manning made it interesting with a quick TD pass to Hakeem Nicks, and drove done the field in the final minute getting to the 49ers 10 yard line, but failed on a 4th and short with 30 seconds left which sealed the game for the Niners. It really was a quarterback duel, and even though Alex Smith was outgained by Manning in the yards department, 311 to 242, he actually sported a higher QB rating than Manning as he turned the ball over just once. It was truly an eye opener for me to watch this team hold in the 4th quarter after seeing them blow so many of those leads in the last few seasons. That, to me, is a sign that tells me that this team is for real.
Talking about for real, how incredible was the defensive performance for the 49ers? They eliminated the Giants' rushing attack early and forced them into a one-dimensional offense. The pass rush was solid, and although Manning did throw for over 300 yards, he threw the ball 40 times to get there, and the 49ers took advantage of his throws that weren't on target. Carlos Rogers continues to prove the most valuable free agent that this team brought in over the summer, as he collected both picks Sunday to raise his total to 5 on the season. With 7 games still remaining, the former first round pick is on pace for 9 picks, which is one more than he had for his whole career coming into the season. Now I'm not saying he's going to get to the 9, but 7-8 is a very reachable goal and would certainly plan Rogers in the Pro Bowl. As we pointed out in our last post, Rogers won't be the only one on this defense representing the NFC in February. Patrick Willis and Novorro Bowman have become machines in the middle for this defense, as the two combined for 19 tackles while Willis recorded the only sack of Manning Sunday. Even though they only got credited with one sack this afternoon, the constant pressure on Eli was huge for this secondary and a big part of Rogers' two interceptions. On both sides of the ball, especially without Gore, I don't think even Jim Harbough could have drawn it up any better!