Here we are. Moving toward 10/14/12. A date that must have been circled on a lot of 49er calendars. The NFC Championship rematch. The next test on a 49er schedule that is getting toward some tough games, including their first 2 division games after the Giants roll through town. The last time these 2 teams played, we had the tragedy of Kyle Williams and the 2 muffed punts altering what very well could have been the 49ers Super Bowl run and ring #6 for this storied franchise.
Knowing how hard it is to REACH the Super Bowl, and how close this team was last year, makes this season even more important. There are perennial tough teams, like, say the Falcons and Iggles in recent memory, who have been at the doorstep numerous times, only to be jilted and denied. The Niners as they are comprised right now, have a solid nucleus of starters, backups, and coaches who are all on the mission. The window is wide open, for at least the next couple of years, before they have to make some big decisions regarding how to keep the core of coaches and players relatively intact.
So, as of now, this team has as good a chance as any other to with the whole thing. Validating this thought would mean a victory over Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The 49ers are coming off 2 resounding victories over the other New York teams to the tune of 79-3. Granted, these games were merely tune-ups for the real thing this weekend, but you had to like the deep passing game that emerged from the Bills game. This has been a priority for Harbaugh to develop this aspect of the offense, and is a welcome sight. The run game is clicking on all cylinders.
The Giants? Well, they appear to be coasting already. They’ve lost a couple awful games to the Cowboys and Eagles, and struggled to beat the Bucs. Even Cleveland posed a bit of a struggle for them. Manning is doing pretty well (10 TDs, and 5 INTs and a 96 QBR), and their offense is going pretty well. Not surprisingly, they get their yards through the air. Which has led to turnovers. That being said, their defense isn’t what it used to be. They are 14th in points allowed, and 23rd in yards allowed (22nd vs pass; 16th vs run).
But (there’s always a big but), this means nothing for the game this weekend. The Giants also have this game circled on their calendar as a way to get back to respectability. The Niners are considered a top team, but seeing as they are geographically challenged, they get little to no national press. The Niners are the first team in history to gain 300 yards in the air and on the ground, yet all you hear about from ESPN is how the 2-3 jets should be involving Timmy Tebow in the offense more.
As usual, it takes games like this to gain national recognition (and you know that Jim Harbaugh uses this kind of back-handed dissing as fodder during the meetings) for a team like the 49ers. If they win, it’s the fact that they beat the vaunted Giants that gets them some national press. Lose, and they are the cute back story about the team the used-to-be relevant. I mean, look at all the angst that swirled around ESPN and the sports world in general when the Niners flattened the Jets, and how Carlos Rogers comments of the Jets quitting was a call to arms of sorts for the Jets. Every hour had at least 15 minutes of hand-wriniging over what the Jets should do going forward, and how they can address the mean comments of Rogers.
Steve Young had a great line after last night’s game where the Jets played a pretty good game vs Houston but lost. All the commentators talked strictly about was the Jets. Hou goes 5-0, and it was all about how ‘respectably’ the Jets lost. Young’s comment was “2-3 gets you all this?”