The New York Giants’ nearly-perfect season continued at home Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. As was the case much of last year, it was the team’s defense that made the difference.
Six sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. Those are the numbers the Giants’ (5-1) defense produced during the 29-17 victory. The win was their fourth straight at home and came one week after a surprise Monday night loss to Cleveland.
“You’ve got to win the games you’re supposed to,” Bryan Kehl said. “5-1 verse 4-2 are two totally different things. This was a big win out there today.”
The game was anything but pretty for both teams, with San Francisco (2-5) being the uglier of the two. The Niners all but handed the Giants the win with 13 penalties totaling 134 yards. Combined, those resulted in 19 points for New York.
“We make no excuses,” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “I think we’re capable of playing better than we did today.”
New York was without starting linebacker Antonio Pierce (quad) for the first time this season. Chase Blackburn filled in nicely, picking up a sack on the first play of the game and a team-high 10 tackles.
“We were trying to play an aggressive defense, trying to get back to an aggressive style and just make good hits and solid tackles,” linebacker Chase Blackburn said.
Brandon Jacobs was the story on offense for the Giants. The running back rushed for two touchdowns and 69 yards on 17 carries. Eli Manning went 16-for-31 with 161 yards and a touchdown to Plaxico Burress.
In the second quarter, before his touchdown catch, Burress and Coughlin got into a shouting match on the sideline after the wide receiver was flagged for offensive pass interference. Coughlin said the incident is over and actually walked out of his press conference when asked about it a second time.
“You have a major competitor who was upset about a few things… You’re going to make a big deal about that, how about talking about the win,” Coughlin said before leaving the podium.
Niners’ quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan performed better in the air (16-for-28, 258 yards, 1 TD) than his Giants’ counterpart, but was credited with all six of his team’s turnovers. The performance prompted head coach Mike Nolan to say that he’d consider a new starting quarterback for next Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Both interceptions fell into the hands of free safety Michael Johnson, the first two of his career. In the locker room after the game, Johnson was hounded by his teammates.
“I’m sure it puts the coaches’ heads in a good place, the players, everybody,” Johnson said. “We should be comfortable playing well and beating teams like that.”
San Francisco running back Frank Gore, 524 yards in the previous six games, had just 11 yards on 11 carries. Wide receiver Josh Morgan had a team-high five receptions for 86 yards.
New York still leads the NFC East by a half game over the Washington Redskins and a full game over the Dallas Cowboys, who come to town on November 2. For the Giants, this start has been a great way to follow-up last year’s Super Bowl win.
“Our goal is to take it one game at a time and start to stack the bricks of the foundation of being a championship-caliber team,” linebacker Danny Clark said. “The eye is on the prize.”
There’s still a long way to that prize. For now, Pittsburgh is in their sights.