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What Can New York Giants Learn from San Francisco 49ers Loss to Minnesota Vikings?

October 12th, 2012 at 12:13 PM
By Simon Garron-Caine

The San Francisco 49ers lost their only game of the year to the Minnesota Vikings in Week three; a sound 24-13 beating. So, as the 49ers game looms as one of the big early tests for the New York Giants, we decided to go back and see if we can learn anything about attacking the Niners from Christian Ponder and the Vikings.

'San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals, September 13, 2009' photo (c) 2009, Michael Wifall - license:

While we thought the game reviews would yield simple revelations (e.g. "The Vikings were able to control the 49ers’ X by doing Y"), what we found is that the general feeling from those who watched the game was that the Vikings outplayed the Niners in almost every facet of the game, doing the little things San Francisco usually does so well, forcing Alex Smith into the kinds of mistakes he usually doesn't make, and preventing the mistakes the Niners defense usually forces.

But we did find some great tape review by Mike Vorkunov over at, who looked at the game as a precursor to the Niners shellacking of the New York Jets. We'll take a look at what Vorkunov saw on tape, pair it with what Hazem wrote about in this week's game preview, and see if we can find some keys to victory.

Attack the secondary, take the Niners linebackers off the field and get aggressive with the passing attack.

The Giants would love to have Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz working the defensive backs, but Vornukov highlights another weapon the Giants should utilize:

The Niners struggle against opposing tight ends. Small sample size: Kyle Rudolph caught five passes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. Bigger sample size: He became the third straight starting tight end to score against San Francisco.

If Martellus Bennett is healthy, his ability to get behind the linebackers on play action and to work favorable match ups in the nickel might be huge. It sounds like he'll be out there, but he limped around on that knee all game last week so we'll have to wait and see.

Force Alex Smith to throw the ball to the sidelines and to the outside.

Smith has turned into an incredible game manager, but fell back into bad old habits against the Vikings. Vornukov on Smith's performance:

The stat line looks adequate for the Niners' QB…But there were deeper fissures. He lost a fumble [in addition to a huge 4th quarter interception] and was responsible for two sacks — one of which came as he refused to throw the ball away with an oncoming Chad Greenway in his line of vision. Smith also missed Randy Moss for what could have been a touchdown pass or at least gotten the Niners near the goal line.

When Smith has a running game and short-to-medium options over the middle of the field, the 49ers offensive machine can be deadly. The Giants will need to shut down the easy options and force Smith to have to make some plays on the outside and down the field (Gore had only 12 carries for 63 yards in the Vikings game), if they want to similarly derail Smith and his offense.

Double tight end Vernon Davis consistently.

Vorkunov saw pretty much what we all saw in last year's NFC Championship game:

One of the handful best tight ends in the league, Davis is also the most valuable piece of San Francisco's passing game. He had five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota. His 20-yard catch set up his one yard TD. Along with Michael Crabtree, Davis had the most targets of any Niner with eight.

Sure, Crabtree is a threat, Gore is perhaps our biggest worry, and in Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams the 49ers have plenty of secondary options…but Davis is Smith's favorite target and a matchup nightmare. I'll roll the dice putting Prince Amukamara on an island with Crabtree before I put anyone, especially Chase Blackburn or Mathias Kiwanuka, one-on-one with Davis.

One last note: much of the post game on the Vikings victory gave a ton of credit to Christian Ponder, roundly crediting him with outplaying Alex Smith, making plays when he had to and avoiding the big mistake. But it seems as if Ponder's biggest accomplishment was escaping a 49ers pass rush that was as deadly as ever, but failed to get home due to Ponder's ability to roll out, extend plays and take off when necessary (23 yard touchdown run in the second quarter being one of the biggest plays of the game).

Eli Manning sure doesn't have the wheels of a Christian Ponder and won't be running for a 23-yard touchdown anytime soon, but the veteran will have to use his above-average ability to slide around the pocket, buy just enough time, and make quality throws while absorbing a hit. My point: the Vikings didn't neutralize the Niners pass rush, Ponder just overcame it.

Eli will have to do the same.


Tags: Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Football, Hakeem Nicks, Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett, Minnesota, Minnesota Vikings, New York, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFL, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers, Victor Cruz

36 Responses to “What Can New York Giants Learn from San Francisco 49ers Loss to Minnesota Vikings?”

  1.  GOAT56 says:


    Corey Webster (hand/hammy), Kenny Phillips (knee), Andre Brown (concussion) & Rocky Bernard (quad) not practicing.

    Interesting. That leads me to think these 4 will be out. The last 3 I already assumed but it seems a little surprising with Webster. Funny, enough with the way Prince, Hosley and even to some extent Coe have played Webster would be a minor loss for this game. We only really need 3 CBs the way SF plays. But that does mean these guys have to stay healthy otherwise we will see Tryon.

  2.  Valid says:

    Does anyone else feel like Hosley may end up being the best CB of our bunch? Even better than Amukamara?

    •  GOAT56 says:

      I felt like that a few weeks ago but now I’n not as sure. I think Prince is more like a poor man’s Revis and not really a turnover type of CB. Hosley seems like he can be a better Samuels type of player. Very good coverage guy but a real playmaker and turnover type of CB.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      They’re both going to be good, but too early to really assess them fairly. There isn’t enough information available to us based on the sample size we’ve seen.

  3.  GIANTT says:

    I think a healthy Rivers with his speed is key to controlling Davis . We need him to force Smith to go elsewhere . I think the Giants may have a chance but they cant afford any mistakes

  4.  GOAT56 says:

    Great idea for a different angle piece for this game. I saw that SF vs. Minn game and thought the same thing in that Minn just out played SF from start to finish. I thought they did have some issues covering Rudolph which is why Bennett who is a similar if not better athlete can have success.

    Sometimes teams like SF almost sike other teams out of being able to do stuff like run the ball even before the game. I remember Bmore was great against the run in 2008 but we ran for over 200 yards I think. We are not a running team and likely won’t hit a number like 200 yards. But we can have success and should try throughout the game to stay balanced. GB and Detroit gave up on the run too soon, I don’t think KG will make that same mistake. Really, considering our lack of a running game in 2011 he stayed with it more than other teams like GB and Detroit with similar issues. Now that we have showed some success I expect us to keep balanced.

    Games when the opposition has knowledge of our offense like TB did and SF does actually works in our favor. It causes KG to change things up and go against or own tendencies which makes us harder to defend. Sometimes it’s easy to go with things that have worked. But having to switch things up can certainly serve some benefits.

  5.  fanfor55years says:

    Very good analysis.

    As I’ve said, the 49ers are going to really attack the middle of our defense, both on the ground and in the air. Plenty of teams did the same thing last season, quite successfully until they got their act together for that stretch run (and especially once Joseph started dominating the LOS against most opponents).

    I really think that if our defensive tackles and Chase Blackburn play a terrific game our chances of winning go up dramatically. I think it’s all about execution. If the middle of the defense does not play well then our one-and-only shot is Eli the Magnificent having one of those games that he wins against all odds. That could happen, but it would have to happen against a very good defense. I’d rather see the defense play stout and give the offense a chance to win by just having a very solid game rather than an incredible one.

    One other BIG key, IMO. Steve Weatherford needs to pin San Francisco back in poor starting field position. I don’t care how good a game manager Alex Smith has become. I’ll take my chances on how many 80-90 yard drives he can “manage”. And while we’re talking about the special teams, it would be very nice if this is the week that David Wilson breaks one for a TD. It’s only a matter of time before he does.

  6.  GOAT56 says:

    This is fair. While many don’t pick us all but one see it a 4 point game.

    Week 6 Predictions: Giants at 49ers

  7.  kujo says:

    Rocky Bernard, Kenny Phillips and Andre Brown are OUT on Sunday. Hakeem Nicks, Corey Webster and David Diehl are QUESTIONABLE. Ramses Barden, Martellus Bennett, Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, Jayron Hosley, Keith Rivers & Antrel Rolle are PROBABLE.

    •  GOAT56 says:

      This is probably the best we could have hoped for after the Cleveland game. Benard hurts but to have Nicks likely back is a huge lift. Also the return of Hosley and Rivers add a lot of speed and playmaking to the defense.

  8.  kujo says:

    Mike Mazzeo ?@MazzESPN
    Bennett: “I’m always good. Unicorn blood.” #nyg

  9. Injury news really headed in the right direction, especially if Nicks plays. If Rocky, Canty, Corey and Kenny can return in the following weeks we’ll be getting healthy at the right time. Bye a few weeks thereafter is a nice little treat, too.

    As for Rocky being out, and believe you me I never thought I’d say this, that’s a big one. Linval is going to have to work with Kuhn and Austin next to him. If they can get to shoving those kids around, Gore’s going to have a field day. Which opens up everything else.

    •  fanfor55years says:


      And your last paragraph is precisely why I’ve said that the defensive tackles and the MIKE are the key to the game. They have to play well.

      Don’t be surprised if Tuck gets a lot more snaps at DT than anyone expects. If I’m Fewell I would have Mr. Tuck take half his snaps on Sunday inside. Let Osi, JPP, Tuck for perhaps 15 snaps and either Kiwi or Tracy/Ojomo (one of whom, and perhaps both, will not be dressed, but if they are they can contribute 10-12 snaps at DE) take the rest.

      Kuhn and Austin need to step up right now. No more coddling. Defensive tackle is a VERY hard position for inexperienced players to learn, but when they are called upon to come though they need to get the job done without excuses.

      Blackburn? Let’s see if Fewell pulls a Girardi (for those who don’t know yet, Alex Rodriguez will be sitting on the bench in a make-or-break game for the Yankees….doesn’t matter what he’s done, or could do, it matters who the manager thinks gives him the best chance to win a game that MUST be won). If I were the coach I would give Blackburn a chance, but if he does a poor job early he’s taking a seat and I don’t care what that does to his psyche.

      •  GOAT56 says:

        But does Tuck at DT really help at 275 vs the run? I understand and agree we could have a big issue. My thinking is run blitzes along and slants. Along with Brown at the line of scrimage a lot.

        I also wonder how we defend their jumbo packages with 1 WR 2 TEs and 2 backs because Davis can be use almost as a WR.

  10.  rlhjr says:

    They are simply too hurt to put up a good fight. And because injuries are not an excuse, we will be treated to watching Kuhn and Austin learn how to play defensive tackle OJT. Not gonna be pretty.

    The key to any strong football team is strength in both offensive and defensive lines. That’s where it starts and that is where Giants have holes.
    Once again it all about “IF”.

    “IF” the offensive line steps up and supports a run game.
    “IF” O-line can keep Eli upright and physically fit.
    “IF” Kuhn and Austin step up.
    “IF” Kiwi and Blackburn can cover the short stuff.
    “IF” Fewell can come up with a scheme.
    IF, IF, IF………..a frog had wings he would’nt bump his a$$.
    One thing about Giants, the show up a the most inexplicable times………….

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