Brandon Jacobs' shoulders were sore after the Giants' stirring victory over the New England Patriots last week. To the seven-year running back, it was a hurt so good.
Jacobs had 18 rushing attempts – just three fewer than his previous three games combined – and 72 yards, both season-high totals. He also scored the Giants' first touchdown on a 10-yard run. Jacobs' workload was heavier because Ahmad Bradshaw missed the game with an injured foot. And while he missed his running mate, Jacobs was pleased to get the extra work.
"I felt I got into some kind of a rhythm," Jacobs said today. "I can't get into a rhythm being in, out, in, out, in another play here, next play, next two series, whatever. I have to keep going and be able to get some continuous plays."
Bradshaw has not practiced this week and is unofficially iffy for the game, so it looks like Jacobs will get that opportunity again Sunday against the 7-1 49ers in San Francisco. If he does, his shoulders could be very achy Monday morning.
The 49ers have the NFL's best run defense this season. San Francisco has allowed only 70.8 yards a game on the ground, about 14 less than No. 2 Cincinnati. The 49ers have not given up a rushing touchdown all season. Each of the other 31 teams has surrendered at least three. And the 49ers have not allowed an opposing back to rush for at least 100 yards in 30 consecutive games. The last back to reach the century mark vs. the Niners was Green Bay's Ryan Grant with 129 on Nov. 22, 2009.
The largest individual rushing total allowed by the 49ers this year was 75 yards by Philadelphia's Michael Vick – and he's a quarterback. No running back has run for more than 64 yards (Cincinnati's Cedric Benson).
Successfully running the football is going to be a tremendous challenge for the Giants in Candlestick Park. San Francisco's 3-4 defense features two outstanding inside linebackers in Patrick Willis, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, and NaVorro Bowman, who has a team-high 87 tackles (two more than Willis). Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is a 355-pound run stuffer and safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner often play like linebackers because of their willingness to hit.
"They're technically very sound," Coach Tom Coughlin said of the 49ers. "They have outstanding personnel. The two inside backers are really good football players. They're powerful. They're big. Their safeties are very much involved in the run. And they're sound. They're very sound."
"They have a big, strong nose tackle that makes it difficult for the centers to match up," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "You have to take care of the first line, which is the defensive line, and if you get caught up too much on that, then all of a sudden you have this great linebacker, it's two very good linebackers that are running around making a lot of tackles. It's such a different approach than some people that we've faced who are very complex. They're just very, very well-coached. They have very good players and they are physical. They are just hardnosed, almost old fashioned. Line up and you're going to have to prove that you can knock around and hold your own with them. They're good. They're really good."
The Giants this week have heard all about the 49ers' gaudy rush defense numbers and the problems their players present. They're also well aware they've run for more than 75 yards in just half of their eight games, including 111 last week. The Giants are 29th in the league with 88.8 yards a game and 30th with an average of 3.3 yards per carry. But the Giants savor the opportunity to prove they can run against a team determined not to let them.
"I look forward to challenges like that against a good defense, a smart defense, well-coached, guys who do what they're supposed to do," Jacobs said. "You look at them and no one tries to do too much. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm a run game guy. It's just the way it is. They have a good team and we have to try to slow them down."
"It's going to be a tough physical battle," guard David Diehl said. "A tough game going out there, the way they play at home, the style of defense they have, they don't throw a lot of different things at you. What they do, they do well. It's going to take everything we got to go out there and establish the run, get it going for us."
Philadelphia was the only team to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers this year and the Eagles reached the grand total of 108. In their last three games – victories over Detroit, Cleveland Washington – the Niners gave up 66, 66 and 52 rushing yards.
"We just have to run the ball when there are looks that we think that we can run certain plays," quarterback Eli Manning said. "It is a matter of scheme and the way they think they can stop the run. Do they think they can stop it with their front seven and play two high? Then we are going to have to run it, find ways and adjust in the passing game. If they are going to bring extra safeties, then we are just going to have to throw it. It is just a matter of their scheme and how they plan to slow down our offense.
The Giants' defense also has a significant run-game issue this week. San Francisco is an old-fashioned smashmouth team that loves to run the ball. The 49ers are sixth in the league with an average of 137.6 yards a game on the ground. Frank Gore has 782 rushing yards, five touchdowns and five consecutive 100-yard games.
"I think Gore has excellent vision as a runner," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "He is very patient as a runner. That offensive line is doing a nice job. I don't see any weak links on that offensive line and if (Gore) sees a crease or he sees an inkling that he can burst through and get three or four, he'll burst through and instead of getting three and four, sometimes he's getting six, seven and eight. I just think he's an exceptional runner."
"He runs the ball pretty well for them," linebacker Michael Boley said. "Given the problems we've had over the last couple weeks, it's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a lot on us as far as stepping up, making sure that we're gap-sound, make sure we're all in the right place, all on the same page."
The 49ers will look to gash a Giants run defense that is 25th in both yards allowed per game (127.1) and per carry (4.6). The Giants have surrendered at least 106 rushing yards in each of their last six games.
"You have to be able to stop the run," said Fewell. "So we're going to have to use all hands on deck. I might have to put additional people out there because they're running the ball very efficiently."
The Giants will do whatever it takes – on both sides of the ball.
The NFL dominated local New York ratings last week (Oct. 31-Nov. 6) with Giants-Patriots on FOX topping the charts and Jets-Bills on CBS ranking second. In addition, the NBC Sunday night game (Steelers-Ravens) ranked fifth in the market. The Giants-Patriots game (20.7 rating) topped the largest non-football audience (Dancing with the Stars: Results* show, 11.7 rating) by 77 percent, while Jets-Bills (14.3) topped the show by 22 percent.Join other diehard Giants Fans! Follow @Giants
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