A 12-game win streak meets a record-setting half of football on Thursday night.
The San Francisco 49ers, who have not lost a regular-season game since before last Halloween, will host the New York Giants, who are fresh off their largest comeback of the Super Bowl era.
Looking to stay hot, the Giants remained in Arizona and spent the short week conducting meetings and walk-throughs on the campus of the Arizona State Sun Devils. They hopped a flight to San Francisco on Wednesday as the 49ers geared up for their home opener at Levi's Stadium.
Here are three keys to victory for the Giants in the latest chapter of a storied series that is tied exactly 17-17 in the regular season and 4-4 in the postseason:
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
Start fast (obviously)
While you would be hard-pressed to find this level of analysis anywhere else, the Giants' first six quarters to start the 2023 campaign were no joking matter. They were shut out 40-0 by the rival Cowboys in Week 1 and found themselves on pace for the same fate at halftime against the Cardinals.
Down 20-0, Daniel Jones chucked a pass to Jalin Hyatt on the first play of the third quarter for a 58-yard gain. The rookie's first NFL reception sparked a 31-7 run to close out the Cardinals and avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.
Digging any hole this week might be too deep against a 49ers team that has allowed just six second-half points this season. That is the second-fewest in the league behind the Cowboys, who have given up none.
Run defense is team defense
Much is made about the dual-threat ability of Christian McCaffrey, but make no mistake – he is threatening in his main facet as a running back. McCaffrey leads the NFL in rushing through two weeks with 268 yards, 88 more than Atlanta's Bijan Robinson in second place. McCaffrey had a 65-yard touchdown run in the opener and followed it up with a 51-yarder (not a touchdown) last week against the Rams.
"Run defense is really team defense," coach Brian Daboll said. "It's controlling the line of scrimmage. It's making sure we have good run fits and run support. It takes all 11 guys. Just like really every play whether it's run defense, the pass offense, the screen game, whatever it may be, it just comes down to executing your responsibility for the collective part of the unit."
Don't play on Shanahan's terms
The Giants are the first team since the 2007 Jets not to have a takeaway or sack through two games in a season after making the playoffs. The 49ers, on the other hand, have multiple takeaways in each of their last five games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
"Obviously, we want to create some negative plays, whether that's negative run plays or pass plays," Daboll said. "We've got to do a good job of getting them to those pass situations, controlling first down so they can't play the game on their terms."
Daboll added, "(49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has) done this for a long time. He has a ton of experience. He has, I'd say, a number of plays that he's run throughout his past and he's always evolving. That's what I appreciate about Kyle. He's a heck of a football coach. He creates a lot of issues, whether that's run force issues, whether that's making plays look exactly the same and setting things up. He's a timely play-caller. He's an excellent coach."
Stats to impress your fellow football fan
NFL games are closer than they've been in 91 years. In 2022, the average final-score margin was only 9.70 points, the lowest for a full season since 1932 (9.13). This year, the average final-score margin is 9.50 points through two weeks.
NFC East teams have won 50 games since the beginning of 2022, most in the NFL. The NFC East is a combined 50-24-2 (.671), substantially better than the next-closest division, the AFC North (42-33-0, .560). Dallas, Philadelphia, and Washington are each 2-0. The last time the NFC East had three 2-0 teams was 1989, when the Giants, Eagles and Cardinals opened undefeated through two weeks.
Eight of Daniel Jones' top 10 passing games by yards have come on the road, including last year's Wild Card win in Minnesota. Overall, Jones has thrown 37 touchdowns to 14 interceptions as the away team, including postseason.
Brock Purdy's 7-0 regular-season record as a starter is tied for the fourth-longest win streak by a quarterback to begin a career since 1950. Ben Roethlisberger holds the record with 15 wins.