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TE's Ballard and Pascoe set for 49ers LB's


Tight ends and linebackers have a mutual respect for each other's positions. Rooted in their hybrid abilities, both sides like to run and both like to hit.

So it's no surprise one is often the key to stopping the other.

That will be the case in the NFC Championship as tight ends Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe prepare for the NFC Championship bout with the 49ers, who have arguably the best group of linebackers in the NFL.

"It's all about being more physical than the other team," Ballard said. "It starts up front. We've got to move guys and we've got to have bodies on bodies and make sure we give running backs places to go. If they get back there and they're setting they're feet too much, it's hard to make plays and hit the open whole. So we definitely have to block better than we did last game, and it's going to be a tremendous challenge because they are a very good defense."

In their first meeting against the No. 1 run defense, the Giants did manage 93 yards on the ground, but it was at a 3.2-yard clip on 29 carries with a long of 15.

During that game, inside backers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis ganged up for 15 and 11 tackles, respectively.

"They are the guys that solidify that whole defense," Tom Coughlin said of the inside linebackers. "They are very active and when they pressure they do a nice job with that. They definitely give you some thought about how you are going to pick those guys up. They do a very good job and they are right in the middle of their defense and all the communication goes right through those two."

Meanwhile, on the outside, Ahmad Brooks had 7.0 sacks on the season (and another last week against New Orleans) while Parys Haralson shored up the right edge.

"They're very versatile with Parys and Ahmad," Pascoe said. "They're not big like a defensive end, but they're not small like a linebacker. They're kind of tweener guys that can move. They're very fast, and they've got every move in the book. So that's something me and Jake are going to have to really key in on this week and study these guys as best we can."

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