Giants-49ers scouting report
Giants on offense: New York’s rushing attack, stuck in neutral most of the season, has kicked it into hyperdrive in the playoffs. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs form a potent 1-2 punch that can wear defenses down. Bradshaw (26 rushes, 126 yards in the postseason) has excellent vision and deceptive speed and power. He doesn’t have great moves but he will fight for extra yards. The 6-foot-4-inch, 264-pound Jacobs (23 rushes, 114 yards) is a load. He takes a while to get into a rhythm but once he does, he will steamroll opponents. Eli Manning is a cool customer - a smart quarterback with a strong, accurate arm. Hakeem Nicks has emerged a clutch playoff performer with 13 catches for 280 yards and 4 touchdowns. Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham are solid receivers.
49ers on defense: Smart and powerful linebacker Patrick Willis is the leader of this unit. Willis has great instincts, locates the ball quickly, and will blast opponents with bone-jarring hits. Running mate NaVorro Bowman has good vision and strength and is always around the ball. Safety Dashon Goldson leads a ball-hawking secondary.
49ers on offense: Alex Smith has long been known as an underachieving, game-managing quarterback. He proved last week that he is pretty good in the clutch, too. Smith calmly led the 49ers on a pair of late drives to send the Saints marching home. Smith has a decent arm and underrated mobility. His confidence has grown immensely this season; for that he can thank coach Jim Harbaugh. Smith’s top target is Vernon Davis. He runs crisp routes, has reliable hands, and is a monster after the catch. Davis is the league’s best tight end not named Gronkowski. Receiver Michael Crabtree has excellent speed but is prone to lapses in concentration. Tailback Frank Gore runs with great vision, patience, and recklessness. Would-be tacklers should be warned: He gives as good as he gets.
Giants on defense: This group is all about pressure. The Giants have the finest pass rushers in the NFL, led by the rejuvenated Osi Umenyiora (he sleep-walked through a lot of the season) and Jason Pierre-Paul. Both have great first steps and great upper-body strength. Active and instinctive Michael Boley is a superb linebacker.
Special teams: San Francisco kicker David Akers has been money this season. He nailed a league-record 44 field goals during the regular season and added three more last week. He has scored in 20 straight playoff games . . . The ever-fragile Ted Ginn Jr. (currently nursing a right knee boo-boo) is San Francisco’s top return man. He has great burst and acceleration. Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter also have experience returning kickoffs and punts . . . Andy Lee averages 50.9 yards per punt . . . Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes hit 19 of 24 field goal attempts in the regular season and is 4 of 6 in the postseason . . . Jerrel Jernigan and Derrick Martin will return kickoffs for New York and Will Blackmon handles the punt returns . . . Steve Weatherford is averaging 46.5 yards on six playoff punts.
Miscellany: This is the eighth postseason meeting between the franchises, with the 49ers holding a 4-3 edge . . . Giants coach Tom Coughlin is 10-7 in playoffs; Harbaugh is 1-0 . . . Manning has won four straight road playoff games.