Rogers looking to lord over another NFC East foe
The Bay Area is buzzing about football with College Game Day coming out for the Stanford-Oregon game and Fox's top crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman visiting Candlestick Park for the 49ers/Giants tilt. The last time Buck and Aikman did a 49ers game was in January of 2003 for the 49ers' last playoff win, a memorable 39-38 comeback victory over the Giants. This one could be a doozy, too.
Both teams are residing near the top of the NFC ladder, with the 49ers at 7-1 and on a six-game winning streak and the Giants at 6-2 after winning three straight including a 24-20 win in New England last Sunday.
Both teams also play similarly with formidable front sevens on defense, elite quarterbacking and strong running games. For the 49ers, this is their first real test since establishing themselves this year as a surprising conference power.
"We'll see what we are all about," Niners cornerback Carlos Rogers said.
One advantage the Giants may have is their passing game. Quarterback Eli Manning has led his team on four fourth-quarter comebacks. Meanwhile, the 49ers have yielded a pair of late touchdowns against the Browns and Redskins in each of the last two games.
Rogers, who has faced the Giants plenty over the last six seasons as a former member of the Redskins, believes the Giants' offense is solidifying under Manning.
"He's more poised in the pocket. Things have calmed down (for him)," Rogers said. "He's got a lot of control in the offense. It also helps when the guys know the offense and know what they are doing."
Rogers said that young receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have grown up and now know the offense. The Giants have also gotten a boost from explosive receiver Victor Cruz, someone Rogers will encounter as the player who matches up against the slot receiver.
And as for the late touchdowns the 49ers yielded in the last two games, Rogers has an answer for that too.
"It wasn't like we were going in an all-out blitz or going into tight man, so they can get a quick score," Rogers explained. "If they were going to drive they were going to do check downs and balls to the running back, things like that. We took away their intermediate stuff, their deep stuff and they just had to check the ball down."
Indeed, the 49ers forced Redskins quarterback John Beck to throw 14 completions to rookie running back Roy Helu, while the safeties were guarding against the deep throw. However, Rogers did admit there were a few breakdowns and communication errors in the secondary that no one ever saw because the pass rush disrupted the quarterback.
"We kind of took our eyes off some coverages last week," Rogers said. Those errors are likely to be exploited by the hot-handed Manning.
"We have to go for 60 minutes," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "We are certainly going to be challenged and so are they."
The 49ers have built their 7-1 record by beating teams with young quarterbacks or meager passing offenses. The defense looks unstoppable against the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Andy Dalton, John Beck and a struggling Josh Freeman.
However the 49ers did give up 416 yards passing to the Eagles' Michael Vick and even though they broke Tony Romo's ribs, in the end they couldn't stop him in their lone loss of the season.
Even against Washington, the inexperienced Beck had open receivers running free in the secondary, but most of the time, Beck never saw them and instead checked down Helu.
The Giants come in with the league's sixth-ranked passing game and they are third in net passing yards per play. Manning is particularly hot in the clutch, leading the NFL with a 121.7 passer rating in the fourth quarter.
Also, the Giants are just as confident as the 49ers, after beating the Patriots in New England last week.
"This ball game is going to be a great test for our team," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I think our guys all pretty much know and they're going to embrace that challenge. The Giants are an outstanding football team."