Giants get another shot at 49ers
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Revenge Tour rolls on.
Next stop: San Francisco.
After avenging their regular-season loss to the Packers Sunday in a divisional playoff game, the Giants will try to give the 49ers the same kind of payback in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. The Giants lost at Candlestick Park, 27-20, on Nov. 13, but even then they had a sense they'd be back.
"We're going to see the San Francisco 49ers again," Brandon Jacobs said in the locker room after that loss. Hakeem Nicks also chimed in, noting that "They pulled it out this time," with an emphasis on the last two words and a clear suggestion that there would be a next time.
At that point the Giants were coming off a thrilling win over the Patriots and were in first place. Eli Manning was forging weekly comeback wins and the Giants seemed destined for the playoffs. Talking about a rematch was no stretch.
But that loss was the first of four straight and five of six. The Giants regained control with wins over the Jets and Cowboys (twice), followed by playoff wins over the Falcons and Packers. Which brings them back to San Francisco.
The Giants were expecting a running game from the 49ers, but Alex Smith had one of his first breakout performances as a passer. He was 19-for-30 for 228 yards and a touchdown. The Giants had been mocking him during the week, derisively daring him to beat them and calling him a "game-managing" quarterback.
"I managed myself into a victory," Smith said afterward. "That's all I care about."
The Giants led 13-12, but early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers scored 15 points in 61 seconds to take a 27-13 lead with 12:21 left.
Their first TD came when rookie linebacker Greg Jones -- playing for the injured Boley -- seemed to be in the wrong coverage and tight end Vernon Davis got open for a 31-yard TD catch. The 49ers converted a pass from Smith to Michael Crabtree for two points and a 20-13 edge.
On the Giants' second play after that touchdown, Manning threw a pass down the middle but Mario Manningham cut to the outside. The 49ers' Carlos Rogers did not, making his second interception of the game, and on the next snap, running back Kendall Hunter scored from 17 yards out for a 27-13 lead.
The Giants closed the gap on a 32-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks with 8:37 left and nearly tied the score when Manning threw deep for Manningham, but the ball went off his fingertips. "Should have come down with it," he said. "I should have laid out. I should have come down with it."
The Giants still had a chance to tie it late, but a fourth-and-2 pass from the San Francisco 10 was batted down by lineman Justin Smith with 34 seconds remaining.
The loss did not trigger anxiety about the slide that soon would follow, but it did pretty much determine that if the two teams met again, it would be at Candlestick.
"We just came out here," Jacobs said confidently in that postgame locker room. "As long as we have jet fuel, we'll come out here."
49ers cornerback Rogers said Sunday, "It's a lot better than traveling to Wisconsin. More importantly, we're playing a team we've already faced. It's not as hard as preparing for another team we haven't faced yet." With AP