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"This is not going to be a cute football game," Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said this past week. "It's not going to be for the meek and mild. This is going to be a bloodbath, that's what it's going to be. They don't try to make it a secret, they try to beat you up. We pride ourselves on being a physical football team. Something's gotta give on Sunday. Something's gotta give."
The Giants and 49ers face each other Sunday eveningin the NFC Championship Game for the right to go to Super Bowl XLVI in two weeks. And it's a good thing they get that extra week off, because the way the two teams were talking about this game, they're going to need it.
Two of the most physical teams in football pounding on each other for more than three hours in the mud at Candlestick Park. Dirty uniforms. Sloppy footballs. After a season of finesse football around the league, with more 5,000-yard passers than in any other season, things will get ugly for these two teams.
"That's this kind of football," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "You get two teams like this who want to run the ball and want to stick to their game plans as much as possible, which is line up man-to-man and see who is a tougher guy at the end of the day. These are the kinds of games I live for."
They're the kind of games the Giants and 49ers used to play -- games in which quarterbacks would get knocked out and teams could win without even scoring a touchdown, as the Giants did in the NFC Championship Game in January 1991.
But in this version, the roles have been reversed.
"During the era in which I played, they had the great quarterback and we had the great defense," former linebacker and current Giants broadcaster Carl Banks said. "I'm not discounting Phil Simms, but in the eyes of the world, that was the perception. Now it's the opposite."
"What everybody said about them all year long is true," said Simms, now a broadcaster for CBS. "The 49ers getting off the bus, they might be the best-looking team in the NFL. It's incredible when I watch them. It looks like everybody just came out of the weight room and is ready to go."
The Giants have the elite quarterback in Eli Manning and dangerous targets in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham. But they also want to be considered the tough guys, even against the very impressive 49ers.
"That is going to be a very big point in this game, who's the most physical team, who's the team that wants it more," tackle David Diehl said. "Who's the team that wants to lay it all on the line is the team that's going to win this game."
The Giants certainly are aware of what is coming their way, particularly from Gore and the running game.
"I'm sure they're going to try to establish their running game," Justin Tuck said. "It's going to come down to us being able to stop that. They're a smash-mouth type of football team. They're going to stick with it until you stop it. They repeat plays, and for good reason."
Tuck said he understands why.
"If I was playing a Madden [video] game and I loaded up the box and ran it all game, I wouldn't change it either," he said. "That's going to be kind of part of our [mentality]. Man-on-man, just making sure we get them out of their game. If we are able to do that, we stand a good chance to come out with a win. If not, it's going to be a long day in San Fran."