Giants safety Deon Grant participated in his first day of...

Giants safety Deon Grant participated in his first day of training camp at the Timex Performance Center. (Aug. 16, 2011) Credit: Joe Epstein

The strategy starts long before Sunday.

Deon Grant likes to play tough, and he likes to talk that way, too. And he believes that approach has a lot to do with the fact that there have been so few big passing plays against the Giants in the postseason.

Packers receivers had eight drops in the Giants' 37-20 upset in Sunday's divisional playoff game. Grant wants people to know that didn't happen in a vacuum.

"It's not like they are wide open every time and they are dropping passes," the defensive back said Thursday. "Sometimes they are dropping passes and they have a safety or a defensive back or a linebacker in their face. Even if there is nobody in their face, there might be plays before that where we've hit them and have them thinking about it.

"The whole week, we were talking about getting physical with those guys," said Grant, who had to come off the field for a spell in the third quarter after suffering a head injury. "I know that every time we had a chance to get our hands on them, we took advantage of it. Every time I got a chance to hit someone, I was trying to take their head off."

Grant wants the 49ers' receivers to think about this: The Giants plan to continue their hard-hitting ways in Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park. "We're going to set a tone," he said.

Safety Kenny Phillips agreed, adding that as the game wore on, he could see in the faces of some of the Packers' receivers that they were thinking about getting hit. The Giants want the 49ers' pass-catchers to be thinking the same way.

"We definitely want to be physical from the very start of the game," Phillips said.

In the 49ers' 36-32 win over the Saints last week, Alex Smith connected with eight different receivers. Three of his targets -- tight end Vernon Davis, running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Michael Crabtree -- had 18 of the 24 receptions for 243 of the 299 passing yards.

Grant said the secondary's No. 1 goal is to force Smith into checkdowns by taking away his primary targets. That is quite a challenge with a big, fast tight end such as Davis, but Grant says it's a challenge he and his teammates are up for.

"Our confidence is high,'' Grant said. "That's the way we're playing right now."

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