Kevin Gilbride was asked on Thursday what makes the 49ers' defensive front so effective, and he spoke a full paragraph -- as he often does -- about how talented, tough and fast they are. He called defensive tackle Justin Smith "a beast" and said the entire unit is likely the best in the league.

"As formidable as anybody we go against, and we go against some pretty good ones in Dallas' and Philadelphia's," the Giants' offensive coordinator said. "They're as good as anybody up front."

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He also mentioned in his answer that Smith "does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place" while noting that "he never gets called for it so he gets away with murder."

That last part so irked 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh that he didn't just mention it to his team and didn't wait to address it during a media session with reporters. He took the unusual step of issuing a statement on the matter.

"Kevin Gilbride's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Justin Smith's play is, first, an absurd analogy. Second, it is an incendiary comment targeting one of the truly exemplary players in this league. It's obvious that the Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating."