First, I apologize for the late post.  I actually went to the game on Sunday and then went out that night, and because I had a ton of stuff to do yesterday for my day job, I didn’t get a chance to watch the tape until last night.

Second, I find it hard to believe that people are complaining about Sunday’s win.  If a 12-point win that would have been a 22-point win if not for the fluke of having a field-goal blocked and returned for a touchdown isn’t enough, then the sense of entitlement in this town is completely out of control.

Sure, the 49ers handed us the game.  But we took it, and didn’t give them a chance to take it back.  Was there really ever a doubt about the outcome?  Of course not.  The G-Men won going away.  As fans, we should be happy our team is capable of this even when they don’t play their best.

**

As long as I’m accentuating the positive, I’ll start with the defense.  Going into the game, the big concern was our pass rush, which had been nonexistent against the Browns.  Also, the fact that we hadn’t forced many turnovers this year was threatening to become a gathering concern.

Both trends reversed against the Niners: We racked up six sacks, “forced” two interceptions (granted, that might be a stretch) and four O’Sullivan fumbles, one of which we recovered and one of which led to the safety that put the game away.  (Nothing more fun than dong the safety dance – the contradictory motion of powerfully bringing your hands above your head like He-Man while gyrating your hips like a teenaged girl.)

For much of the first half, O’Sullivan actually did a good job evading our blitzes and finding guys.  But that changed very abruptly, as he went on to play a brutal game.  But still, credit our defense for completely shutting the Niners down in the second half, during which they gained just 67 yards and managed a mere four first downs.

There are many game balls to go around on D:

Justin Tuck was thoroughly disruptive and made a sweeeeeeet play when he forced that fumble that led to the safety by coming around the edge and deftly separating the ball from O’Sullivan’s hand.

Robbins and Cofield consistently got great penetration into the backfield on a day where we made 12(!) tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Michael Johnson, an overlooked member of the 2007 draft class considering he has probably had the biggest role the past couple years, made the first two picks of his career.  The first one was easy, but the second one was impressive: he did a good job recognizing the post route and turning his hips, and then took a good angle on the coverage of the receiver.  The guy is a pretty good player.

Chase Blackburn started in place of Pierce and frankly looked faster and more physical than him.  Blackburn notched twelve tackles, two of them for losses, and forced a fumble of O’Sullivan.  I know Pierce is the leader of the defense and everything, but I’m sure most Giants fans will join me in telling him to take his time getting back.

And Spags.  Maybe the magic isn’t gone.  As ineffective as the blitz packages were against the Browns, they were that good against the Niners.  Like all sports, football is a game of adjustments and counter-adjustments.  The league adjusted to Spags, and if Sunday’s game is any indication, he countered.

On the downside, much has been made of Aaron Ross’ recent struggles – he even sat on the bench on a couple series’ in the second half while Dockery filled in.  But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.  On the touchdown he allowed, he actually did a pretty good job in single coverage until the ball was in the air, at which point he suffered a very uncharacteristic breakdown in ball-skills.  Against the Browns, he had a rough game; against the Niners, he had a rough moment.  He’s good, he’ll bounce back, so let’s move on.

**

On offense, not so great, but serviceable enough.

Eli wasn’t at his best, going 16 for 31 for 161 yards.  He averaged 5.2 yards per attempt, well below the standard he has set for himself this season of 7.3, and even his career mark of 6.4. 

And no, he didn’t throw a pick, but there were two balls that probably could have been picks (one on an out to Smith that the defender undercut and could have taken to the house had the ball not been thrown high).  He also had four passes tipped, a distressing reemergence of an early-career trend that we are probably lucky didn’t lead to a pick.

But while it wasn’t a good game, it was an adequate game.  And sometimes, good and even great quarterbacks play merely adequate games.  Will that type of effort cut it against Pittsburgh?  Probably not.  But who among us isn’t confident Eli won’t play better next week?

At receiver, the game ball goes to Steve Smith.  If all Chris Carter did is catch touchdowns, all this guy does is catch first downs.  What a nice player.  Such great field sense and such good body control.  This guy is gonna be good for a long time.

Although we only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, I was actually pleased with the running game.  Not counting Eli’s rushing line (3 carries for -4 yards), we averaged 4 yards per carry, which isn’t bad considering we were sitting a lead for most of the second half.

Jacobs, who I’ve been harsh on in the past, was very good, as he has been all year.  On his first touchdown run, he made a nice little hesitation before squirting through a small hole, a sign of his improved feel for the holes this year.  On his second touchdown run, he kept his legs driving after the initial contact and plowed into the endzone decisively.  He’s been excellent, and it’s time for me to admit I was too harsh on him.  (Although the first-series fumble was worrisome.)

Ward, as usual, was terrific.  Announcers don’t seem to have caught on to how powerful this guy’s lower body is.  On that third down pass play in the first quarter – before Ahmad’s fourth down conversion – Ward pushed the pile a solid three to four yards, getting us close enough to compel Tom to go for it.  It should also be noted that Ward is a really smooth receiver.

And Bradshaw, despite the fumble, was impressive as well.  Sure, he only managed 28 yards on 8 carries, but he was facing 8 and 9-man fronts during clock-killing time.  For as sparingly as that guy is used, he always manages to do at least one thing that shows how good he is.

It seems like Coughlin and Gilbride are loosening up their rigid running back hierarchy, something long called for here at NYGMen.  Using Bradshaw on that fourth down toss-sweep was an inspired stroke.  It also seemed like they worked in the backs at different points of a series, rather than just being like, “Ok Brandon, it’s your series.  You take every carry.”

And Tom deserves credit for going for it on that fourth down play.  When you’re dominating the line of scrimmage like we were early in the game, you have to make hay.

The papers have tried to create a to-do about Plax, who seemed to be in a terrible mood all game.  There was the sequence with the personal foul followed by cursing at Coughlin, though that seems like a much bigger deal to everyone else than to the Giants.  Coughlin actually defended Plax, saying something along the lines of, “He’s a competitor.  Shit happens.”

And let me ask you, was it me, or was Plax’s gesture of firing the ball into the stands after his fourth quarter touchdown a kind of “fuck-you” to the fans, who booed him after the personal foul?  But whatever.  As a fan, I’ve made the same calculation as Coughlin: the guy can tell me to go fuck myself every once in a while when he’s PMSing, and I’m not gonna get bent out of shape.  He’ll get over it and generally be a great receiver for me.  Plax is a moody, mercurial athlete, but he’s worth it: my guess is he has a huge game against the Steelers next week and gets people off his back.