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Breaking down NFL Championship Sunday

My game notes from the AFC and NFC Title games. Matt Bowen

Print This January 23, 2012, 12:43 AM EST

NFC Championship
Giants 20 49ers 17 OT

Eli Manning ICONManning is heading back to the Super Bowl after the Giants beat the 49ers 20-17 in the NFC Championship.

Another Super Bowl trip for Manning: The Giants’ QB battled vs. a defense in San Fran that hits, tackles with power and collapses the pocket. Manning targeted Cruz in the middle of the field, got the ball to Mario Manningham on the skinny post vs. a single high safety look and finished with 316-yards and 2 TDs to earn his second trip to the Super Bowl. And he did it vs. pressure from one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. I saw a QB that was once again in control of the game plan.

Special teams turnovers: They are a killer in the post season and 49ers’ return man Kyle Williams put the ball on the ground—twice. In regulation (ball off of Williams’ knee) that is a play where the returner has to make a choice. Go get the ball and secure some field position or let it go. You never want to put yourself in a situation where the ball can take a bad bounce and touch you. In OT, this is more about the Giants’ coverage unit making a play, but again we are talking about ball security. And when you turn it over and give the offense plus field position to work with in OT, it is time to head home for the offseason. 

Victor Cruz: The Giants’ WR beat up CB Carlos Rogers—and it started with his release at the line of scrimmage. Cruz was able to win vs. press-man, work routes that break back to the middle of the field and come back and get the football. Rogers was consistently stuck trailing the play and there was separation created by Cruz. Eli Manning and the Giants want to throw the underneath crosser, the dig route and the curl in their offensive scheme and Cruz was able to beat a Pro Bowler doing it. 10 catches for 142-yards. Those are legit numbers.

49ers’ lack of execution on third downs: The Niners went 1-13 on third downs today. That’s bad football. With the Giants’ front four rush, they can play Cover 2 and 2-man in the secondary to take away the deep dig, seam, etc. But there still needs to be some productive in crucial situations from Alex Smith and this Niners’ offense. Because outside of the two big pays to Vernon Davis (which I will break down), this offense didn’t have an answer for Perry Fewell’s defensive scheme when it was time to move the sticks.

Vernon Davis vs. the Giants’ safeties: Last opportunity we have this season to break down the 49ers’ TE and he followed up his production from the win over the Saints last week with two more TDs against Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. He beat Rolle with the safety playing off-man with a “bail” technique (back to the sideline) on the straight 9 (fade) route and took care of Phillips on a the double move (stick out and up). Three receptions for 112-yards. I don't see many safeties in the NFL that can check Davis in man-coverage.

Stay with the NFP all week for our coverage down in Mobile, AL at the Senior Bowl...

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