Saturday, November 05, 2005

Giants Look To Avoid Letdown In San Francisco

The Giants (5-2) have won two straight games entering San Francisco (2-5) Sunday (4:15 PM). They are coming off back-to-back emotional home wins over Denver and Washington. Two weeks ago against Denver with Wellington Mara ailing, Big Blue came from 23-10 down to win 24-23 on a last second touchdown from Eli Manning to Amani Toomer. Last week after paying their final respects to Mara, the Giants dominated every aspect in a 36-0 romp over the Redskins to take over first in the NFC East.

Tiki Barber rushed for a career best 206 yards and a touchdown. Afterwards, in a classy gesture, Barber gave the ball to one of Mara's grandsons, Tim McDonnell.

"It was a big day and a special day for me, especially considering the events of the past week," said Barber last week. "It's something I'll never forget."

Now, Big Blue must avoid a letdown on the road against an inferior but dangerous opponent in the 49ers. The Giants have yet to officially win a game away from Giants Stadium. Manning has never won on the road in his two-year career. Those things must change if New York is to continue the momentum they have.

"We have to challenge ourselves (because) we have not won on the road yet," noted Coach Tom Coughlin. "If we want to be the kind of team that we all profess to want to be, we have to win on the road. So there is the huge challenge right there."

The match-up pits the NFL's top scoring offense (29.9 PPG) against the league's worst defense (31.7 PPG). So, it should be an easy win, right? Not so fast. Try telling that to Tampa Bay last week, who were upset by the 49ers 15-10. Fourth string quarterback Cody Pickett came in for injured third stringer Ken Dorsey and helped spring the upset. Pickett will be looking to duplicate that success at Monster Park today.

Coughlin knows that his team must not take San Francisco lightly.

"If you stub your toe and don't follow that direction, you're going to have problems in this league," he said.

On Pickett, Coughlin has a hunch what could be in store.

"He is a very good athlete, without a doubt," he said. "And he has the ability to run the ball. He runs very well. He hasn’t been under the center very long to have some of the experiences that take place. He did finish the game strongly last weekend, and actually got some key first downs to keep the ball away from Tampa Bay."

Pickett will have help on the ground from leading rusher Kevin Barlow (420 yards, 2 TDs) and former Hurricane rookie Frank Gore (238 yards, TD). His main target could be Brandon Lloyd (21 receptions, 387 yards, 3 TDs).

Coming off their most convincing week on D, the Giants must come with the same emotion and not get lulled to sleep. They'll need big days from Michael Strahan (team best 6.5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (5 sacks), Antonio Pierce (team leading 61 tackles, 2 Ints), Gibril Wilson (53 tackles, Int), Will Allen (33 tackles) and Curtis DeLoatch (30 tackles, Int).

On offense, Big Blue looks for a big day from Manning (1560 yards, 13 TDs, 5 Ints), Barber (689 rushing yards, 5 TDs), Plaxico Burress (40 receptions, 577 yards, 5 TDs), Jeremy Shockey (28 catches, 4 TDs) and a rejuvenated Toomer (21 receptions, 2 TDs).

Two players New York must be aware of are Tony Parrish (38 tackles, 2 Ints) and Julian Peterson (25 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Both are capable of making big plays.

If the Giants need any extra motivation, they have lost the last six to the 49ers and 11 of their last 13 in San Francisco. They'll look to change that trend Sunday.


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