With the continuing success of the 49ers defensive front, I have worried less and less about the opponents run game as the weeks go by. With that said, any stress that I may be caused will no doubt be coming from the receiving corps of the New York Giants, who are all capable of making big plays.
The 49ers secondary, which in recent years has been a weakness, has been performing exceptionally well this year. They've benefited from a dominant front seven and contributed to the Niners being the number one ranked scoring defense. In week 10 against the visiting Giants, it will be interesting to see how they match-up against their receivers.
New York primarily touts Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and an emerging Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard in the passing game. Nicks, who returned to practice today, has been Eli Manning's go-to guy and someone the 49ers must lockup on gameday if he suits up.
If Nicks plays, I think he would be deserving of Carlos Rogers' full attention. Rogers has been having a great season, and is no stranger to the Manning-Nicks tandem, coming from the NFC East's Washington Redskins. Given his experience and level of play this season, I'd be comfortable if his sole priority for the day is Nicks.
Victor Cruz has been pretty good for the Giants, stepping up to fill the void left by Steve Smith. He's made big plays for them in big moments and is an athletic downfield threat. For this match-up, I am going to go out on a limb and say Chris Culliver should assume responsibilities for Cruz's whereabouts.
Culliver is one of the rookies who has surprised me most in 2011, and I'm pleased with the level he is at already. He has already recorded his first career interception, but if you watch him closely in games, he plays disciplined, physical football. I think he has the physical tools to not only stay with Cruz, but give him a tough time at the line of scrimmage.
And Manningham should command the attention of Tarell Brown for the most of the game. Brown has played well enough to start opposite Rogers, and seems to fit the scheme that Vic Fangio runs. He's also been a good tackler so far this season.
As for the Giants tight end Jake Ballard, I think mixing it up with Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner in coverages would work just fine. Ballard is a big physical guy who can beat up on the defender. I think the best way to deal with someone like that would be to beat him at his own game, and Goldson and Whitner have been nothing but physical this season.
They won't be outmatched in coverage, and the linebackers could help out as well when the safeties are being asked to do different things. The mental mistakes that once plagued this secondary seem to have been eradicated by Jim Harbaugh and the defensive coaches. And the fact that the 49ers have already faced competent passing attacks this season in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Detroit, bodes well for them going into this game.
This should be a very competitive match in week 10 when New York goes on the road to face the #2 ranked team. If San Francisco wins on Sunday, it will be their 7th straight victory.
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