Normally each week I try and put together a five question exchange with an opposing team's blogger to get a better idea of what exactly their team brings to the table. This week, in chatting with Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, he came up with a fun suggestion. Instead of simply exchanging five questions, he suggested using g-chat (via gmail for those without gmail) to discuss the game. This would allow for a bit better exchange of thoughts and follow-up questions depending on where the discussion ranged.
We discussed a wide range of topics in preparation for the game. We discussed everything from their impressive pass rush to the importance of Eli Manning in the Giants offense. And of course, given the importance of the 49ers coaching staff, I find it necessary to inquire about the opposition's coach. The 49ers have benefited from great coaching, so that always remains a key matchup to watch. Head after the jump to view the conversation. I cleaned up parts of it, but once in a while you may see some lower case letters as is often the case with instant message conversations.
Fooch: The defense seemed to do good work for three strong quarters against the Patriots. What is the primary strength of the Giants defense?
Edward: Pass rush. You have Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, plus Mathias Kiwanuka playing linebacker, and quality defensive tackles. The Giants have been burned for some long runs, but they seem to be getting better with their run defense, too.
The Giants had Tom Brady cringing on Sunday and ducking when there weren't even guys there to hit him, so they got into his head a bit.
Fooch: Yea, I noticed Brady looking rather flustered against that pass rush Thank goodness Alex Smith has improved in holding onto the ball while being driven into the ground.
Edward: Some things never change. No matter how much good he does there are still people who don't believe in Eli Manning.
Fooch: They seem to be in somewhat similar situations in that regard. Smith is in a position where if the 49ers were to somehow win the Super Bowl this year, some folks would still voice complaints about Smith Although it's not exactly parallel, Smith is kind of in a similar position to Trent Dilfer when he was starting for that Super Bowl-winning Ravens squad. I think Smith is better at this point, but it's built around the dominant defense
Edward: Well, Eli has a ring and for the past three years people have still looked at him and said he isn't good enough. Right now there is only one quarterback in the league playing better, in my mind, and that's Aaron Rodgers. I'm not saying Eli is better than Brady or Brees, because he's not. But the guy has engineered five game-winning fourth-quarter drives this year, has a fourth quarter QB rating of 120+, I think, and he's been phenomenal. No quarterback is perfect, but it's hard to play much better than Manning has so far.
The Giants live and die with Manning. The running game has been sporadic, he audibles about 40 percent of the plays at the line. This is his offense, plain and simple.
Fooch: Was his three interception performance against the Seahawks just one of those ugly performances that happen from time to time?
Edward: Yeah ... one bad throw, one tipped ball when Cruz slipped and one end of game 'we're losing and the game is almost so I'm just gonna chuck it in there and try to make a play' kind of throws. I think he has thrown less than five 'bad' balls all season. The really off-target head scratchers or the ones where you go 'what was he thinking?'
Fooch: How do Giants fans view the game?
Edward: We have come to understand that this is a flawed team that hasn't run the ball as consistently as a Tom Coughlin team usually does, one that gives up too many big plays and one that doesn't look pretty. But we have also come to understand that there is no quit in this team, that there are a number of playmaking weapons on both sides of the ball and that they can beat any team in the league when they don't beat themselves. The 49ers are no exception. Of course, the Giants are also capable of occasionally laying an egg.
Fooch: Tom Coughlin has been around the Giants for quite some time now. There were some moments where it seemed like things were on the verge of falling apart, but he helped turn them into Super Bowl champs and has done great work there. What does he bring to the table?
Edward: The perception of Coughlin is so funny. There is constantly this belief that he doesn't relate to the players, that his job is on the line, that he is getting too old .. all you needed to do is watch the New England game and the video of the way the players treated him in the locker room after the game to see that that is a bunch of nonsense.
The biggest thing Coughlin brings is really that he now has a track record of success, he believes in what he does and he believes in his players. Throughout the massive number of injuries and free agent defections his message never changed -- and that was that we have good players, the next guy up just has to do the job and if we stop beating ourselves (which was the biggest problem) a year ago we have a very good football team. It's his consistency and his focus, I think.
By the way, if you haven't seen that video it's here ... http://www.giants.com/media-
Fooch: If you could take one player off the 49ers roster and put him in your lineup, who would it be?
Edward: The guy I would take from the 49ers is, at first glance, obvious ... I would jump at the chance to put Patrick Willis in a Giants uniform. The Giants could use an impact linebacker, although Kiwanuka and Michael Boley have been terrific this year. Jake Ballard has been surprisingly good at tight end, but I wouldn't mind an accomplished guy like Vernon Davis, either.
Fooch: Tell us a few players we should watch for who we might not know much about.
Edward: Let's start with Ballard. This is a guy who was an undrafted free agent was was on the practice squad last year. He got the job this year after Kevin Boss left for Oakland because there wasn't anybody else. Boss caught 35 balls a year ago, and Ballard already has 23 w/an average of 17.2 yards per catch. The guy is 6-foot-6, 275!
Cruz, of course, is not really under the radar anymore. Will Beatty is in his first year starting at left tackle, and has been very good. Defensively, second-year guy Linval Joseph and veterans Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard have been very good at the tackles.