While going through today's Nuggets, these same words kept coming up over and over to describe the 49ers win against the Giants: ugly, sloppy, struggle, etc. It's the usual reaction to call this type of game an "ugly win". I would contend however that this is just a matter of perspective, one that is taken mostly from an offensive or scoring-minded view. But if you just turn off that bias for a moment, and look at this game from the perspective of the defense, then this was an absolutely beautiful performance, a real gem of a game.
The Vic Fangio-led defense executed a masterful game plan against Eli Manning, constantly disrupting him and his offense, never allowing Eli to get comfortable the whole game. Aldon Smith's return, along with the emergence of 5th round pick Aaron Lynch put New York's protection schemes under constant duress. Even if there were only two recorded sacks, it was quite clear that the pressure heavily affected the Giants passing game. The secondary benefited greatly, teaming up with rookie ILB Chris Borland for a total of 5 interceptions, which was Eli Manning's career worst.
And how much more can we say about the stellar play of Borland in filling the huge shoes that Patrick Willis' injured toe left behind? Chris Borland is probably the best metaphor for the 49ers success for the remainder of the season. Borland is not tall enough, with arms that are way too short, to look like a stud linebacker. The words "physical specimen" would never be used to describe him, yet he defies belief by making play after play. And it's not just the mundane plays either. He has shown a knack for making the big play in big situations.
In the same way, this year's version of the 49ers look nothing like the successful Harbaugh teams of the past three years, yet it is still right in the middle of the playoff race. Injuries and suspensions have taken away key superstars, yet somehow the depth of the team has made it resilient enough to battle through all the heartbreaking losses, the injuries, and the media distractions. Wash off all that mud, and this team looks like it's got a lot of fight in it. You only have to stare at that photo of Borland releasing the warrior's scream to know that this year's 49ers ain't done yet.
49ers defense stands up in ugly win (Biderman)
Recap: NY Giants vs. San Francisco (SacBee)
Rapid Reaction: San Francisco 49ers (Gutierrez)