As the Giants and Niners gear up for what has developed into a classic East Coast-West Coast battle, there has been plenty of back and forth between the two NFC squads.
Carlos Rogers is threatening to perform Victor Cruz’s salsa. Jim Harbaugh is taking jabs at the Giants’ coaching staff.
But how about what’s going to take place on the field. Here’s three key match-ups to watch for:
Victor Cruz v. Carlos Rogers
Salsa aside, Rogers has struggled mightily against the Giants’ speedster in their past two contests.
Cruz, who is tied for the league’s lead in touchdown passes and is fourth in the league with 37 receptions, has had success against the Niners’ corner in the past.
In the teams’ regular season game last year, Cruz caught six passes for 84 yards. He then hauled in 10 for 142 in the NFC Championship Game.
So no, he hasn’t salsa-ed against the 49ers … just yet.
But it was Rogers who shadowed Cruz most of the time last season, and despite allowing Cruz a lot of yardage, he managed two interceptions of Eli Manning.
It certainly helps to have Hakeem Nicks back opposite of him, too.
Justin Smith v. David Baas, Kevin Boothe
Smith is a one-man wrecking crew, and the Giants are already aware of that.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride made snarky comments that Smith holds offensive linemen. In reality, however, he’s just good … really good.
Smith is a run swallower and still has the ability to rush the passer. In the two meetings last year, Smith totaled 13 tackles, a sack and a pass defended.
It’ll be up to Baas and Boothe to contain Smith from his right defensive tackle position.
Last year, the Niners sacked Manning six times and hit him another six times.
The G-Men have only surrendered five sacks through five games, second best in the NFL, and have allowed just 11 quarterback hits — that’s the fewest in the league.
Giants’ D-Line v. 49ers’ OTs
The Giants’ defensive line is becoming a key match-up every week, largely because they’ve yet to show up this season.
Through five games, eight sacks, uncharacteristic for Big Blue.
Whether or not Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. can get to Alex Smith remains to be seen. Making him uncomfortable, however, is essential.
The 49ers protect the rock well very well. Smith has just one interception to date. But it was turnovers that caused the 49ers the loss in the playoffs to these Giants.
The Niners have allowed 12 sacks this season, and last year the Giants alone accounted for five.
Everyone is wondering: Will this be the game the Giants’ pass rush returns?