GIANTS (10-6) vs. 49ERS (10-6)
January 05, 2003
-- WHEN: Today, 1:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Candlestick Park
-- TV: 2 40
-- RADIO: 810 (KGO AM)
-- Story line: These two teams head into this game going in different directions. The Giants needed to win four in a row to make the playoffs, which they did. In the process they handily beat the playoff-bound Colts and Packers.
The 49ers limp in after losing four of their last seven, and has yet to dominate a game from start to finish. Center Jeremy Newberry provided New York with bulletin-board material by saying the 49ers would kick the Giants' tail, before backpedaling and saying he believes that before he plays any opponent. Nevertheless, there might be a little more emotion than usual today. The Giants were in wide receiver Terrell Owens' face throughout the night in their season-opener. The 49ers will try to do the same to their highly emotional star, tight end Jeremy Shockey.
-- When the 49ers have the ball: The 49ers will see if the Giants' secondary will sit back in a two-deep zone to take away wide receiver Terrell Owens as they did in the opener. If that occurs, expect running backs Kevan Barlow and Garrison Hearst to try and establish the running game. The Giants are not as strong against the run since losing defensive tackle Keith Hamilton to a torn Achilles tendon in October. Even if the Giants play a soft zone, Owens is likely to get plenty of looks. He has since learned to crack the two- deep scheme. Also, when the 49ers go with three wide receivers, and Owens lines up in the slot, he'll probably face Giants nickel back Jason Sehorn, a matchup that favors the 49ers. Cornerback Will Allen did a great job on Owens in the opener. Allen usually played off him, and when the 49ers responded with three quick hitch passes, Allen made the tackle on Owens each time by going low and corralling him around the ankles. Owens also got frustrated early, when Jeff Garcia didn't hit him immediately with a pass in the end zone. The slight delay allowed safety Omar Stoutmire to place a big hit on Owens. Owens' on-field demeanor seems to have improved since that game and also apparently feels close to 100 percent after taking two weeks off to rest a groin injury.
-- When the Giants have the ball: The idea here is not to let wide receiver Amani Toomer rule the game, particularly if cornerback Jason Webster doesn't play. Webster was targeted by Toomer and Collins in the first half of the opener, when the pair combined for six catches and 95 yards. Expect the 49ers to help Mike Rumph with a safety over the top against Toomer. That could free up tight end Shockey, so the pressure is on strong safety Tony Parrish and linebacker Julian Peterson to keep Shockey in check. A rookie, Shockey had yet to become an essential part of the Giants offense in the opening game. The Giants threw seven passes to him, he caught three of them for 44 yards and had one crucial drop late in the game on a tight end screen that probably would have gone for a big gain. If Webster does not play, the 49ers might have to rely on turnovers to stop the Giants. Even against a healthy Webster, Collins threw for 342 yards in the opener, but was undone by three interceptions. Also, the 49ers might be placing extra focus on running back Tiki Barber, who fumbled three times in the regular-season finale against the Eagles.
-- Injuries: 49ers -- LB Saleem Rasheed (thigh), G Ron Stone (ankle), CB Webster are questionable. DE Sean Moran (Achilles), T Derrick Deese (ankle), RB Barlow, WR Owens (groin) are probable. Giants -- WR Ron Dixon (knee) is questionable.
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