New York Giants
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In merely two weeks, the New York Giants went from zeros as in zero wins to 2-2, a record that breathes new life into their locker room.
When they host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, the Giants obviously hope to extend their modest two-game winning streak to three.
However, the Giants aren't looking at the 49ers (1-3) as a pushover, despite a three-game losing streak in which San Francisco was outscored by 72 points (a combined score of 107-28)
"They're very well-coached football team," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "They're physical, they have a lot of very good players that we know of and new players as well. There's quite a mixture there."
Despite Coughlin's praise, the 49ers have significant issues that consistently cost them.
Defensively, San Francisco allowed 17 big-pass plays of 20 or more yards, tying them for third in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.
That doesn't mean that the Giants' offense plans to air it out Sunday night, despite impressive stats that show they are four of 15 for 127 yards and two touchdowns on deep pass plays of 20 yards or more, according to detailed data from Pro Football Focus.
"If there are opportunities to take some big plays, then we'll take them," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "If not, then we just gotta run our offense, get the short completions, run the ball well, and just play our game."
The Giants offense also hopes to follow up on last week's 92-yard rushing effort. The 49ers's run defense is 20th in the league, allowing opponents 114.0 rushing yards per game.
Defensively, the Giants will face yet another dual-threat quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. His ability to run is an ever-present concern. But his ability as a passer this year seems to be more of an opportunity than a problem for opponents. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes this season, but threw five interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
The interceptions are of particular interest to the Giants defense, whose five picks tie them for sixth in the league (with New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles).
While the Giants defense respects Kaepernick for his arm in spite of his rough start, it is the damage he can do with his legs that is the focus of the Giants' No. 1 ranked run defense.
"Kaepernick can beat you with his legs," said linebacker Devon Kennard. "He's very athletic and can do a lot of different things."
"Colin is a very versatile quarterback who can hurt you in the run game," added linebacker J. T. Thomas. "But the variety of runs they give you. ... They can attack you in all areas of the field outside zone plays, inside zone plays, zone reads.
"With a running quarterback, you have to have every gap defended. They have an extra guy when you count their quarterback, so it will be a tall task for us, but we're committed to getting that run stopped first and foremost and seeing how things fall out after that."
SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. Series tied, 15-15. Each team has also won eight at home and lost seven as visitors. The two teams are also tied in postseason games, 4-4. Overall (regular- and postseason), the Giants have outscored the 49ers 755-741.