Giants-49ers: Rolle Sparks Dominant Defensive Performance

Jim Mancari , Contributor

Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle is sometimes accused of doing more talking off the field than playing football on the field. However, that was far from the case this afternoon, as Rolle’s two interceptions paced a dominant defensive performance in Big Blue’s 26-3 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Rolle’s interceptions were incredibly timely and gave the Giants’ offense great field position to put points on the board. Alex Smith, who came into the game with the league’s top quarterback rating (108.7), threw a total of three interceptions on the day after only throwing one in the prior five games.

The 49ers entered this contest as the leading rushing team in the NFL, averaging 196.2 yards per game. And if it was any consolation, San Francisco got off to a fast start offensively both on the ground and through the air.

On their first two drives, the 49ers marched down the field on the Giants’ defense, but they settled for only three points, as David Akers missed his first field-goal attempt and made his second. The Giants’ defensive front got pressure on Smith, but he was able to make quick throws over the middle.

The 49ers converted on four of their first six third-down plays, which kept their offense on the field for most of the first quarter. Frank Gore found lanes up the middle, and the Giants had trouble dragging him to the ground.

In total, the 49ers recorded seven first downs and 122 yards of offense in the first quarter, but the Giants’ defense seemed to gain a jolt of confidence from holding the 49ers to just three points after the two sustained drives. From the start of the second quarter on, the Giants defense was downright stingy, starting with Prince Amukamara’s first interception of the season.

The Giants’ D-line was finally able to complete plays in the offensive backfield, recording six sacks on the day: two by Jason Pierre-Paul and one each by Jacquian Williams, Linval Joseph, Matthias Kiwanuka and Adrian Tracy.

Former Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham had a good offensive day for the 49ers against his previous team with five catches for 72 yards. However, a player that burned the Giants for three touchdowns in two games last year, Vernon Davis, was held to just three catches for 37 yards on the day.

As for Gore, he rushed for 36 yards in the first half, and that was it, as the 49ers became more pass-happy in the second half. The 49ers were coming off a game against the Buffalo Bills in which they rushed for 311 yards, but the Giants were able to thwart that attack and forced San Francisco to throw the ball by establishing the lead.

The Giants have shown that mobile quarterbacks can beat them, so the 49ers made it a point to run plays out of their wildcat package with backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But aside from a 55-yard completion from Kaepernick to Randy Moss and a few mop-up throws at the end of the game, the Giants defended the wildcat nicely.

It was great to see Rolle get in on the action. Without Kenny Phillips and Terrell Thomas, Rolle stabilizes the Giants secondary, and plays like the two interceptions today set the tone for his teammates.

The Giants are usually the team that plays from behind, but creating turnovers and putting points on the board offensively allowed the defense to put forward a complete effort.

Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.