The Saturday Game: Saints @ 49ers

The 49ers came out as hungry and passionate as I can ever remember seeing a team play. They went nuts on defense and special teams, forcing the Saints into just too many turnovers that even Drew Brees couldn’t manage to handle.

Alex Smith played an incredible game and mastered the quick scoring drive by taking the lead back twice with less than four minutes to go. One with a 28 yard run himself and the other with a laser throw right in the chest of Vernon Davis who handled hard hits from two defenders to hold onto the ball in the end zone with :09 on the clock.

As great of a game as they played on all three sides of the ball, and I’m not taking anything away from them this week, but is Alex Smith really a Superbowl quarterback? I know the story, seven offensive coordinators in seven years. However many head coaches over that same time. Yea, he stepped his game up to a tremendous level Saturday and came up with a huge win for his resume and that franchise, but ultimately I don’t see him competing for a championship right now.

Drew Brees is an incredible quarterback, no question about it. But his short term memory and extreme confidence was ultimately his downfall in this game because he kept putting balls in a position to get stolen by that swarming 9ers defense. Although Eli is known to throw his share of picks from time to time, he is smart in tough spots and knows how to play within what a defense is giving him.

The Sunday Game: Giants @ Packers

In another dominating performance by the New York Football Giants, they set the record for largest margin of victory ever posted by a visiting team to eliminate a defending Super Bowl champ and improved their all-time post-season record against defending champs to 3-0 (from Elias Sports Bureau).

Eli looked great as usual (21 – 33, 330 yards, 3 TDs/1 INT, 114.5 rating). Poised in the pocket, taking sacks instead of throwing bad passes, lobbing 66 yard jump balls into the end zone with time expiring, you know, the usual.

The running attack looked very sluggish to me all game. They were hitting the line of scrimmage and getting no where. Jacobs carried the ball 9 times for just 22 yards and lost that passion behind his runs I talked about last week. He made it easy to look passed those poor rushing attempts with his 14 yard TD run with 2:36 left to seal the deal (now that makes his game stats 8 rushes for 8 yards, by the way). On that run, both teams all pushed toward one sideline and he had just enough of a head start to make it to the opposite corner of the field without getting caught. He needs to get that passion back in order to really make a difference for this Giants team. Bradshaw also had trouble finding the holes that are surely not going to be any bigger against San Francisco’s monster defense.

I’m not as high on the Giants secondary as many people seem to be. I thought they gave the Green Bay receivers too much space to make catches. Luckily, they couldn’t capitalize and dropped over 7 easy balls. Fortunately, that’s not something that scares me going forward against the 49ers. If the Giants were able to hold Finley to just 4 catches for 37 yards, they should be able to do something similar with Vernon Davis.

That being said, the dropped balls did make up for the horrific officiating. I don’t think it could have been any clearer that the officials were pushing for Green Bay to make it to the next round. The Jennings non-fumble was without question the worst call I’ve seen in the instant replay era. Mr. Magoo could have told you Jennings lost control before hitting the ground on that replay.

The line didn’t get to Rodgers like I’d hoped (0 sacks, 0 knock downs, 0 hits in the first half), but they finally came alive in the second half and made big time plays. Osi started the beginning of the end with his strip of Rodgers and they started to swallow him by the end of the game leaving Rodgers with an abysmal 78.5 passer rating (44 points lower than his season rating).

And just for the record, I predicted this game (34 – 24) closer than Amani Toomer who I spoke with on Twitter Saturday.

Click to see full sized image of me Tweetin' with Toomer

Looking forward to next week, I don’t think San Francisco can duplicate their showing from Saturday and the Giants will continue to roll as they have over the last month (especially against second time opponents they’ve almost beaten). Again, my extremely bias pick, the Giants winning again on the road, 27 – 20 with San Fran scoring late to make the game look closer than it was actually played. And Cruz will get his first post-season salsa dancing in this week with a lot of focus shifting to the record-setting Nicks (first player ever with 65+ yard TDs in consecutive playoff games in the same year).

Todd Giannattasio is a guest blogger for New York State Of Sports. Todd also contributes simple recipes for guys at Easy Recipes For Beginners. You can follow him on Twitter@Tresnic.