Giants run defense has something to prove

The 49ers went back to the running game in Sunday's win over the Saints and take on the league's worst run defense Sunday in New York. You can be sure the Giants are going to do everything they can to take the running game away from San Francisco.

The Giants have the league's last-ranked defense, thanks in large part to allowing a league-worst 144.7 yards per game on the ground.

Those numbers didn't improve last week in the 38-17 loss in Seattle, when Tom Coughlin's defense gave up 510 total yards and 350 rushing yards (!), and four touchdowns to Marshawn Lynch.

Stopping the run has been a priority for New York, but its defense is missing middle linebacker Jon Beason (injured reserve, toe) and allowed 150 rushing yards in three of its last four games. New York's defense was pushed around last week and was largely ineffective against the read-option. Wilson gashed them for 107 yards on 14 carries. Lynch had 140 on 21.

The defensive line did not hold up well against the Seahawks' physical attack.

"It is the number one goal defensively every week. It is the same thing. Stop the run," Coughlin said. "Obviously we haven’t done a very good job of that, but hopefully we will put a good plan together and the players will do a good job with it and, perhaps, we can do a better job."

[Related: Brock could miss Sunday’s game with hamstring injury]

When San Francisco balances run and pass, the results are usually promising.

"[The 49ers] are going to run. That is their deal," Coughlin said. "They are going to set things up with the run. You have to be very, very good and very, very strong. We need turnovers. We need field position. We need all the things we always talk about."

In Sunday's win over the Saints, San Francisco ran 32 times and passed 32 times.

"It's what we want to do, be balanced. First of all we want to establish the run," wideout Anquan Boldin said. "I feel like when we establish the run, everything builds off that."

The game started with three straight runs by Frank Gore, and resulted in a touchdown after safety Antoine Bethea got the team going with an interception on the Saints' first possession, returning it down to the 14-yard line.

“Building, building, building and getting stronger and stronger," head coach Jim Harbaugh said about the running game. "That’s the exciting thing about our football team in that phase.”

Gore finished with 23 carries for 81 yards (3.52 average). It was just the second time all season Gore finished with 20-plus carries (Week 4 vs. Philadelphia). He doubled his rushing TD total (2), while Carlos Hyde got his third with his 9-yard scoring scamper in the first quarter.

The 49ers scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone trips after entering the game the league's worst team in that category.

Given the Giants' struggles with the read-option, it would seem likely the 49ers would prod the defense with that attack Sunday. Hyde could become a factor in the read-option game after spending the majority of his collegiate career at Ohio State working those kind of runs.

The 49ers ran to the left side of the offensive line on 23 of their 32 runs, averaging 4.4 yards per carry to the left of rookie center Marcus Martin. They averaged 5.6 on runs over left tackle Joe Staley, who had his best day run blocking since Oct. 5's 22-17 win over Kansas City.

Given the Giants' struggles last week, Coughlin isn't opposed to adjusting his scheme going into Sunday's game against San Francisco's 10th-ranked rushing attack.

"You can always adjust what you do. You begin camp with a lot of versatility and flexibility with the idea that you can tap into certain things throughout the course of the way, so I don’t see that as an issue," Coughlin said.

"The idea of playing what you play better, what your home base is and how you do it, there are some teams that don’t change a thing. [They] line up the same way every week and do a very good job of it. There are subtle changes, some of which you may not see or recognize, but there are subtle changes based on the opponent."

Next story:

49ers hoping to avoid trap game in New York

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