Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Giants

Taking a look inside the 49ers and Giants and Sunday's game between the two teams at San Francisco's Monster Park:

KICKOFF: 1:05 Pacific

SURFACE: Grass

TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas, Chris Myers

SERIES: 32nd meeting. The 49ers lead 17-14, including victories in their last six meetings.

2005 RANKINGS: Giants: offense 13th (7th rush, 17th pass); defense 30th (11th rush, 30th pass). 49ers: offense 31st (21st rush, 31st pass); defense 32nd (18th rush, 32nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers will start their fourth different quarterback in five weeks, with Cody Pickett getting the call with Alex Smith and Ken Dorsey injured. Considering Pickett has thrown just 11 career passes and has spent the majority of the past two months practicing with the special teams, it's critical for the offensive line to open holes for RBs Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore early on. The weakness of the Giants defense is its secondary, but it's too much to expect Pickett to move the offense through the air with any consistency. But going against the league's top scoring offense, the 49ers know they must put some points on the board. Giants QB Eli Manning is using a wide array of weapons and will test the 49ers' secondary, which is severely lacking depth. San Francisco has allowed more points than any team in the league, and must contain RB Tiki Barber to avoid getting pummeled by the play-action pass.

FAST FACTS: Giants: Manning is tied for the NFL lead with at least one touchdown pass in eight consecutive games. ... Barber needs two touchdowns to become the third player in franchise history with 60 (Frank Gifford, Joe Morrison). 49ers: Have won the past six meetings. ... Wide receivers have caught just nine passes for a combined 99 yards the past three games.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Giants

--Mike Nolan, the first-year head coach of the 49ers, served as the Giants' defensive coordinator from 1993 through 1996, and is father, Dick, was a Giants' cornerback/safety for seven seasons (1954-1957; 1959-1961). He also served as head coach of the 49ers (1968-1975). "We have lots of great memories of the Giants," Mike said, "and my fondest is when I first met Wellington Mara. My dad had talked about him so much."

--In 2004, Auburn's Reggie Torbor was drafted by the Giants as a DE and subsequently switched to SLB. The same project is now underway with 6-4, 268-pound Eric Moore, drafted this year as a DE and now working at SLB. "Why? Because he's a big guy who can run and we have more of a need at linebacker," says head coach Tom Coughlin. "And it's helpful to have guys who play more than one position."

--QB Eli Manning is proving he has yet another dimension - he can play with stunning mediocrity and still manage to rise to an occasion and win. His game vs. Washington (12 for 31 for 146 yards and one TD) was nothing special, but he said the winds in Giants Stadium, famous for their erratic and sudden changes, played a part in it. "I was just being careful," he said. "One pass that should have been a touchdown (in the end zone to WR Plaxico Burress) turned into a pick because the wind held it up."

--WR David Tyree, the team's most dynamic special teams performer, missed last week's game with a bruised elbow and couldn't practice until Wednesday. "You know," he said, "the only thing worse than practicing is not practicing. But I missed playing. It was the first game I didn't play in since I got here (38 straight games)."

49ers

-- RB Maurice Hicks, the team's top kickoff return man, will not play because of a knee injury. Hicks has averaged 20.3 yards on 26 kickoff returns this season.

--LT Jonas Jennings will not play Sunday because of a torn right labrum that has kept him out of action for a fifth straight game. The 49ers will make a decision on what action to take with Jennings. He could have minor surgery that would enable him to return at some point later in the season. A more serious procedure would keep him out for the remainder of the season.

--WR Arnaz Battle returned to practice Thursday and has a chance to play in Sunday's game against the Giants. Battle has been inactive for three games and was limited in two other games because of the injury.

--QB Ken Dorsey practiced Wednesday and Thursday and should be available to serve as the backup behind starter Cody Pickett on Sunday.

--QB Alex Smith will miss Sunday's game against the Giants with a right knee sprain. The 49ers are hopeful he will be able to return to practice next week and play against the Bears, though that seems to be in question, too.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Giants

If Tiki Barber isn't the most popular of the Giants' players, something is dreadfully wrong.

He is articulate, intelligent, and personable. He lives in New York City and is constantly appearing on behalf of charities and other organizations.

He volunteers to help the rookies. He is a team spokesman. He had bridged a difficult gap and become friends with the usually stern coach Tom Coughlin.

And last Sunday, in yet another fit of unselfishness, he took himself out of the game after the end of the third quarter. Why?

"Well, I did it voluntarily," said the Virginia grad. "I was just 13 yards away from the record but after I scored the touchdown for Timmy I said, 'That's a day, that's good enough for me.' You know, I have to keep some of the records alive; otherwise I won't want to play any more."

The touchdown for Timmy was the ball he presented to Tim McDonnell on the sidelines. Tim is one of the 40 grandchildren of Wellington Mara, who died the previous Tuesday, and Barber and Tim have been friends for a long time.

"He was a bellboy at training camp and we just kind of gravitated together," said Barber of the 22-year-old. "I knew I wanted to get him a ball from the game, the one we played for his grandpa."

Some game, too. Barber set a personal single-game high with 206 yards in 24 carries, and when he reached that total, he was just 13 yards away from breaking the record set in 1950 by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts.

"I am not so much concerned with individual statistics as I am with winning," Barber said. "If we lose, the statistics don't mean a thing. But if we win, it's nice to have had a good game to help the team."

49ers

Second-year year quarterback Cody Pickett will make his first career start on Sunday for the 49ers against the Giants.

Though Ken Dorsey practiced Wednesday and Thursday after sustaining a left ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' 15-10 victory over the Buccaneers, coach Mike Nolan has decided to go with Pickett.

Pickett has thrown 11 passes in his NFL career, with 10 of them coming last year in a blowout loss to the Bills. Pickett played 16 snaps last week. He handed off 13 times, ran two bootlegs for 12 yards and completed his only pass attempt for 10 yards on a third-and-8 play.

The 49ers will not have rookie quarterback Alex Smith available for Sunday's game. They signed free-agent Jesse Palmer to a contract this week. Originally, the 49ers thought Palmer might serve as the backup. But Dorsey has made enough progress to be able to step in if Pickett needs to come out of the game.

Nolan said the 49ers signed Palmer because vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan was high on his athleticism.

"You could be looking for a guy to orchestrate around a bunch of good players," Nolan said. "You could be looking for a guy who has the ability to make a play. There are some other guys who are West Coast offense guys who know the system and the verbiage and all that. That's fine, but we need something more than that."

The 49ers like Pickett's ability to make a play, too. While Dorsey is more of a pocket passer, Pickett has the athleticism to make plays with his legs or arm outside the pocket.

The 49ers have not started four quarterbacks in a season since 1974, when Joe Reed, Dennis Morrison, Tom Owen and Norm Snead started for a 49ers team that went 6-8 under Dick Nolan, Mike Nolan's father.


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