49ers must get physical to stop N.Y. run game

The 49ers are gearing up for a physical game on Sunday against the New York Giants. And that does not appear to play to their strength. When asked if the 49ers are capable of playing a physical game against a physical opponent, coach Mike Nolan answered, "We'll see when we play the game this week. We'll find out." And find out they will against the defending Super Bowl champions.

The 49ers have seemingly been pushed around on both sides of the ball this season. Their defensive and offensive lines have generally been regarded as the team's biggest weaknesses.

Defensively, the 49ers face their biggest challenge of the season, as the Giants own the No. 1-rated offense in the NFL. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and their running backs are averaging an outrageous 6.1 yards a carry.

The 49ers rank 22nd in the league in rushing defense, allowing opponents 124.2 yards a game. The opposition likes to run on the 49ers, averaging 31.5 rushing attempts per game and almost four yards per carry.

"We've not played well enough to win the last few weeks, so whatever it is - physical or not - we need to play well enough to win this week," Nolan said.

The Giants lead the league, averaging 181.2 yards rushing per game. New York is getting optimum production from a three-pronged attack featuring Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.

Jacobs leads the way with 447 yards on 79 carries, a 5.7 average, as the featured back. Ward (318 yards on 43 carries) and Bradshaw (119 on 18) have been terrific complements, averaging 7.4 and 6.6 yards per carry, respectively.

The 265-pound Jacobs appears to be the worst-possible matchup for the 49ers' run defense. He is a powerful back who can pound away at San Francisco's suspect run defense.

"You don't want him getting started, because once he gets started, that's a crucial guy you have to bring down," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said.

Willis, the NFL's leading tackler last year as a rookie, is the heart of the team's defense and leads the 49ers with 76 tackles. Willis and fellow inside linebacker Takeo Spikes have been the heart of the team's defense, with Spikes second on the team with 46 tackles followed by safety Michael Lewis with 45.

But the 49ers have not been getting strong play up the middle from their interior linemen, who must try to hold up Jacobs before he can pound into the second level, allowing Willis, Spikes and Co. to get to him before he can pick up a head of steam.

"He's got some big feet to be a big guy," Willis said. "I don't think there's anything easy about bringing him down. He's not like the normal big guy who can do just one thing. He can outrun you if he has to. Or he can run over you and break tackles."

Niners Digest Top Stories