The San Francisco 49ers bullied Eli Manning and the New York Giants into five turnovers to escape the Big Apple with a 16-10 victory Sunday morning.
Aldon Smith returned to action as he and LB Aaron Lynch harassed Manning into five interceptions. Constant pressure forced errant throws that proved to be the deciding factor in the 49ers’ crucial victory.
Despite losing Patrick Willis for the season earlier in the week, the 49ers defense banded together to hold Manning to 276 yards on 21-of-41 attempts and just one touchdown.
The effort was needed as the 49ers (6-4) failed to convert a multitude of red zone opportunities, leaving the door open for the Giants until the game’s final seconds.
RB Frank Gore carried a heavy workload, rushing for 95 yards on 19 attempts throughout the game.
For the second straight game the 49ers established their run-game early, as they exploited the Giants’ 32nd ranked run defense for 41 yards while mounting a threatening drive deep in New York territory.
But the 49ers red zone woes reared their ugly head again, as the normally sure-handed Frank Gore lost control of the football after slipping on Kaepernick’s heel while making a cut, turning the ball over to the Giants’ defense.
The Giants (3-7) looked to expose the depleted secondary of the 49ers, as a heavy aerial attack led by WR Rueben Randle‘s 38 yards quickly moved the ball downfield, setting up an early scoring opportunity for New York.
The 49ers responded with their second straight drive into the red zone, but would run out of steam yet again, forcing a 31-yard Phil Dawson field goal.
A quick three-and-out from the San Francisco defense would rush Kaepernick and the offense right back out onto the field for their second consecutive scoring drive. But the Giants defense stopped the 49ers at their own 19-yard line for 37-yard Dawson field goal to cut New York’s lead to 7-6.
Manning continually attacked the middle of the field, but ILB Chris Borland made him pay. The rookie jumped a pass intended for WR Odell Beckham Jr. for the first interception of the game, setting up a short field opportunity for San Francisco at the New York 29-yard line.
But the 49ers failed once again to finish a promising drive, gaining just three more yards on a Gore carry before settling for Dawson’s third field goal of the game from 44 yards, giving San Francisco a 9-7 lead.
New York looked poised to strike back, as Donnell continued to beat Wilhoite’s coverage for a big 30-yard gain that moved the Giants across midfield. But Manning was bit by 49ers linebackers again, as Wilhoite sought redemption for his two prior mistakes with the 49ers’ second-straight consecutive interception.
The 49ers opened up the second half with a bang, forcing a Giants three-and-out that ended with LB Aaron Lynch’s sack of Manning near the goal line.
On the just the third play of the ensuing drive, Kaepernick hit Crabtree on a slant route across the middle, with Crabtree breaking free for a 48-yard touchdown catch to extend the 49ers lead to 16-7.
Manning connected with Randle on an 18-yard catch that set up a 43-yard field goal by kicker Josh Brown to cut the 49ers lead to 16-10.
Not content with just three points, head coach Tom Coughlin gambled with an on-side kick. Special teams ace Bubba Ventrone couldn’t grip the squirming ball, having it wrestled away by Mark Herzlich for the recovery by New York.
The Giants’ special teams victory would be cut short however, as an ill-advised throw from Manning was caught by S Eric Reid for the quarterback’s third interception of the game.
The Giants would mount one final attack on the shoulder of Beckham’s circus catch down the sideline that landed New York on their four-yard line with a fresh set of downs.
With their nose at the goal line, the Giants abandoned the run game, as Manning’s fourth pass of the sequence was tipped by the rookie Dontae Johnson straight into the hands of Borland for his second pick of the day, and Manning’s fifth interception.
After going 2-0 on two recent road trips, the 49ers will return home looking to keep their win strike alive as they take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday at 1:25 p.m.