49ers slain by late Giants dagger
The 49ers’ Sunday night showcase ended in disappointment as a resurgent effort was spoiled by a last-second dagger from Eli Manning to down San Francisco in a 30-27 shootout.
Trailing by four points, QB Eli Manning led the Giants 82 yards down the field before finding TE Larry Donnell near the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with just under 20 seconds left in the game.
The drive capped an impressive aerial performance for Manning, as the veteran quarterback picked apart the 49ers secondary to the tune of 441 yards and three touchdowns on 41-of-54 throwing.
The young 49ers secondary failed to find an answer for New York speedster Odell Beckham Jr., who accounted for 121 of Manning’s total yards and a touchdown.
New York’s come-from-behind win overshadows a competent and rejuvenated 49ers offense, with QB Colin Kaepernick looking confident and poised as he attacked the Giants secondary for 262 yards, 23 completions and two touchdowns.
Most importantly, Kaepernick showed his ability to push the ball downfield while still protecting the ball, earning a spotless line that featured no interceptions following a rough two-game span in that regard.
RB Carlos Hyde also shook off the previous week’s struggles, rushing for 93 hard-fought yards against the league’s No. 1 run defense while punching his way into the end zone as well.
But it was the 49ers defense — just one week removed from holding the elite Green Bay offense to a season low in points — that undercut the team’s valiant road effort, sending them back to the bay with a four-game losing streak in two.
Sunday night’s contest got underway with both teams matching each other for fielding goals while playing to their offensive strengths early.
For the 49ers, this meant a healthy dose of running back Carlos Hyde, who took four carries for 17 yards into the Giants territory after a pair of receptions from WR Bruce Ellington ate up a large portion of the field on the game’s opening plays. The Giants eventually halted the second-year back’s momentum, and held the 49ers to a 43-yard field goal.
All week long, the 49ers secondary fielded questions about how to stop Giants receiver Odell Beckham, and it didn’t take long for one of the NFL’s elite young talents made his mark on the Sunday night showcase.
The young star showed that it was easier said than done when he broke free for a 49-yard bomb to move his team into field goal range on the Giants’ fifth play of the game.
But the 49ers defense would hold stout, plugging up New York’s run game to stall the drive on the 4-yard line, forcing the Giants to settle for a 22-yard field goal.
Sensing the mismatch, Manning continued to look for Beckham against the coverage of the young 49ers secondary, as the receiver hauled in catches of 31 and 10 yards during his next trip onto the field to set up the Giants with a first-and-goal at the one yard line.
RB Shane Vereen, who came over to the Giants after winning a Super Bowl with New England, would punch in the game’s first touchdown just two plays later after taking a 2-yard pass across the goal line near the pylons.
With linebacker Ahmad Brooks away from the team to mourn the death of his sister, the 49ers were largely unable to dial up the pressure on Manning, allowing the quarterback to continue to chip away at the San Francisco secondary.
The pocket protection allowed Manning to lead his team on their third straight scoring drive, ending only after receiver Dwayne Harris fortuitously dropped an uncontested third-down pass. K Josh Brown would drive home his second field-goal of the game following the incompletion.
The 49ers would match the Giants with field goal as Kaepernick looked to aggressively attack the soft New York secondary. Kaepernick would complete 5-of-10 passes before coming up short on a third-and-one to force a 22-yard field goal from K Phil Dawson to cut the Giants lead to 13-6.
With just over a minute to go, Manning moved the ball downfield in a hurry against a porous San Francisco secondary, landing on San Francisco’s 14-yard line. But Manning became too comfortable in his protected pocket, and underthrew a pass to Beckham in the corner of the end zone which was intercepted by CB Tremaine Brock lined up one-on-one against the elite receiver.
The pick salvaged what was an ugly defensive showing for San Francisco, as they allowed 261 total yards. After regrouping at halftime, the 49ers came out as a reinvigorated team with a defensive hold that led to some early fireworks on offense.
Kaepernick showed increased confidence to open the second half, as the 49ers gunslinger led a drive finished off with a three-yard toss to Anquan Boldin to tie the score up at 13-13.
But with a potential momentum shift looming over the Sunday night game, Manning would again look to Beckham to reestablish control on the Giants home turf.
The second-year speedster would spurn the 49ers for 32 yards, including a nifty 17-yard touchdown reception which saw the receiver lose the coverage of Acker across the middle before changing directions and sprinting down the sideline to before reaching across the goal line for the go-ahead score.
The drive would prove costly for New York though, as Beckham would exit the game with a hamstring injury.
After a week that saw many jabs thrown his way, Kaepernick showed fans of the 49ers that he still can command the offense in crucial situations as the fifth-year quarterback orchestrated a rebuttal to the Giants’ scoring drive.
Again, Kaepernick showed confidence against the Giants defense, using a deep ball to Torrey Smith that would draw a pass interference penalty to spot the 49ers on the 15-yard line.
Kaepernick would find backup tight end Garrett Celek in the middle of the end zone on a 5-yard sling to square things up at 20-20.
Manning and the Giants continued to peck away at the 49ers passing defense with underneath routes, slowly crawling their way up the field to set up their third field goal try of the game, retaking a 23-20 lead.
With time winding down, Kaepernick and the offense mounted one last impressive drive, driving 78 yards down the field on just five plays before Hyde punched his way across the goal line on a 2-yard plunge to take a 27-23 lead.
With just under a minute to go, Manning and the Giants offense would take to the field for a last-ditch effort to earn a win on their home turf.
Like he had done all game, Manning commanded the ball downfield from the protection of the pocket, finding his receivers in space while eating up valuable real estate on his way to the goal line.
RB Shane Vereen would aid his cause with a big 24-yard pickup before Beckham made a late return to the game, drawing a crucial pass interference penalty on young cornerback Acker at the 12-yard line.
Just one play later, Manning would drive the nail in the 49ers coffin, finding TE Donnell in double coverage across the back of the end zone. The athletic receiver held on to the ball while falling across the back of the goal for the go-ahead score.
Kaepernick and the 49ers would have 17 seconds to work with, but could not amass a threat as they were forced out of New York with their fourth straight loss.