<![CDATA[NBC New York - Verizon Sports Desk]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/verizon-sports-desk http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Thu, 24 Apr 2014 03:57:58 -0400 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 03:57:58 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Giants Enter Final Stretch]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 12:13:20 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli+manning+home+stretch.jpg The Giants have just three games remaining and are clinging to a slim one-game lead in the NFC East. Bruce Beck goes one-on-one with Giants quarterback Eli Manning to get his thoughts coming down the stretch.]]> <![CDATA[Wright Visits PS 38 on Sandy-Ravaged S.I.]]> Mon, 10 Dec 2012 14:58:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/davidwrightheartgold.jpg Mets third baseman David Wright was at Staten Island's PS 38 Thursday, bringing some cheer to the community hit by Sandy. The excited fourth- and fifth-graders told NBC 4 New York they'd never forget meeting Wright and that they saw "a heart of gold" in him. When told about the comments, Wright got misty-eyed and admitted to Bruce Beck, "You're getting me all teary-eyed on camera."]]> <![CDATA[Shawn Johnson on "DWTS" and Next Chapter]]> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:37:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP554189260044.jpg Olympic Gold medalist Shawn Johnson stops by to talk about her 2nd-place finish on "Dancing with the Stars: All Stars" and what she is up to next.

Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Missy Franklin on Which College to Attend]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 17:35:21 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/151491915.jpg Missy Franklin talks about how students at her high school treat her following the 2012 London Summer Olympics. As a senior in high school, she will now have to decide which college to attend.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A-Rod: "I Love Being a Yankee"]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2012 13:53:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ARODPOSTFORWEB_5042274_722x406_3910723530.jpg Alex Rodriguez discusses his future in the Bronx, after the Yankees were swept by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. A-Rod was just 3-25 at the plate in the postseason, and was benched for the final two games of the ALCS.]]> <![CDATA[Swish After Win: "What a Year, Bro!"]]> Thu, 04 Oct 2012 12:24:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/swishlockerroom.jpg Elated Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher talk to Bruce Beck in the midst of celebrating their AL East title.]]> <![CDATA[Dickey a Bright Spot for Sad Mets]]> Fri, 28 Sep 2012 17:59:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ra+dickey+20+games.jpg R.A. Dickey won his 20th game Thursday, becoming the first Met pitcher in 22 years to accomplish the feat. Here's what the knuckleballer had to say following the latest highlight of his unlikely season.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Broadway Joe]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joe+namath+bruce+beck+sept+13.jpg Bruce Beck caught up with Joe Namath at his charity golf outing at Bethpage State Park to get the Super Bowl winning quarterback's take on the 2012 version of Gang Green.]]> <![CDATA[Deron Williams on Barclays: "The Buzz Is Crazy"]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/deron+williams+sept+10+2012.jpg With tip-off at the Barclays Center rapidly approaching, Bruce Beck caught up with Nets point guard Deron Williams who was busy demonstrating his new video game.]]> <![CDATA[Giants in Hot Water Over Cold Tub Prank]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/steve+weatherford+sorry.jpg After a profanity-laced video surfaced this weekend showing Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul dunking Prince Amukamara into a tub of ice water, Big Blue was on the defensive, defending their actions as horse play, and not hazing.]]> <![CDATA[Sanchez, Tebow: Wildcat Strategy Under Wraps]]> Tue, 14 Aug 2012 11:57:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/qbs+wildcat.jpg Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow answer reporter questions about the much anticipated Wildcat scheme for the Jets this season.]]> <![CDATA[Terry Collins: "We're Good Enough"]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 12:46:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/terry+collins+july+25.jpg Following the team's 5-2 loss to the Nationals that saw the Mets drop to 1-11 since the All-Star break, manager Terry Collins didn't hold back in his post-game press conference.]]> <![CDATA[Rick Nash: "Definitely Where I Want To Be"]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 12:46:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rick+nash.jpg The Rangers officially introduced their newest prize on Wednesday, high-scoring winger Rick Nash, whom the team acquired on Monday in a trade with Columbus.]]> <![CDATA[Jeremy Lin: "I'm So Thankful to New York"]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2012 06:47:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lin+rockets.jpg Linsanity is over in New York, but on Thursday, it officially invaded Houston, as the new Rockets point guard was formally introduced.]]> <![CDATA[Rex Ryan: Absolutely Confident in Jets]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2012 16:14:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rex+crop.jpg As Gang Green gets set to go to Cortlandt for training, Jets head coach Rex Ryan stops by the NBC 4 New York studios to talk with Bruce Beck about the upcoming season, and his confidence in Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez. ]]> <![CDATA[Giants Punter Tackles Bruce During Clinic]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/weatherford+beck.jpg Giants punter Steve Weatherford put on a mini punting clinic while making an appearance at Coleman Country Day Camp in Merrick, Long Island. The last person he picked: NBC 4 New York sportscaster Bruce Beck. Watch what happens.]]> <![CDATA[Joe Johnson: "It's Gonna Revitalize My Career"]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 12:27:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/JOEJOHNSONFORTHEWEB_4730502_722x406_27328725.jpg The newest Net, Joe Johnson, went 1-on-1 with Bruce Beck following his official introduction in Brooklyn.]]> <![CDATA[Joe Girardi: "Our Pitching Has Been Tremendous"]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/joe+girardi+beck.jpg The Yankees are rolling: the Bronx Bombers have won 9 straight, and show no signs of letting up. Joe Girardi spoke to Bruce Beck before Monday night's game against the Braves at Yankee Stadium.

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[From Summer Camp to the Summer Games]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 12:29:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/carolinequeen1.jpg Darnestown's Caroline Queen started kayaking at summer camp. Now she's taking her regal name and rowing game to the London Olympics. Find more Olympics coverage at the Olympic Zone.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Devils Remain Proud After Stanley Cup Loss]]> Tue, 12 Jun 2012 11:06:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/proud+devils.jpg Bruce Beck caught up with David Clarkson, Bryce Salvador, Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur in a somber New Jersey locker room, after the Devils lost to the Los Angeles, 6-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings won the series, 4-2, and captured their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.]]> <![CDATA[4th Annual HOPE Week Begins]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/HOPEWEEKMONDAYFORWEB_4662923_722x406_23942713.jpg For the 4th straight year, the Yankees are holding HOPE Week, and today, following the start of the charitable endeavor, Bruce Beck caught up with Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte following their appearance on the Today Show.]]> <![CDATA[Holmes Whines About Practice Reps]]> Fri, 08 Jun 2012 17:28:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/santonio+holmes+whines.jpg On his first day at offseason training activities, Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes throws his helmet and complains about the workload. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, appears more lively with the media than he has in recent times and excited about the offense.]]> <![CDATA[Meet the Keeper of the Stanley Cup]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/stanley+cup+keeper.jpg Bruce Beck talks to Mike Bolt, the man who has safeguarded the world's most famous sports trophy, Lord Stanley's Cup, for the past 13 years.]]> <![CDATA[Yanks' Rotation Takes a Blow]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cc+yanks.jpg Despite their fifth straight win, the Yankees suffered two losses. First, ace CC Sabathia went on the disabled list with a strained groin, and then Andy Pettitte fractured his ankle when he was hit by a line drive. While Sabathia is only expected to miss two starts, Pettitte will miss at least six weeks and not return until September.]]> <![CDATA[New York Knicks: "We Want to Move Up"]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/knicks+wanna+move+up.jpg With an outside shot to move into the Eastern Conference's 6 seed for the playoffs and avoid the Heat and Bulls in the first round, the Knicks will be going all out in their final two games.]]> <![CDATA[Olympic Excitement: 100 Days to London]]> Wed, 18 Apr 2012 06:58:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/olympic+hopeful1.jpg The countdown to the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic games is fast approaching, with the 100-day countdown celebration set for Times Square Wednesday. Six Olympic hopefuls, including Connor Fields (BMX), Julie Zeltin (Rhythmic Gymnastics), and Paralympian Kari Miller (Sitting Volleyball) spoke about their growing excitement as the games approach.]]> <![CDATA[Second Season Begins for the Rangers]]> Thu, 12 Apr 2012 13:12:05 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ryan-mcdonagh-rangers-playoffs.jpg The Stanley Cup playoffs kick off Wednesday, with the Rangers set to drop the puck Thursday night at MSG against the Senators. After capturing home ice throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Blueshirts are eager to get things going.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[In the Blocks With an Olympic Hopeful]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 12:55:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/LaTosha-Wallace.jpg UConn women's track and field assistant coach LaTosha Wallace hopes to qualify for the 400m hurdles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Henrik Lundqvist: "Don't Think About The Standings"]]> Tue, 03 Apr 2012 06:42:24 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/lundqvust.jpg Needing just one point to clinch home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Rangers aren't getting ahead of themselves, heading into tomorrow's showdown with the rival Flyers. Bruce Beck went 1-on-1 with all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.]]> <![CDATA[Avery Johnson Tells Nets Fans to Keep Hope]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/avery+johnson.jpg Bruce Beck sat down with Nets coach Avery Johnson who had messages for youngsters and long-suffering Nets fans.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[For Moe, The NBA Hark-ens]]> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 12:33:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/moe+movin+on.jpg It's one and done at St. John's for Big East freshman of the year Moe Harkless. The Queens native announced he is declaring for the NBA Draft. He spoke with Bruce Beck following his press conference.]]> <![CDATA[ Iona Ready to Play in Front of Obama]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/IonaSpotlight.JPG The Iona Gaels received a surprise bid to play in the NCAA tournament, and have the added pressure of playing Brigham Young University in front of President Obama, who will be at the game. Bruce Beck talks to the players.]]> <![CDATA[Giants' Brandon Jacobs Talks Contract, Future]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/brandon+jacobs+beck.jpg Bruce Beck talks exclusively with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs about his contract situation and future with the Giants.]]> <![CDATA[Tyson Chandler on Lin-Sanity]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2012 20:17:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TYSONCHANDLERFORWEB_4246475_722x406_2203280952.jpg Following the All-Star break, the Knicks get back on the court Wednesday night against the Cavaliers. And the Jeremy Lin phenomenon has not died down. Tyson Chandler weighs in Lin's celebrity, and whether it's changed his personality.]]> <![CDATA[VIDEO: Doc Gooden Remembers Gary Carter]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/dwightgooden_722x406_2198090118.jpg "He was the leader who took all control... he always was smiling, he was just a happy guy." Former teammate Dwight "Doc" Gooden tells Bruce Beck of Carter's impact on the team, and how he helped him through a tough time.]]> <![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: Weatherford Parade Cam]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:24:26 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/weatherford+cam.jpg NBC 4 New York gave Giants punter Steve Weatherford a camera to record the victory parade and rally from his vantage point -- and he ran with it. Check out this exclusive footage from the float, the City Hall ceremony and even the Naughty by Nature concert at MetLife]]> <![CDATA[Bruce Beck, Jimmy Fallon in Indianapolis]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/fallon+indy.jpg The entire NBC family is in Indianapolis ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl, including Jimmy Fallon. Bruce Beck caught up with the late night funnyman Tuesday. Sunday night after the Super Bowl, after "The Voice," and after News 4 New York, Jimmy Fallon will have a live one-hour special on NBC.]]> <![CDATA[Bruce Beck From Candlestick]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 15:16:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BRUCEBECKFORTHEWEB_4107683_722x406_2189374869.jpg Bruce Beck puts the finishing touches on the Giants overtime win against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game from soggy Candlestick Park.]]> <![CDATA[Super Bowl XLII Hero Lights Empire State ]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/davidtyreeempirestate_722x406_2188823392.jpg Former Giants wide receiver David Tyree, best known for his heroic helmet catch that propelled Big Blue to a win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl four years ago, lights the Empire State Building in Giants colors ahead of the team's NFC Championship Game this Sunday. He also talks about which team he thinks is going to emerge from the big matchup victorious and why.]]> <![CDATA[Giants Fans Celebrate Big Win]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 15:16:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/193*120/giants-fans-packers.jpg "Big Blue" fans celebrate Giants 37-20 win over the Packers. News4's Brian Thompson reports.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bruce's NFC Game Predictions]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/bruce+web+extra.jpg NBC New York sports anchor Bruce Beck's web-exclusive commentary and predictions on the upcoming NFC game in San Francisco.]]> <![CDATA[Football Tailgate Menu]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/webtailgatemenu_4056932_722x406_2184704735.jpg Giants fans gearing up to watch the NFC Wild Card Playoff game can score points with party guest thanks to this easy and delicious tailgate menu from Go Burger chef David Craine]]> <![CDATA[Backup QB's Message to Tom and Shiba]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/davidcarrshibatom_722x406_2188604970.jpg With all of Tom and Shiba's recent fretting over Eli Manning being sick, Giants back-up quarterback David Carr has something to say to the two NBC New York anchors.]]> <![CDATA[Giants Fans Trek to Wisconsin for Playoff]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 15:16:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/x2_a6b9b8f_722x406_2187292968.jpg Before the big Packers-Giants playoff in Wisconsin, there was quite a scene in the parking lot: Bruce Beck catches up with some Giants fans who made the trip to Lambeau Field.]]> <![CDATA[Giants Touch Down in Wisconsin]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/elimanninggreenbay_722x406_2187190429.jpg The Giants take on the Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoff Sunday -- the last time both teams came face-to-face was in December, when the Packers defeated Big Blue 38 to 35. Now it's time for a little payback, and their road to redemption began Saturday when the team flew out to Wisconsin. That's where we find Bruce Beck with more.]]> <![CDATA[The Giants Are Eli's Team Now]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:25:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli-manning1.jpg

The notion seems to be even more irresistible than it was before.

Winning at Lambeau Field on a cold Sunday afternoon would appear to make attempts to avoid allusions to 2008 as a big waste of time. The defense just shut down an elite quarterback and high-powered offense, the Giants are the hottest team in the league at exactly the right time and Tom Coughlin's red face is leading them every step of the way.

It's a nice narrative that holds up just as long as you didn't actually watch the game that unfolded on Sunday afternoon. If you did watch the game, you'd know that there wasn't much about the game that looked anything like 2008.

The biggest difference was the guy slinging the passes for the Giants. Eli Manning was there in 2008, of course, but while revisionist Giants historians like to argue that he was a top quarterback in those days, the honest observers among us know that he was asked to do very little for a team that won because of their defense and running game.

Manning of 2008 bore no resemblance to the player that was on the field this Sunday. The Manning back then barely completed half his passes and wouldn't have done that well if not for Plaxico Burress making catches that made you wonder if you were watching a real game or a cartoon.

The Manning of the present day needed no such help as every one of his passes dropped right where it needed to go, most notably the Hail Mary to Hakeem Nicks at the end of the first half that put the game in the Giants' pocket once and for all. Manning made play after play, thwarting any attempt by the Packers to swing momentum back in their direction and keeping the Giants pointed directly toward San Francisco.

Nothing should discount the job the defense did against the Packers, but there wasn't a moment on Sunday when you felt that Manning wouldn't have been able to answer if Aaron Rodgers did recover his MVP form. Manning was that good, as good as he has ever been at a time when his team needed nothing less.

We should be used to this by now. The Giants don't sniff the playoffs if not for Manning carrying them in the first half of the season and then bailing out an awful defense in Dallas in Week 14. 

Now the rest of the group is catching up to him and giving the world real reason to believe that this Giants run can end up somewhere special. That destination might be the same one that the Giants reached in 2008, but the journey looks completely different than the last one.

Manning was along for the ride in 2008. In 2012, he's driving the bus.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eli Can Climb Another Rung Today]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:25:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli-manning-nfc-championship-game.jpg

Eli Manning's season started with a debate about whether or not he was an elite quarterback and it might end with another debate.

It won't be about his elite status as any remaining holdouts have long ago given up that fight. The debate this time will be about whether or not he's the best quarterback in the Manning family.

If he wins today against the 49ers, Eli will have a serious dog in the hunt. It's not just because Peyton's career is in doubt after three neck surgeries and the complete upheaval of the Colts organization in the last couple of weeks.

Throughout the history of the NFL, quarterbacks have always been graded on two parallel tracks. One is individual performance, and there haven't been many quarterbacks who have scored higher in this department than Peyton Manning.

He's thrown for the third most yards and touchdowns in history and ranks high in every metric you would ever use to gauge the ability of a quarterback. Eli may never match his brother's statistics.

But Peyton may never be able to match his little brother's status on the other grading scale of quarterbacks. That's winning championships, of course, and Eli already has one under his belt with a chance for a second this year.

If Eli wins it all this year, that would give him one more ring than his big brother, but there's even more to Eli's superiority in this category.

This playoff run has marked the second time in Eli's career that he has led a team on a run that massively outperformed expectations thanks in large part to his ability to step up his game in the biggest spots.

Peyton doesn't have the same polish to his resume. If anything, he's saved his worst moments for games against the Patriots, Saints and seven losses in his team's first playoff games.

Obviously getting to those points as often as the Colts speaks well of Peyton's ability to win games, but there aren't many people who wouldn't expect a bit more postseason success given how many regular season games the Colts have won in the Peyton Era.

Winning Sunday, at a moment when Eli is coming into his prime, would make it hard to argue that the younger Manning wasn't the bigger postseason winner in the family.

All of this is up for debate, of course, and there's no real way to answer a subjective question about who is the best quarterback of all time. The fact that you can make an argument for Eli over Peyton in any format says a lot about how far the Giants quarterback has come this season.

It's not just that he threw for nearly 5,000 yards, cut down his interceptions and continued to be a top performer in the fourth quarter. The way that Manning plays adds to your appreciation of his abilities.

He makes some incredibly dangerous throws, perhaps more of them than any other good quarterback, and completes a remarkably high percentage given how high the margin for error on those passes can be. And the fact that he makes a lot of them in the face of strong pressure because his offensive line isn't all that good speaks to his level of confidence in his own abilities. 

Even if you think it is premature to put Eli into conversation with his own brother, it's hard to resist bumping him up with a win on Sunday.

If you count Peyton, there are only three current quarterbacks who have taken their teams to multiple Super Bowls.

Becoming the fourth would solidify Eli's standing in the first tier of the current NFL and might just push him past some guys with gaudier stats but less success when the games matter most.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Your Giants Pics!]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:23:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/giant+dog.jpg Send us your photos as you root for Big Blue! Use #NBC4NY on Instagram or Twitter or at NBCNewYork.com!]]> <![CDATA[49ers, Giants Ready for a Brawlgame]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 20:07:26 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/170*120/elisacker.jpg

The 49ers and Giants know what to expect Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, and it isn’t finesse.

Each team knows the other is physical, plays strong defense and goes after the passer. This will be strength vs. strength.

“That is a worthy opponent,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters this week. “That is a scary opponent. We will have to come with every ounce of our ‘A’ game.”

This, of course, isn’t the matchup most fans would have predicted in the NFC title game. The odds favored a clash of high-powered offenses from Green Bay and New Orleans. But in beating the Packers and Saints last week in the divisional round, the Giants and 49ers made statements that defensive-oriented teams can make their presence felt in the NFL playoffs.

Now, each is one win away from the Super Bowl. Oddsmakers favor the 49ers by 2½ points in the game at Candlestick Park.

The Giants, who started the season 7-7, have come alive and are on a four-game winning streak having beaten the Falcons and Packers to get to Sunday’s game. Over that four games, the New York pass rush has revved up, compiling 17 sacks. The return of Osi Umenyiora has helped, plus the improved health of Justin Tuck and the great play of Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul.

It’ll be up to the 49ers offensive line to protect quarterback Alex Smith and open running lanes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Though Smith had a great game in the victory over the Saints, passing for 299 yards, the 49ers are still run-oriented. By establishing a ground game against New York, they’ll be able to control the flow of the game and keep Giants QB Eli Manning and a group of game-breaking receivers off the field.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh is hoping a storm brings rain this weekend to dampen Candlestick and provide a bit more of a home-field advantage for the Niners, who are 8-1 at home this season. Harbaugh told Bay Area News Group columnist Mark Purdy that Candlestick has become “a fortress” for his team.

In their win over the Saints last Saturday, the Niners fed off the crowd’s energy.

“Our fans turned that stadium into a fortress,” Harbaugh said. “It felt like somebody locked the gates and put us in here, and we got 70,000 and a city behind us.”

Though the 49ers beat the Giants 27-20 in November, San Francisco’s players and coaches believe the Giants have made big strides since. Plus, the Giants were without top running back Ahmad Bradshaw and Umenyiora then.

New York safety Antrel Rolle says his team is “not going to be denied” and is peaking at the right time.

“We know what to expect with them,” says Manning, who’s been bothered by the flu and a sore left shoulder but will play Sunday. “They’re a very sound team. They’re very good. They have good players. They play with great energy.”

In the first game against San Francisco, Manning threw for 311 yards and two TDs, but was intercepted twice.

There’s been some back-and-forth smack talk in the media and Twitter this week from Giants and 49ers players, but that won’t count for anything when the game kicks off. Former 49ers cornerback Eric Wright says it will be up to this 49ers team to show what it’s all about on the field.

“They’re talking crap,” Wright told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, in reference to some of the Giants. “OK, so the Niners are not getting their respect. But don’t talk back, don’t tweet, don’t talk crap. That’s what you do when you have a good team. Just go out there and kick their face in.”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>