The 49ers were built to pound the ball, and they were unstoppable in victories over the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. But when its ground game is muzzled, San Francisco becomes average on offense. When a defense hassles quarterback Alex Smith the way the Giants did Sunday, the 49ers starter dips into the bad habits that haunted the early days of his NFL career.
The Giants have struggled to bring down the quarterback in 2012, but Jason Pierre-Paul detonated Smith on a drive-killing, second-quarter sack. Here's why the play mattered: Smith had time to throw the ball away and didn't -- which is concerning -- and New York's defensive line forced him into chaotic decision-making all afternoon.
Not many teams can duplicate the Giants' handiwork. This win also had much to do with Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw and a dangerous cast of wideouts that created repeated mismatches against San Francisco's defense. The Giants played Harbaugh's style of ball down the stretch, dialing up Bradshaw's number on repeat. His 116 yards marked the first time the 49ers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in 23 games at home.
Harbaugh acknowledged after the game that "plan-wise ... obviously it wasn't the right one, and we'll have to see what the next one will be."
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.