The 49ers, meanwhile, had a difficult time establishing any semblance of offensive rhythm with the pass. They converted only one of 13 third downs.
"We were awful on third down," said Alex Smith, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 196 yards — highlighted by touchdown passes of 73 and 28 yards to tight end Vernon Davis, the hero of the win over the Saints.
New York's most dangerous weapon was receiver Victor Cruz, who caught 10 passes for 142 yards and repeatedly beat Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers. Like the oft-overlooked Giants, Cruz is an out-of-nowhere player who went undrafted in 2010 from the University of Massachusetts.
"I knew I had a pretty good shot against him," Cruz said of Rogers. "Coming from the last game [the Giants' 27-20 loss at San Francisco on Nov. 13], I did some pretty good things. I knew the key to this game was to get open by any means necessary, no matter who was guarding me."
The Giants dominated the time of possession, 39:36 to 28:18, and did not turn over the ball. With 2:29 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score 17-17, officials waved off an apparent fumble by New York's Ahmad Bradshaw that was recovered by the 49ers at the Giants' 21. The crowd booed as officials ruled that Bradshaw's forward progress had been stopped and the play had been blown dead.
"Life goes on," 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith said. "It's not the end of the world. It's hard to swallow, but they beat us."