SAN FRANCISCO — Against the Saints a week earlier, safety Donte Whitner set the tone by knocking out running back Pierre Thomas with a thunderous hit that jarred the ball loose and ended a scoring threat.
Against the Giants, the biggest hit by a 49ers safety had a much less advantageous result.
Late in the third quarter, New York quarterback Eli Manning threw behind Hakeem Nicks on a third-and-5 play, and safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Tarell Brown both went for the interception. Either could have made the play. Instead, they collided hard and Brown left the game with an apparent concussion.
With Brown out, nickel back Chris Culliver moved into an every-down cornerback position, and second-year man Tramaine Brock became the nickel back. It mattered when Manning beat Brock with a scoring strike to Mario Manningham that gave the Giants a 17-14 lead.
"It compromised us," Whitner said of the injury. "T-Brown is a guy that we look forward to being out there. He's been out there all year. So we had to bring some young guys in, and we had to mix and match some coverages. But they came in and did a pretty good job."
WALKER PLAYS EARLY AND OFTEN
The smart money said Delanie Walker would play against the Giants. But no one could have guessed the speedy tight end would see as much action as he did — the vast majority of plays on offense.
Walker broke his jaw in two places — on the left side of his chin, and just under his left ear — in Week 16 when Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill inadvertently kneed him in the face on a running play at Seattle. Doctors inserted wires in the upper and lower jaw and connected them with rubber bands to stabilize the area; they didn't remove the wires until last Monday.
Walker got his facemask tugged by a Giants defender on one play, but ultimately emerged more or less unscathed. He caught two passes for 36 yards.
"They were coming, but it's part of the game," Walker said. "If they're gonna take a shot, they're gonna take a shot. We're playing football. I had to hit them before they hit me, and the outcome was good. The jaw felt fine. Just didn't come away with the W."
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
The weather forecast more or less held up as advertised: Rain off and on, sometimes heavy, during the game, with a rising wind. They were tough conditions for the crowd, though the players didn't seem to be slipping too badly. Some reported changing their cleats until they found the right grip.
The quarterbacks might have been most affected.
"Really, I think I personally struggled more with the fact that you went from soaking wet in the first half, especially with some of those runs and stuff," said 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. "And then the second half dried out. And then you got to the point where your hands dry out and it's like getting out of a bath. I just kind of stayed licking (his fingers) the whole time in the second half, trying to keep some of that tact."
LG Mike Iupati left the game a couple times with an ankle injury, but was able to finish.