The New York Giants gave the San Francisco 49ers another reason to simmer.
Antrel Rolle intercepted two passes by Alex Smith, Prince Amukamara picked off another and the Giants shut down San Francisco in a 26-3 victory over the 49ers on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game.
After outscoring the Bills and Jets by a combined 79-3 the last two weeks, the 49ers (4-2) met their match again with Eli Manning and New York’s top team. No overtime needed this time, and not much of Manning either.
Manning threw for 193 yards and one touchdown, Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 116 yards and a score and New York (4-2) rode a dominant defense and four fields by Lawrence Tynes to hand outspoken 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh the most lopsided loss of his tenure.
What a San Francisco treat.
The Giants grinded out a 20-17 overtime win at rain-soaked Candlestick Park on Jan. 22, capitalizing on two fumbles by fill-in returner Kyle Williams en route to another Super Bowl title over the Patriots. All week some San Francisco players talked about “unfinished business,” and Harbaugh added to the hype when he fired back a strongly worded statement criticizing Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for saying All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith often “gets away with murder” holding linemen.
For all the hoopla, the rematch was never close.
Amukamara’s interception in the second quarter started a surge of New York offense. Smith, who wore tape around his sprained middle finger, lofted the pass too high and allowed Amukamara to leap underneath the ball before tight end Delanie Walker even had a chance at the Giants 33.
At one point in the first half, Manning completed eight consecutive passes for 142 yards and had the usually stout San Francisco defense out of sorts. Domenik Hixon caught passes of 39 and 16 yards on consecutive third downs, and Victor Cruz followed with a 6-yard touchdown catch and his usual salsa dance in the end zone to give the Giants a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
New York’s next drive stalled and Tynes kicked a 34-yard field goal to go ahead 10-3. Tarell Brown blocked a 40-yard attempt by Tynes, San Francisco took over with 8 seconds left before half and wildcat quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed a 36-yard pass to Mario Manningham — the former Giant — before David Akers missed wide left from 52 yards as time expired.
Akers, who tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in a Week 1 win at Green Bay, also hooked a 43-yard field goal wide right on San Francisco’s first drive. He made a 42-yarder from the same right hash mark. The All-Pro kicker is 11 of 16 this season.
Once the break was over, the Giants sent San Francisco spiraling down and out in a New York minute.
David Wilson returned the second-half kickoff 66 yards to set up Bradshaw’s 1-yard TD run. That extended New York’s lead to 17-3 and quieted the Candlestick crowd — except for the Giants fans that sprinkled the stands blue on a sun-splashed day along the bay.
On San Francisco’s next two possessions, Rolle intercepted Smith’s passes to foil any 49ers rally.
The first came on an overthrown pass intended for Manningham that Rolle returned 20 yards to the San Francisco 12. And on the next possession, he stepped in front of a pass to Williams and ran 22 yards to the San Francisco 5.
The only downside for New York is it settled for field goals both times.
Then again, not many points were needed.
The Giants had Smith under constant pressure, made worse when left tackle Joe Staley left with a concussion in the third quarter. Smith finished 19 of 30 for 200 yards, and the 49ers were held to 80 yards rushing.
It was the seventh time in Smith’s career the 2005 No. 1 overall pick threw three interceptions. The last time came in a 27-13 loss at Philadelphia on Dec. 20, 2009.
San Francisco seemed primed to atone for last-season’s devastating defeat.
The 49ers were coming off a 45-3 home romp against Buffalo last week, when they racked up a franchise-record 621 yards and became the first team in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in the same game. Instead, they were smashed more than they ever had been with Harbaugh as coach.
Last season’s 16-6 loss at John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night had been the most lopsided loss the last two seasons.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.