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Where 49ers appear vulnerable vs. Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The New York Giants' Eli Manning led the NFL this season with 18 pass completions covering at least 40 yards.

The San Francisco 49ers' defense, though among the very best in most key statistical categories, gave up 12 of these plays, tied for fifth-most in the league.

49ers defense

Therein lies one of the more pivotal matchups in the Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The 49ers were cruising toward apparent victory against New Orleans in the divisional playoff round last week until Saints quarterback Drew Brees connected on touchdown passes covering 44 and 66 yards late in the game. The last time San Francisco lost at home, Dallas' Tony Romo struck for a 77-yard touchdown pass in overtime. The Cowboys also connected for a 53-yard gain.

As the chart shows, San Francisco has done a better job collecting interceptions this season. Carlos Rogers had two picks against Manning in Week 10, but the Giants also connected for 36- and 32-yard gains in the second half, the shorter one for a touchdown. Manning narrowly missed another long scoring pass for Mario Manningham.

Manning has completed half his 40-plus passes to receiver Victor Cruz, who lines up frequently in the slot. Cruz led the Giants with six receptions for 84 yards against the 49ers in Week 10, including that 36-yarder.

Rogers and Cruz figure to match up extensively Sunday. Which one will prevail?