49ers' Jim Harbaugh fires back

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh didn't take kindly to New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's comment that 49ers defensive end Justin Smith "gets away with murder."

In a statement released by the team Friday, Harbaugh said, "Kevin Gilbride's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Justin Smith's play is, first, an absurd analogy.

"Second, it is an incendiary comment targeting one of the truly exemplary players in this league. It's obvious that the Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating."

Gilbride made his original comment Thursday after he was asked about why San Francisco's front seven is so tough.

"Ability. That's it. They have great players," Gilbride said. "They're tremendous, they're tough. They have great speed on the outside, (Justin) Smith is a beast on the inside -- he's strong, he does as good a job (as anybody) of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder.

"That, in conjunction with the ability level they have, makes them as formidable as anybody we go against, and we go against some pretty good ones in Dallas' and Philadelphia's. They're as good as anybody up front."

The Giants and 49ers play in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Giants and 49ers played twice in San Francisco last season in two very hard-fought games. The Niners won the first 27-20 and New York took the second 20-17 in overtime, earning a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Giants won their second title in five seasons, beating the New England Patriots 21-17 in the championship game.

In the offseason, a couple of San Francisco players said they felt they gave the game away more than the Giants won.

Harbaugh said Wednesday he wasn't bitter about the outcome and he didn't feel as if his team left something on the field in the conference title game.

"In fact, I felt our team did what they had done all year: They played their hearts out," he said. "They gave it their all and their all was good enough. That's how I felt."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.