EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Chris Borland, whose foot-speed was too plodding and his arms too short for him to be effective in coverage, undercut receiver Odell Beckham for a second-quarter interception that allowed the 49ers to take a 9-7 lead into halftime.
Both Borland and fellow inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite had first-half interceptions, with Wilhoite's halting a would-be Giants scoring drive at the San Francisco 14-yard line in the second quarter. The duo is filling in for perennial all-stars Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, who are renown for their speed and coverage ability.
The 49ers didn't do much with Borland's 12-yard return to the New York 29-yard line. Three of their four drives have bogged down deep in Giants territory. They've ended with one fumble – Frank Gore's first of the season – and three Phil Dawson field goals, from 31, 37 and 44 yards.
Gore's fumble, on first down at the New York 16, was batted around and set up the Giants with good field position.
Never miss a local story.
It took quarterback Eli Manning little time to find the 49ers’ perceived weakness on defense. Facing little pressure, he attacked Wilhoite with two passes, a 20-yard completion and a 19-yard touchdown to tight end Larry Donnell. Wilhoite also gave up a 30-yard pass to Donnell prior to his interception.
Aldon Smith did not see the field on the Giants' opening, five-play possession, but he played extensively from that point fourth. He's been in on 21 snaps, mostly at the expense of last week's hero, Ahmad Brooks, who mostly has been sitting glumly on the 49ers' bench while his team has been on defense.
Brooks started the game at right outside linebacker. Rookie Aaron Lynch started on the left side.
After running left most of the time against the Saints last week, the 49ers have geared their running attack in the opposite direction – behind New Jersey native and right tackle Anthony Davis – today. Gore has 52 yards on 10 carries. Rookie Carlos Hyde has rushed five times for 18 yards.
Colin Kaepernick has had trouble finding targets, especially in the red zone. He is 8-17 for 90 yards with a 63.4 passer rating.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.