SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants Sunday in the NFC wild card round.
Quarterback Kerry Collins, who led the NFC with 4,073 passing yards but was intercepted three times by San Francisco in the season opener; running back Tiki Barber, the NFC leader in yards from scrimmage; Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey, who had 74 catches for 894 yards as a rookie; and Amani Toomer, who was second in the NFC with 1,343 receiving yards, are New York's main offensive weapons.
The 49ers had four Pro Bowlers selected from their offense: quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Terrell Owens, former Giants guard Ron Stone and center Jeremy Newberry. Owens finished with 100 catches for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns despite missing two games with a strained groin.
San Francisco also has a solid running game with Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow sharing the load.
But when the teams met on Sept. 5 at Giants Stadium, the defenses succeeded in neutralizing the weapons and the 49ers emerged with a 16-14 victory when Jose Cortez, who was waived late in the season in favor of rookie Jeff Chandler, kicked a 36-yard field goal with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Collins threw for 342 yards, but was intercepted three times. Barber played with a sore hamstring and had just 29 yards on 15 carries and was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 play at the San Francisco 21 in the second quarter.
Barber scored with 1:55 left to tie the game, but that was enough time for Garcia to take San Francisco down the field for the winning field goal. The key play in the drive was a 33-yard pass to Owens, who ws held to three catches for eight yards before taking advantage of a blown cover assignment.
The Giants won their last four games to overcome Atlanta (9-6-1) and New Orleans (9-7) in the wild card race and have played like a different team since Coach Jim Fassel assumed play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Sean Payton after an Oct. 28 loss at Philadelphia.
Since then, the Giants exploded for 26 touchdowns in their last nine games after scoring seven in their first seven. They averaged 29.4 points over the last five weeks.
While the Giants rolled, San Francisco lost four of their last seven games with the wins over Dallas, Arizona and Seattle.
The last time the Giants played a road playoff game was here at Candlestick Point in January 1994 and they left with a 44-3 loss. It turned out to be the final game for Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor and quarterback Phil Simms.
The Giants reached the Super Bowl two years ago under Fassel, but have never played a road playoff game with their sixth-year coach.
The 49ers played in the wild card round last season under Steve Mariucci and were beaten by the Green Bay Packers, 25-15 at Lambeau Field.