SAN FRANCISCO — Yes, Antrel Rolle had two interceptions Sunday, his first two of the season and only the fourth and fifth in three seasons with the Giants. But when he got up to speak after a 26-3 victory over the 49ers, Rolle seemed a lot more excited to talk about Prince Amukamara’s interception.
That’s because Amukamara’s pick came on the Alex Smith-to-the-tight-end play that has burned the Giants repeatedly in the past.
“That’s a play last year when Vernon Davis scored on us last year,” Rolle said. “We got that play a couple of times. I said, ‘Prince, you didn’t play any zone when you were in college. You don’t have zone eyes.’ I said, ‘Listen, this is what’s going to come. They were very successful with this play last year. It’s going to come, it’s going to come.’ ”
Sure enough, it came early in the second quarter. The 49ers were nursing a 3-0 lead and after a nice opening drive, had been struggling to move the ball.
After a Giants punt, San Francisco had a first-and-10 at its own 34. Smith was looking for Delanie Walker deep to the left side. As the ball was in the air, Rolle was vehemently pointing back to Amukamara. The second-year cornerback out of Nebraska pulled the ball down for his first interception of the season.
“He played it to perfection, he played it better than anybody could have played it,” Rolle said. “I told him, ‘I’m really proud of you.’ Because he listened to what I said and he just saw the route.”
That turnover led to a Eli Manning touchdown pass to Victor Cruz to give the Giants the lead for good. However, it was Rolle’s two interceptions in the third that helped put the game away.
Rolle made a sweet catch of a Smith pass on San Francisco’s first possession of the second half. The ball was a little high, but Rolle reached up with his right hand and pulled it in, and then changed directions and returned the ball 20 yards to the 49ers’ 12. That set up a Lawrence Tynes field goal and a 20-3 lead for the Giants.
“I was fortunate enough to hold on to it with one hand and make a play,” Rolle said, somewhat modestly.
Added linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka: “A tipped ball in the air around him, he’s going to come down with it. That’s a testament to how hard he works as an individual.”
The second pick came on the next 49ers possession. On a third-and-16 at the 49ers’ 15, Smith was trying to force the ball in to Michael Crabtree at the right hashmarks. Instead, Rolle jumped the throw and returned it 22 yards to the San Francisco 5, setting up another Tynes field goal.
“Antrel made a couple of outstanding catches of the ball, in a very difficult position, and put us in point-blank range in the second half,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Rolle was asked whether the two-interception day meant something special to him, given that the eight-year veteran hasn’t been the turnover producer he was in Arizona.
“This game meant as much to me as each and every game that I approach,” he said. “It’s just a game. It’s a conference game and we’re playing a very good opponent.
“I always try to go out and give my best no matter who we’re playing, no matter what division we’re playing. I just try to go out there and give my best performance for the team because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”