Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the media on Friday at 49ers headquarters before Sunday's contest with the New York Giants.What's the biggest challenge that QB Eli Manning presents the defense?**
"Their whole offensive unit does a fantastic job. I have a lot of respect for the way their offensive line plays. Talented receivers, think it's the best group of skilled players that we've played all season. Quarterback, receivers and backs."
Last time you guys played a Pro Bowl quarterback you had that stretch there where you played against Tony Romo and Michael Vick. How much do you think your pass defense has improved since then?
"I think there's been improvement. I won't put a percentage on it."
How do you think you guys will fare in a game in sloppy conditions? Do you think you have some mudders on the team?
"Maybe. Good question, good question. Don't have a definitive answer for you."
Is DT Ray McDonald going to be listed as questionable?
What about RB Frank Gore?
Do you have anymore questionables?
"[FB] Moran Norris, questionable."
Coach, couple of the Giants have said that what makes Frank Gore so effective, one of the things, is that he's able to fall forward so often at the ends of his runs. Suppose you getting pushed back. Is that in your experience, is that a skill somebody develops or is it one of those things that some guys have and some guys don't have?
"I think there's some guys that have and some guys that don't. Frank is blessed with some phenomenal instincts and athleticism, physical attributes, strength and speed. Not everybody has that."
Who's idea was it to put the American flag up on the netting?
"That was our idea."
What about the soundtrack?
Is it a mix? Is it an album that you bought?
"No, we put some patriotic songs on with the iPod there. The flag is positioned behind the goalpost on the field goal netting, it reminds me of The Big House. If you have ever been to the Michigan Stadium, American Flag behind the goalpost, very symbolic."
How does your team respond to like, there's going to be a lot of attention on this game. This organization hasn't played a game that's got a lot of national attention in a long time. Do you sense any change in the mentality or the preparation of routine, just the mindset?
"I think our team realizes this is a bigger stage than we've been playing on and I think they're looking forward to embracing that, and they have embraced it. They understand if you want to do well on that stage and continue onto even bigger stages. I think that's our team's mindset."
Is it a good week for it?
"Good week, yes. Very good, really good week of practice. I'd say two of our best on Wednesday and Thursday."
Have you announced the game balls that we talked about a couple week ago. Who you have rewarded this week?
"This past week?"
For this week.
"No, we don't do that until after the game."
Who got it after the Redskins game?
"[LB] Tavares Gooden on defense, [CB] Corey Nelms for special teams and [G] Mike Person for the offense."
You've faced very good teams this year already. The Giants aren't that far removed from the Super Bowl and still have a lot of guys from that team, Eli and a lot of guys on defense. Is there a different vibe playing a team like that?
"It's the most important game of the season. The biggest game of the year because it's the next game. That's the thing that's most significant about it. They're a very good football team and we understand that. Any unit you analyze on their football team is very good. Now we happen to think we've got a good football team too and we're excited about the matchup. I think it's a great test for both teams."
There's been some debate in New York in the East Coast for three months now about whether Eli Manning is a quote-on-quote 'elite quarterback.' Would you put him in that category?
What makes somebody elite versus not elite?
"Playing their position at a very high level, at the highest level."
Is there something that you would like to see out of the team this week that maybe you haven't yet considering maybe the significance of the game or the strength of the team? Is this the best team you have played?
"My opinion is this is the best team we played, yes, so far. What I want to see out of our team is what I know they will give us. I think they will compete and want to win this game very badly. Further, I want to see us play on point, play at our very best and I think it will take that kind of play to be successful in this game. On the details, exact and on point in all phases is the things I would like to see the most."
Giants DE Justin Tuck provided some bulletin board material, as a coach do you have people going through files and looking for stuff to use and bring it to the team?
"I'm not aware of anything that Justin Tuck said. I don't know anything about it."
Bulletin board material in general, is that a big deal to you?
"I'm sure I'll check it out."