Before Saturday, it had been six years since Carlos Rogers had been in a playoff game.
It was his rookie season, and the cornerback out of Auburn was just beginning what would end up being a long stint with the Washington Redskins.
And that stint is the reason why Rogers, the oldest man in the 49ers’ secondary at age 30, knows Sunday’s opponent so well.
The looming NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park will be a rematch of San Francisco’s Week 10 meeting with the surging New York Giants. That first match, in which Rogers picked off quarterback Eli Manning twice, was one of his best this season — a season which also has been the best of his career.
"They’ve asked me some questions on things," Rogers said of his teammates in the secondary, who before last week, had never played in a playoff game. "Because I’ve been in the league for a while. In my six years in Washington, we maybe beat New York two or three times. So they had the advantage on me. There was nothing I could tell them on New York that they haven’t seen."
What the Niners’ secondary saw last weekend in Green Bay was an improved team, different from the one they had previously bested 27-20 in November.
"I think it’s a whole new ball game," Rogers said. "They had some players out. [Hakeem] Nicks was kind of hurt; [Mario] Manningham was still hurt ... they didn’t have [Ahmad] Bradshaw. But at the same time, we didn’t play the best ball that we could."
Despite allowing Drew Brees to throw for 462 yards last week, the Niners’ secondary snagged two interceptions along with forcing a fumble. Cornerback Tarell Brown, who Rogers has provided with some route recognition tips, had one of those interceptions, and likewise is familiar with the opponent.
"It’s going to be special," Brown said of fellow Texas product and Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. "Anytime you get a chance to play against your best friend ... I’m definitely going out there to try to make more plays than him."
But while this 49ers team acknowledges that Sunday’s opponent will be improved, they also take the Giants for a cocky bunch.
"We don’t have to talk," safety Donte Whitner said. "We understand our film speaks for itself. I don’t know if that’s their philosophy, psychology, them trying to get in our head or something, but we don’t plan on taking the bait."
The plan of avoiding the bait was tested days ago when Giants running back Brandon Jacobs scoffed at a reporter’s question of whether he was confident of beating San Francisco.
"Very," was Jacobs’ answer before scampering off the podium. Rogers, a veteran, didn’t bite.
"He should be confident," Rogers said. "It’s one game before the Super Bowl. If you don’t have confidence right now that you’re gonna win, you shouldn’t even be playing."
First time around
27-20: Score of 49ers’ victory against the Giants on Nov. 13
2: Interceptions Giants QB Eli Manning threw in the first meeting
311: Yards Manning threw for in Nov. 13 game
- 230.9: Yards per game the 49ers gave up during regular season