SANTA CLARA -- Something looks askew with the 49ers' defensive rankings, and it's not that they lead the league with the fewest points allowed per game.
It's that their pass defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL, five spots better than their more renowned run defense, at least in terms of yards surrendered.
The 49ers' defensive backs have no time to take a bow, however. Eli Manning and the New York Giants are coming to town Sunday.
"The first time I played (Manning), he threw a touchdown on me," second-year cornerback Chris Culliver said. "In my mind, that won't happen again."
Manning presents a formidable challenge for a 49ers defense that's already survived the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, the Lions' Matthew Stafford and the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Manning had mixed results in his two visits last season to Candlestick Park, and he avenged a regular-season defeat by guiding the Giants to a 20-17 overtime win in the NFC Championship game.
Cornerback Tarell Brown isn't planning to study film from those games -- or the Giants' subsequent Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots -- to prepare for Manning & Co.
"They've changed personnel, like we have," Brown said. "You've still got to study like you're facing a new quarterback."
Brown will analyze Manning's tendencies on specific downs and distances, where the receivers are positioned and what formations have worked best for the Giants (3-2).
On pace for a career-high 5,053 yards this season, Manning has thrown for at least 200 yards in 24 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NFL history behind Dan Fouts (45).
"He's a magician ... the things he can get in and out of, and the plays he makes," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Safety Dashon Goldson agreed: "You watch him on field, he's always moving. He can pull a rabbit out of his hat at any time."
Carlos Rogers likely has faced Manning more than any other quarterback in his six-plus seasons. That knowledge paid off with two interceptions by Rogers in the 49ers' 27-20 win over the Giants last Nov. 13.
Of course, the studious Manning knows Rogers, too, and that resulted in Manning constantly attacking Rogers' matchup with Victor Cruz during the NFC Championship game.
Spicing up the Cruz-Rogers reunion is a touch of controversy over Cruz's salsa-dance celebration. Rogers mimicked it a year ago after making one of his interceptions, and that drew Cruz's ire.
Cruz explained Wednesday why he felt so disrespected by Rogers' impersonation: The salsa dance is a tribute to Cruz's grandmother, Lucy Molina, who died last month. "That's sacred to me," Cruz said. "Due to her passing, and even before, it's why I do it. She taught me how to do it."
Although Rogers said Tuesday he might "salsa" if he makes a big play or an interception Sunday, his outlook on the dance "definitely" changed Wednesday upon being informed of Cruz's grandmother-related storyline.
Cruz had three touchdown catches in the Giants' comeback win Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, so Rogers & Co. again will be facing a red-hot receiver.
But the 49ers have a new source for scouting purposes, that being wide receiver Mario Manningham, who defected from the Giants to join the 49ers this season. "He'll give us a lot of clues and tips," Brown said. "Me, Carlos and Chris are excited about that."
Just as helpful would be a menacing pass rush, and the 49ers repeatedly hammered Manning in the NFC Championship game (six sacks, 12 hits).
"He's in the elite class of quarterbacks," defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. "He's going to get hit, get up and keep making throws."
Not Manning's distinguished resume, nor those of anyone else, will alter the pass-rushing strategy of Aldon Smith, the 49ers' leader with 4½ sacks.
"I don't care who the quarterback is, what his record is or who his brother is," Smith said. "I'm just playing football."
Through five weeks, only the Dallas Cowboys are playing better pass defense (169.5 yards per game) than the 49ers (181.2). If the 49ers stick to that average, Manning's streak of 200-yard games will end, and the 49ers' win streak likely will grow to three games.
N.Y. Giants (3-2) at 49ers (4-1), 1:25 p.m. FOX
Alex Smith doesn't expect sprained finger on throwing hand to be a hindrance Sunday. Page 7