EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham had been pretty quiet since his Super Bowl hurrah, the 38-yard over-the-shoulder tightrope catch down the sideline that helped propel the upstart New York Giants past the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
He'd been quietly efficient for his new team, the 49ers, catching 12 balls for 113 yards through the first three games.
But back in his old stamping ground of MetLife Stadium on Sunday, the 49ers unleashed a fuller dose of Manningham in the process of stomping the New York Jets 34-0. While his numbers weren't impressive on paper -- a team-high three catches for 47 yards and a 28-yard run on an end-around -- Manningham's overall impact on a sometimes-sputtering 49ers offense was significant.
"Anything I can do to help us get points," Manningham said after emerging from a long postgame celebration with family and friends. "You can go out there and play without thinking (in this system). I like it."
The 49ers appear to be liking Manningham, too. Coach Jim Harbaugh has unofficially designated him the team's No. 2 receiver, behind Michael Crabtree but ahead of Randy Moss. With 21 career touchdowns, counting the postseason, over his four-plus seasons, the 6-foot, 185-pound Manningham has shown a knack for making the big play.
That's something the 49ers offense can use, particularly on days when others aren't performing to usual standards.
"He brings playmaking ability to the team," said tight end Vernon Davis, who leads the team with four touchdowns this season but was held to two catches for 28 yards and no scores Sunday. "When you can add that, it's always a plus.
"Over the years we've seen what Manningham can do. So for us to get him brings a lot more excitement to the team."
Especially if his presence opens things up not only for Davis and Crabtree but Harbaugh's assortment of backs -- Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and backup quarterback and read-option specialist Colin Kaepernick.
"Those guys played well on the outside," quarterback Alex Smith said of his wideouts. Smith didn't force things, going 12 for 21 for 143 yards and no turnovers. "Mario especially made plays with the ball in his hands. Their cornerbacks like to press, especially (Antonio) Cromartie. We knew we'd have to beat them going downfield."
Turns out the 49ers beat the Jets defense downfield, upfield, all over the field in large part thanks to a defense that forced four turnovers in pitching a shutout. But Manningham, who came home under much less fanfare than when he departed, still managed to remind New York fans what they'll be missing this year.
In fact his toughest job of the day might have been finding the right locker room. "I didn't know they had four locker rooms here," laughed Manningham. "It's strange being back."