49ers-Giants matchups: Part III – Culliver vs. Hixon and Randle

The 49ers play the Giants on Sunday at Candlestick. In the meantime, I’ll break down a couple of key matchups per day.

CB Chris Culliver (6-0, 199 pounds, 4.36 40-yard dash) vs. WRs Domenik Hixon (6-2, 197, 4.39) and Rueben Randle (6-3, 208, 4.43).

When the 49ers played the Giants Week 10 last season, Culliver mostly matched up man-to-man against Mario Manningham, who caught 6 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. On the Giants’ final drive of the game, Manningham beat Culliver deep and Eli Manning over threw the pass by an inch. Culliver was lucky the Giants didn’t tie the game on that play.

Almost a year later, Manningham is Culliver’s teammate and Culliver is the best cornerback on the 49ers.

This time he doesn’t have to face Manningham – the wide receiver who gave Culliver the most trouble last season and the most trouble in training camp. This time he gets to face Domenik Hixon and Rueben Randle.

Hixon is the flanker in the Giants’ three-wide receiver formations and Randle is the split end (Hakeem Nicks is the starting split end, but he’s missed the last three games with foot and knee injuries, and he did not practice last week).

The Giants tend to flip their formations to mix things up, so Culliver will match up against both Hixon and Randle (but not against Cruz who lines up in the slot).

Hixon is 28 years old and has caught 11 passes for 169 yards the last two games. Randle is a 21-year-old rookie who caught six passes for 82 yards and induced two defensive pass interference penalties against the Browns last week.

Neither guy has the quickness, the shiftiness Manningham used to beat Culliver last season. Hixon and Randle are big receivers. Culliver can handle big receivers.

Expect Eli Manning to avoid Culliver on Sunday.

Advantage: 49ers

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