A magical season in the Bay Area rolls along after the 49ers throttled the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in the NFC Divisional playoffs this past Saturday. The offense clicked and the defense did what it had done all season long: be physical. From the front seven to the secondary, San Francisco’s defense makes you feel them. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings felt every bit of that defense, managing to put just 10 points on the board.
Dominating the Ground
In this modern era of football, dominating a game on the ground can sometimes be overlooked. Not for Kyle Shannahan and company, however. “We had a goal going into this game, we thought the team with over 30 runs would win this game,” Shannahan said in his post-game press conference. “We truly look at that as a team goal and we end up with 47 on offense”.
The Vikings managed just 10 carries compared to San Francisco’s 47. Minnesota had no choice, they were forced to all but abandon their ground attack in the second half. After 94 yards on the ground last week, Dalvin Cook ran for just 18 total yards on Saturday. It is his lowest rushing total of the season.
The 49ers running back committee dominated the Vikings defense. Tevin Coleman ran the ball 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. It’s just the second time Coleman has eclipsed 100 rushing yards this season, the first time since week 5 against the Panthers.
Raheem Mostert also had a good performance, running for 58 yards on 12 carries. San Francisco nearly doubled the Vikings’ yards per carrying average. The time of possession battle was also controlled by the 49ers, holding the ball for 38:27 compared to just 21:33 for Minnesota. The game plan was simple: dominate the Vikings up front and make them one-dimensional. That plan was executed to perfection.
Sticking with the theme of being dominant, that’s exactly what the 49ers defense was on Saturday. The return of three key pieces, Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford, and Jaquiski Tartt served as a boost before the game even started.
“It felt good, that’s what we look like when we’re totally healthy,” corner Richard Sherman said after the win. “They understand what they’re seeing, they play fast… all three of them made a huge difference in this game”.
As mentioned, they forced the Vikings to go one dimensional. Kevin Stefanski’s offense was great all year when able to use play-action and misdirection along with a consistent ground attack. With Dalvin Cook basically nullified from the game, things fell squarely on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins.
Cousins was not bad by any means. In fact, you could argue he outperformed Garoppolo especially statistically. Regardless, with only 21 rushing yards as a compliment, the passing game needed to be elite. It was not. Cousins did throw for 172 yards along with one touchdown and interception, but it simply was not enough. Minnesota tallied just 147 total yards of offense, under half of the 49ers total. Cousins was also sacked six times, tying a season-high. They were also just 3-12 on third down and did not pick up a first down on the ground. That’s a recipe for losing for any team, especially in the playoffs. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh deserves a lot of credit for the game plan he put together.
The second overall pick of last year’s NFL Draft showed exactly why he deserved to be drafted that high. Rookie Nick Bosa was huge against the Vikings, coming up with two sacks, two tackles for loss, and six total tackles.
Some thought the lights may be too bright for the rookie in his first NFL postseason game. Not for Nick Bosa.
“I felt pretty normal,” Bosa said at the podium following the win. “It’s really fun playing on a really good team, just knowing every person around you is going to do their job really well. It makes it a lot easier for me”. Bosa’s multi-sack performance is the first by a 49ers rookie since 1993 when Dana Stubblefield did it.
Bosa was slow to get up following a fourth-quarter sack against Cousins. In a WWE Undertaker-like fashion, he quickly sprung up from the turf as “Bosa” chants echoed throughout Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers will play in their 16th conference championship game, which is their first since the 2013 playoffs. They await the Green Bay Packers who knocked off the Seahawks on Sunday night. San Francisco is 3-4 against the Packers in the postseason with the most recent matchup coming in the 2013 Wild Card round. This is the first time the two will see each other in the conference title game since 1997 when Green Bay advanced to the Super Bowl with a 23-10 win.
San Francisco handled Green Bay comfortably 37-8 back in the regular season, but he knows things will not be that easy this time around.
“We know it will be different, that game got away from them early and that’s definitely not the team we’re gonna see this week,” said Shannahan on Monday afternoon. “Everyone knows how good Green Bay is”.
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