Vikings: 3 keys to a win against the 49ers

Vikings: 3 keys to a win against the 49ers Photo: MGN/NFL

Updated: January 11, 2020 08:14 AM

1.    Good pass protection

The Vikings offensive line will have a big challenge on Saturday protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins. 


San Francisco finished with 48 sacks in the regular season which was tied with the Vikings for fifth most in the NFL. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa led the 49ers with nine sacks, but he’ll have some help putting pressure on Cousins this week. Defensive end Dee Ford returns for San Francisco. He had 6.5 sacks in eight games this season. Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander also returns after missing the last eight games with a torn pectoral muscle.

“They’re playing the quarterback on the way to playing the run. It’s just an impressive group, they get off the ball, and they’re making a ton of plays,” Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said about the 49ers defense. “Our guys know it’s a big challenge this week, but I think the caliber of player is very impressive and that it matches the scheme and what they’re trying to do.”

In 2019 regular season, The 49ers had the top-ranked pass defense in football allowing only 169.2 passing yards per game.

2.    Unleash Dalvin Cook

The one area where the 49ers are vulnerable is in the run game. San Francisco was in the middle of pack against the run giving up 112.6 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. 

After suffering through a shoulder injury late in the regular season, Dalvin Cook returned to form in their win against New Orleans. Cook finished with 130 total yards on 31 touches and scored twice in the Vikings Wild Card playoff victory.

Cook can set the pace against the 49ers and make Cousins’ play-action passes much more effective.

“Dalvin is a special player,” Stefanski said about his star running back. “When he touches the ball, good things happen. Does it open up other elements of our game? Certainly it does, and we’re never going to shy away from saying that we’re going to be multi-faceted in how we attack a defense, so having number 33 is certainly a nice bonus for us.”

3.    Keep Kittle bottled up

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garappolo is making his first playoff start on Saturday and the Vikings need to pay extra attention to his favorite target.

Former Iowa Hawkeye George Kittle has developed into one of the top tight ends in football. Kittle caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards in 14 games this season.

“He’s a good blocker when they ask him to block,” Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said about Kittle “He’s good out of the backfield. He’s good out at receiver. He does a lot of things for them offensively.”

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