01 Dec Did the Vikings Victory Pillage the 49ers’ Season?
Sunday’s game vs the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t a must-win, but it in a way it was, if the San Francisco 49ers wanted to remain in control of their playoff destiny. With the win, the 49ers moved up to a 70% chance of making the playoffs. If they had lost, they would’ve dropped down to 30%, and probably would’ve needed help to make the playoffs. The 49ers got the W, but was it a pyrrhic victory?
The game was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Jimmy Garoppolo started out cold, with multiple high throws & an interception. Kyle Shanahan was seen chewing him out on the sidelines immediately after. Late in the first half, Garoppolo had a big throw to Brandon Aiyuk on 3rd & long, then he hit Jennings in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 going into halftime! Luckily for the 49ers, Garoppolo played pretty well in the second half. He was efficient & even converted some third & longs.
Elijah Mitchell was great (27 carries for 133 yards & a TD), despite having to wear protection on his recently fractured & surgically repaired finger. Deebo Samuel continued to be nearly unstoppable, running out of the backfield (6 carries for 66 yards & 2 TDs), he also got 1 catch to put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the season. The first 49ers WR to have over 1,000 receiving yards since Anquan Boldin, in 2014! Samuel is one of only three players ever to have 1,000 receiving yards + five rushing TDs — along with Marshall Faulk & Roger Craig. Amazingly, Samuel accomplished this in just 11 games!
Brandon Aiyuk (3 catches for 91 yards) has been much better in the last four games than he was in first seven to start the season. George Kittle was helpful, but not as much as he was in the last three games. Jauan Jennings got robbed of what would’ve been his second TD of the day. Jeff Wilson Jr. continues to improve, but still isn’t back to his 2020 prowess. Trent Sherfield made a gutsy third down catch on a high throw over the middle to keep the final drive alive for the 49ers. Moments later, Kyle Juszczyk had a long catch, that helped to setup the FG attempt that should’ve iced the game. Robbie Gould ended up missing it, which kept it a one-score game.
The 49ers weren’t great defensively, but they were certainly opportunistic. Azeez Al-Shaair had a beautiful, leaping interception to start the second half. Kevin Givens forced a fumble, which Al-Shaair recovered. Nick Bosa recorded his 11th sack in as many games. Samson Ebukam was clutch, with two key pressures on fourth downs, where the 49ers ultimately got stops. DJ Jones played great. Talanoa Hufanga had a badly blown coverage that ended up with Adam Thielen wide open in the endzone hauling in a TD pass, However, he later atoned for it with pass break-up in the end zone. Newly-acquired DE Charles Omenihu had an impressive tackle-for-loss on a third down run. Josh Norman had a ticky-tack DPI called on him & a bad missed tackle. He also recorded his league-leading seventh forced fumble!
Special Teams was awful. Mitch Wishnowski whiffed on a tackle on a kickoff return that wound up being returned 99 yards for a TD. Robbie Gould missed a FG that would’ve put the 49ers up by 11 with around 2 minutes left in the game. The ending of this game likely would’ve been a lot less stressful if Gould made that FG.
As expected, the 49ers’ offensive line played well & was the biggest key to the victory. The 49ers ran for over 200 yards & only allowed 2 sacks! San Francisco won despite mistakes from Norman, Wisnowski & Gould. Garoppolo had yet another lethargic start, which simply cannot continue if the 49ers want any chance at beating real contenders down the line. Garoppolo didn’t lose the game for the 49ers, but he certainly wasn’t a big reason that they won. Kyle played keepaway & hide the Jim, for the third game in a row tallying 37 (!) or more rushing attempts.
Injuries may have made this a pyrrhic victory. Deebo Samuel pulled his groin and will be out 1-2 weeks. Fred Warner pulled his hamstring and will also be out 1-2 weeks, Dre Greenlaw irritated his groin and is day-to-day, Marcell Harris had concussion and is in the concussion protocol, Trey Sermon sprained his ankle and will likely go on IR and miss the remainder of the season & Kentavius Street injured his wrist and is day-to-day as well.
If Deebo Samuel & Fred Warner miss more than one game each, this Vikings win may have pillaged the 49ers’ season. They will both be needed to keep the 49ers winning & in the playoff race.
PS. Another concern is that Patrick Peterson tested positive for Covid on Monday. He had 5 tackles, was probably engaged by blockers on the 49ers 37 run plays & he also got into in a skirmish with Brandon Aiyuk. It’s something to keep an eye on.