I fully expect the 49ers to murder the Jets today. OK, got that?
But this game has become fascinating for two reasons: 1) The Vikings, about as bad as the Jets, actually defeated the 49ers — still hard to believe. The Vikings' victory gives the Jets hope, or the illusion of hope. 2) The Vikings showed the blueprint of how to beat the 49ers. Point No.2 is the really important point.
In fact, Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, a former 49ers quarterback, told his offense before the game he had the perfect plan to defeat the 49ers. He was adamant about this. Check this out from Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
"Coach Musgrave told us at the beginning of the week that he thought he had a plan to beat them," Percy Harvin said. "He wasn't just saying that to say it. All week each (position) coach came up and gave us an example of why they felt we should beat this team and how we matched up with them."
More from the Star Tribune: "Musgrave employed a balanced, aggressive approach to keep his offense from becoming too predictable. He set the tone on the opening drive, which spanned 16 plays and ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass from (Christian) Ponder to tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings used eight runs and eight passes in their longest scoring drive since 2006. They began with this sequence of play calls: run, pass, run, pass, run, pass, run, pass, run, pass.
"Musgrave called eight running plays for Adrian Peterson, four passes to Rudolph and two screens to Harvin on the drive."
That's interesting reading, you'll agree. So, what is the blueprint to beat the Niners?
The opposing offense must establish long, clock-devouring drives to keep the 49ers' offense off the field. The Vikings did this.
The opposing offense must commit to the running game. Good luck on that one against the Niners' front four. It's certainly easier said than done because the Niners' defense is the best tackling defense in the entire NFL. The Vikings have running back Adrian Peterson, a future Hall of Famer. The Jets have a couple of whatsisnames.
It helps to have what the great Ira Miller calls a "chaos quarterback," someone who easily escapes the pocket and forces the defense out of its usual pattern, someone who can throw on the run or make things happen with his legs, someone who thrives in chaos.
Jeff Garcia was the quintessential chaos quarterback. The Vikings' Christian Ponder is a chaos quarterback. He ran out of the pocket and confused the Niners' front four and escaped Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. The Jets' Mark Sanchez is not actually a chaos quarterback. He's just plain chaos.
The opposing offense needs to get a quick lead. Again, easier said than done. If the 49ers win the coin toss, they usually defer. That means the opposing offense must do everything it can to score a touchdown right away. If it finds itself with a fourth-and-1 in Niners' territory, it must go for it. This gives the opposing offense an advantage because Jim Harbaugh is conservative and usually kicks a field goal on fourth-and-1 as he did in Minnesota. The Vikings went for it on fourth-and-1.
The opposing defense must force Alex Smith to throw. He does best when he complements a strong run game. Either the Vikings took away the run game from the Niners or offensive coordinator Greg Roman forgot he has one. Smith can function without a run game, but he cannot take an offense on his back, just not his style. The Jets must make the Niners' offense one dimensional, as the Vikings did. For heaven's sake, the 49ers scored only 13 points in Minnesota.