49ers dominate Vikings in 27-10 playoff victory
SANTA CLARA — Easy.
The 49ers hardly broke a sweat Saturday when they dismissed the Minnesota Vikings 27-10, a score that doesn’t reflect how one-sided the game was. The Vikings were lucky to score any points. They scored seven when 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon gave up a 41-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. The 49ers immediately benched him and gave up just three points the rest of the game.
“I feel like I didn’t have to play a game, honestly,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “I’d be in coverage and I’d hear cheering and I’d say, ‘Wait, the play just started.’”
The 49ers defense sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins a whopping six times, and Richard Sherman intercepted him once. The defense also gave up just seven first downs and a measly 147 net yards — a new postseason record for the 49ers.
“They’re pretty good, right?” George Kittle said with a laugh. “It’s such a blast just to watch them, how they work together. We have guys rushing the quarterback from all angles. Makes it tough to be a quarterback.”
The Vikings tried to protect Cousins by running the ball, but couldn’t run it effectively. The 49ers gave up just 21 rushing yards the entire game.
“We knew they were going to attack us with the run game,” DeForest Buckner said. “They ran really well against the Saints last week. We knew they were going to try us early, and we had to shut them down early to make it the game we wanted to make it.”
The 49ers got the game they wanted. They made the Vikings a one-dimensional pass-first offense, then overwhelmed Minnesota’s offensive line. The Vikings were playing their second road game in six days and were exhausted.
Meanwhile, the 49ers were playing their first game in 13 days after coming off a first-round bye week. “It was huge for the entire team,” Warner said. “We got some key pieces back on defense and we were just fresh.”
The key pieces were Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt. All three missed the past several games with injuries. All three played against the Vikings and made major contributions.
“The bye week helped the most,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “None of those guys would have been available last week. It was perfect to give them the week off so their first game back was now.”
The bye week also helped the offense, particularly running back Tevin Coleman, who hadn’t rushed for more than 40 yards in a game since Oct. 27. Against the Vikings, Coleman ran 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
“Tevin has had some unfortunate looks, just the luck of the draw,” Shanahan explained. “I think he got some better looks today and took advantage of them. He was able to stay out there longer. We’ve been excited about Tevin all year, and we’re glad he got his opportunities today. He came up big for us.”
As a team, the 49ers ran the ball a gargantuan 47 times for 186 yards. Meaning Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have to do much during his first career playoff start. His quarterback rating was just 74.7, and he threw an interception in the second quarter to Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.
“Just left it a little short,” Garoppolo said. “I had the hole over the top of him and just left it short. He made a good play on it. Tip your hat to him.”
Garoppolo’s interception gave the Vikings the ball in field-goal range. Then they kicked a field goal and scored no more points. That’s how inept the 49ers made the Vikings look, and the Vikings are a good team.
Garoppolo also made nice plays, including a 14-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne on third and 12. But Garoppolo mostly managed the game.
“We had one drive where we literally didn’t pass the ball,” Garoppolo said. That was during the third quarter when the 49ers demoralized the Vikings by running eight times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
“We came to the sideline and were as excited as we’ve ever been offensively,” Garoppolo said. “We ran the hell out of the ball.”