The Purple Legion is alive and well after a heroic playoff win in New Orleans. Despite being heavy underdogs, the Vikings were able to put together a solid game plan that suppressed Drew Brees and put Kirk Cousins in a position to win. Now, Minnesota has a chance to beat the odds once more… Let’s look at the winning formula for defeating San Francisco.
Game plan and possession
First and foremost, hats off to Kevin Stafanski, Gary Kubiak, and the rest of the offensive coaching staff for coming up with a good game plan against the Saints. Aside from a couple miscues, the Vikings offense worked efficiently and kept the New Orleans defense tired and on the field. Minnesota possessed the pigskin for a gaudy 20 more minutes than the Saints, and doing so against San Francisco would probably yield the same result.
Obviously, keeping the ball in your own hands is easier said than done. It’s no secret that head coach Mike Zimmer believes this is best done by establishing the run and committing to the ground game. But, as the 49ers game is only hours away, some analysts are saying the Vikings should instead put the ball in Cousins’ hands and utilize an aerial attack. To me, that seems like an unnecessary risk and ineffective tactic.
In games where the Vikings have run the ball 30 times or more, they’re undefeated. Under Zimmer, the Vikings have done this in 40 games, including their recent upending of the Saints. So, let’s stick with Zimmer’s plan, run the ball 31 times, and force the 49ers to stop our stable of running backs.
Fluster Jimmy G
The Vikings offense performed admirably against the Saints, but Minnesota’s defense also stepped up. Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards brewed up a new concoction for the playoffs, as fans saw them swapping the defensive ends with the defensive tackles. It was a bold move, but one that worked well for pressuring Brees as he was sacked three times.
If the Vikings deploy the defensive end swap once more, there’s a good chance they’ll overwhelm San Francisco’s offensive line and successfully reach the quarterback. The goal is to rush Jimmy Garoppolo into some dangerous throws, or of course pick up a few sacks. For those who don’t know, Garoppolo has never thrown a pass in the playoffs, and his inexperience may prove costly in his postseason parade.
Last week, the Vikings secondary, specifically, the nickel corner position, played shorthanded as Mackensie Alexander was out with an injury and Mike Hughes was also sent to injured reserve. Any hopes of being near full strength against San Francisco evaporated when Alexander was also placed on IR yesterday. These injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time, but the team must forge ahead.
To accommodate their missing corners last week, Zimmer utilized safety Andrew Sendejo in the slot, and one would imagine he’ll do it again against the 49ers. It wasn’t ideal, but it did get the job done. How well the defense copes with their missing corners and how well Sendejo takes to his new role will likely be a determining factor in this game.
That’s it for your winning formula. Skol to the Bowl.