For the third straight week to start the season the San Francisco 49ers will to take on another opponent from the NFC North, this time it’s the Minnesota Vikings. The 49ers are superior to the Vikings in all aspects of the game. However, playing at the Metrodome where Viking fans can get rowdy and loud could disrupt the 49ers offense. The Vikings enter the content with a 1-1 record and where close to starting the season 2-0, but lost in the final seconds to the Colts last week 23-20. In the game, the Vikings trailed 20-6 heading into the fourth quarter when quarterback Christian Ponder led the offense back to tie the game. But, the Vikings defense could not stop rookie quarterback Andrew Luck from leading his offense down the field on a 4 play, 45-yard drive that resulted in the game winning field goal with 12 seconds left in the game.
To preview the 49ers versus Vikings game, Niner Noise conducted a Q&A with fan website The Viking Age and Editor Dan Zinski. Enjoy and go 49ers!
Q. With linebacker Erin Henderson missing the game on Sunday because of a concussion, how big of a loss is this for the Vikings and what area does this affect the defense the most?
A. Henderson is pretty big in the run game and he’s on the field in nickel so it’s a fairly large blow. Marvin Mitchell will fill in for him in the base defense and MLB Jasper Brinkley will stay in on nickel. Brinkley has almost no experience in nickel so that could be a bit of an adventure. An already poor pass defense will just be that much worse.
Q. Which Vikings weapon needs a big game for the offense to score touchdowns on the 49ers defense?
A. I’ll have to go with Adrian Peterson. Percy Harvin has had a great year so far but most of his action has been in the short passing game and he’s not really an explosive downfield receiver or a red zone threat. He helps you move the ball between the 20s but he’s not putting it in the end zone. Peterson has sort of been going along doing his thing since coming back from the knee surgery. This would be a good week for him to bust out and have one of those Adrian Peterson-type games. It would be nice to see some big plays from him, so we’ll know he’s all the way back.
Q. Vernon Davis has been a beast for the 49ers with eight receptions, 116 yards and three touchdowns in two games. How will the Vikings defense defend Davis?
A. Their whole Tampa-2 defense is predicated on QB pressure and not getting beat over the top. I don’t really see them doing anything special on Davis. It’s pretty much down to whether they can put some heat on Alex Smith and keep him from getting the ball down the field. The Vikes do have a good defensive line and most teams when that heat starts coming will take the short underneath stuff, which the Vikings are willing to give up. The problem is when they don’t tackle and when they go into too-soft coverage and don’t press at the line. It’s not about defending a specific receiver, it’s just that they start leaving guys open all over and then the QB can just pick his target. If Davis happens to find those holes and Smith happens to see him he could have 8 or 9 catches easily. The Vikes normally don’t have a huge problem giving up the deep stuff unless there are coverage break downs. I imagine the Niners will try to get a big play with Davis and hopefully he won’t end up one-on-one with someone down the field.
Q. How is the development of Christian Ponder coming along and what are the expectations for him this season?
A. Ponder has mastered the art of throwing screens to Percy Harvin and watching him make nothing into 10 yards. He’s got that throw down. His reads are still shaky sometimes and he still bails on the pocket too soon. But in his defense he isn’t seeing a lot of open receivers down the field because the Vikings simply don’t have any good receivers who can consistently get separation. So it’s been steady progress but it’s still too soon to say if he’s going to take the next step or remain a middle-of-the-road quarterback. You know, like everyone thought Alex Smith was before Jim Harbaugh sprinkled his magic dust on him.
Q. What are Vikings fans feelings towards Randy Moss after the way everything went down with him in 2010? Will Vikings fans cheer or boo Moss on Sunday?
A. They’ll cheer him. Lustily. They may cheer louder for Randy than they do for the Vikings. The love for Randy will never die. His little ill-conceived return a couple years ago didn’t sour people on him, in fact it seemed to make them love him more. He has an impish charm people just can’t resist. Plus he helped get Brad Childress fired and the Minnesota folks will always be grateful for that.
Q. Prediction for the game?
A. I’ve seen nothing so far this year that leads me to believe the Vikes have a shot in this game. I’m thinking 27-13 San Francisco. San Fran gets way ahead early and sits on the ball, the Vikes score a late garbage TD to keep it from being totally embarrassing. Moss has a TD and everyone goes home happy even though their team lost.
Niner Noise’s answers are after the jump.