It wasn’t easy and injuries piled up for both teams, but the 49ers managed to hang on and beat the Vikings in a crucial Week 12 bout at Levi’s Stadium.
The San Francisco 49ers‘ Week 11 road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was both easy and boring.
The Niners’ Week 12 win against the visiting Minnesota Vikings was not.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad improved to 6-5 after the 34-26 win at Levi’s Stadium, and of course, that doesn’t come close to telling the entire story. In what turned into a wild back-and-forth affair with kickoff returns for touchdowns, wide receivers serving as running backs and cornerbacks, trick plays, turnovers, injuries and shootouts, there’s going to be a lot for pundits and fans to pick apart.
Especially when it was a 14-14 game at halftime.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t exactly get off to a hot start, tossing an interception into the waiting arms of Vikings safety Harrison Smith, and Minnesota turned that into an early 7-0 lead. At least Garoppolo and the offense managed to bounce back, thanks largely to running back Elijah Mitchell, and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Oh, and wide receiver Jauan Jennings, too, whose late touchdown just before halftime tied things up before the wild second half:
Jennings’ score was impressive, yes. But San Francisco’s best player was Samuel, and that statement shouldn’t shock anyone.
Deebo Samuel remains 49ers’ most potent offensive weapon despite injury
He might have had only two catches the last two weeks, but that doesn’t account for the all-purpose usage Samuel has seen as of late in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Not only did Samuel record the 49ers’ first touchdown of the day on a 20-yard run, but he also added yet another score in what was a wild stretch of back-and-forth play in the third quarter:
Yet Samuel experienced a scary moment late in the third quarter, taking a tackle for a loss by Vikings linebacker Nick Vigil that forced Samuel to the ground for a while. Samuel was eventually able to walk off the field gingerly under his own power, officially listed with a groin injury and didn’t return.
Before that point, Samuel mustered only one catch for 12 yards, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and the first Niners wideout to do so since Anquan Boldin back in 2014, but also rushed six times for 66 yards and the two scores.
Additionally, Samuel became the first wide receiver in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in a season.
One can only hope he’s able to return to action soon.
Injuries pile up for both 49ers and Vikings
Samuel wasn’t the only big-name player to exit the game.
Minnesota watched star running back Dalvin Cook being carted off the field in the second half on a play where defensive tackle Kevin Givens punched the ball out for a fumble recovered by San Francisco.
Tough blow for the Vikings, too, showing the attrition that took its toll during the game.
The 49ers also lost linebackers Fred Warner, Marcell Harris and Dre Greenlaw, the latter coming back for his first game after missing each week since Week 1 with a groin injury.
Certainly something to monitor after the game when Shanahan breaks down the injury list.
Still, the win improved the Niners’ playoff standings and pushed Shanahan’s squad above Minnesota in NFC playoff picture, and that atmosphere was certainly felt in what surely was the biggest game of San Francisco’s season to date. One which probably induced some insanely tough stressful moments late.
And that will only to be replicated from this point onward.