The Niners offense came into this game with one goal: to grind the Vikings defense into submission.
When they got into that rhythm, it’s hard to argue they didn’t accomplish their goal, but there were a few cracks in what was overall a strong performance.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a fairly efficient game, continuing his stretch of game-management play that has mixed in some high-level efforts. This game, though, was a little off from the exceptional play against the Rams and the rather strong performance against the Jaguars.
For starters, the interception he threw on the opening drive to Harrison Smith was indicative of one of Garoppolo’s biggest flaws as a quarterback: His inability to read underneath coverage. It looked remarkably similar to the NFC divisional game in 2019, where he threw an ugly interception to Eric Kendricks of the same Vikings.
Two years later, same flaw.
Additionally, Garoppolo missed a fair number of simple throws because he placed the ball either too high or too much on the inside on an out-breaking throw. Not a huge deal in the overall flow of the game, but plays that simply can’t be left on the field.
His general decisiveness mixed with a few quality strikes down the middle proved to be more than enough for a San Francisco offense that dominated on the ground.
Running Backs: A+
The 49ers’ intent to maul a depleted Vikings defensive front worked, and maul they did.
Elijah Mitchell carried the ball 27 times for a whopping 133 yards and a touchdown, sporting an excellent 4.9 yards per car as well, becoming the first rookie in franchise history to record four games of 100-plus yards rushing. Add on his five receptions for 35 yards, Kyle Juszczyk’s 37 yards receiving, and a general control over the game, and you got a position room that absolutely dominated.
Mitchell in particular manufactured yards where none were available and particularly dominated in a way partly reminiscent of 2019.
Wide Receivers: A
We are eventually going to have to consider whether Deebo Samuel should even be in the wide receiver position group. But 78 scrimmage yards with two touchdowns on only seven touches is elite production, no matter what position he’s at. Samuel’s ability to dominate outside running lanes, whether as a receiver or in the backfield, offers the Niners a bevy of options.
Hopefully, his groin injury isn’t too serious.
But Samuel wasn’t the only receiver who was productive. Brandon Aiyuk continues his ascent from Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse with a team-leading 91 yards receiving on three receptions, and Jauan Jennings caught a nifty touchdown and nearly had one more.
Add on quality blocking from the wideouts, and you have a great game.
Tight Ends: B+
It gets hard to “grade” San Francisco’s tight end group because this reliance on the run has significantly eaten away from the receiving options. The tight ends had three targets as a whole, which they hauled in two of for 24 yards.
But you can’t say they had a bad game given how impactful they have been on the ground, George Kittle in particular.
Especially Kittle’s epic response to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who accused the 49ers of “holding on every single play.”
That alone is worth an A-plus grade.
In future weeks, you’d like the Niners to try and use their star tight end in the receiving game a little more, but they’re doing their job and doing it well as the team racks up wins.
Offensive Line: B-
Decent day for the offensive line, but certainly not the cleanest.
In the run game, the offensive line played quite well. But a couple penalties on Laken Tomlinson stand out prominently in a game that was not scrutinized by referees, and in pass protection, Garoppolo dealt with a couple sacks where the interior of the line was absolutely blown up.
Room to improve, but a decent day overall.