49ers vs. Vikings: Behind enemy lines Q&A for Week 12
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers host the Vikings in a pivotal Week 12 game with plenty of playoff implications, and Niner Noise chatted it up with FanSided’s The Viking Age to break down what’s on the line.
Both the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings are 5-5 entering Week 12. Both teams have gone through plenty of frustrating losses and some telling victories.
And yet the Vikings currently sit one seed ahead in the NFC playoff picture, at No. 6 whereas the Niners are No. 7, thanks to Minnesota’s conference record and by way of the New Orleans Saints losing their Thanksgiving Thursday Night Football game to the Buffalo Bills.
Needless to say, San Francisco’s game versus Minnesota carries a lot of weight in terms of where these two teams could finish up in the postseason picture.
The last time these two teams met, of course, was in January of 2020 when the 49ers used a strong run game and a stifling defense to thwart quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense, but a lot sure has changed since that point.
So, as a breakdown of what’s to come in this matchup, Niner Noise went behind enemy lines with our FanSided sister site, The Viking Age and their associate editor, Adam Patrick, to break down what both teams have gone through this season and what to expect in this crucial Week 12 matchup.
49ers vs. Vikings: Niner Noise Q&A with The Viking Age
NN: Both the 49ers and Vikings have been notably inconsistent this season, but it seems every Vikings win or loss has come down to the final play in any game. From an insider’s perspective, how are the Vikings putting themselves into this situation on such a regular basis?
"TVA: I would love to have a precise answer to this, but they seem to find a new way to let their opponents back in the game each week. Minnesota has typically started hot in each of their matchups as they currently rank sixth in the NFL in first-half points per game. But once they’ve taken a lead, for some reason, the Vikings have seemed to get conservative at times this season as if they’re just trying not to lose instead of keeping their foot on the gas. Minnesota changed up their strategy a bit last week during their win over the Packers, but I’m not about to say their habit of being conservative with a lead is no longer an issue."
NN: Despite the inconsistencies, the Vikings still have one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, having scored 30-plus points in five of their 10 games to date. What are the reasons for this, and if you were an opposing defensive coordinator, what would be your strategy to slow the offense down?
"TVA: Minnesota just has a ton of really dangerous weapons on the offensive side of the ball this season. When he’s hot, Kirk Cousins can chuck the ball as well as anyone in the NFL. They have one of the top running backs in the league in Dalvin Cook who can hurt defenses as a rusher or as a receiver out of the backfield. And of course, they have arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. If Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen are all active during a game, opposing defenses just tend to have a difficult time containing all three.To slow down the Vikings offense, pressuring Cousins is a huge factor. He did well against the Packers pressure last week, but typically, that is something that has caused Cousins to become scared in the pocket and transform into Captain Checkdown."
NN: The Vikings’ Justin Jefferson and the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel are two of the most exciting and explosive wide receivers in the NFL this season. What traits do you see from each that are comparable, and how are they different? Do you think either would thrive if they switched teams?
"TVA: Jefferson and Samuel are two of the best young route-runners in the NFL today. This trait of theirs is what has allowed them to adjust to the pro game much quicker than some of the other young pass-catchers around the league. Neither of them are afraid to run routes across the middle or make a contested catch, and whenever the ball gets in their hands, both are likely to gain another chunk of yards after the catch.In terms of differences, Samuel definitely has a thicker and more muscular build compared to the wire-like frame of Jefferson. Think of Samuel in the mold of someone like Russell Westbrook and Jefferson as Kevin Durant. The frame of the 49ers receiver has come in handy and allowed him to be utilized in the backfield as a rusher. Jefferson has carried the ball a few times in the NFL, but he’s definitely not as much of a threat as a rusher out of the backfield as Samuel is.I’m not sure much would change if Jefferson and Samuel switched teams. Both Minnesota and San Francisco use similar offensive schemes, so they would likely just continue to utilize both players close to how they are currently being used by their teams."
NN: Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo both have experienced plenty of scrutiny in recent years. It sure seems as if Jimmy G is out in favor of Trey Lance in 2022, but are there whispers of Minnesota potentially moving on from Cousins next year, too?
"TVA: Wait, Kirk Cousins has faced scrutiny over the years? What in the world? Just kidding, yes, both Cousins and Garoppolo are two of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL and that is something that has continued this year.As far as Cousins’ future with the Vikings, it really depends on how the team finishes this season. He has been playing some of the best football of his career this year, but Minnesota still only has five wins after their first 10 games. Plus, he has a $45 million cap hit for 2022 that the Vikings will only be able to avoid if they trade him or extend him. Based on Cousins’ performance so far this season, most would likely argue that he’s earned another contract from Minnesota. But if the Vikings end up getting a new head coach and/or general manager in 2022, they might want to take a different path with the quarterback position."
NN: Week 12 carries huge playoff implications for both teams, who are at 5-5 in the win-loss department but separated in the NFC playoff picture by two seeds. If the Vikings win, why? And if the Niners pull off the win, why?
"TVA: The Vikings will win if they continue to play to their strengths like they have during their last two games. That means getting the ball into the hands of guys like Jefferson, Cook, and Thielen as much as possible. Then on the defensive side of the ball, they’ve got to avoid giving up the big plays and find a way to stop the 49ers’ impressive rushing attack.If San Francisco wins, it will likely be due to their ability to take advantage of a shaky Minnesota offensive line and a depleted defensive line. Pressuring Cousins often and running the ball against a Vikings defensive line that will be without Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Michael Pierce is a strategy that should give the 49ers a good chance to leave the field with a win on Sunday."
Patrick’s final statement is a provocative one. Minnesota enters this game having allowed 4.9 yards per rush, which ranks next to last in the league, and being down some key defenders at the line of scrimmage could further influence the end result here.
Over the last two weeks, the Niners have gone with run-heavy approaches, rushing 44 times in a win over the Los Angeles Rams and then 42 times last week during the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Related Story: 4 bold predictions for 49ers Week 12 bout vs. Vikings
Perhaps that’ll be San Francisco’s approach once more, doing so to keep Cousins and the Vikings offense off the field as much as possible.
At any rate, we’d like to thank our friends over at The Viking Age, and be sure to follow Patrick on Twitter, @Str8_Cash_Homey, too.
The 49ers and Vikings kick off on Nov. 28 at 4:25 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.