San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings: Keys to the Game


With the San Francisco 49ers‘ offseason from hell finally over, the team is looking to start the season off strong. Many are predicting that the 49ers will lose this game — along with the majority of the rest of their games — so, a win on Monday may do a lot to quell the negativity from fans and analysts alike.

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The 2015 Minnesota Vikings are not the same Vikings that the world has come to know. They are an upstart team with a talented, young quarterback and good defense that many expect will actually compete with the big boys in their division for a playoff spot this year.

The 49ers are actually the underdogs in this game, and rightly so. Until they prove that they can win despite the losses they’ve suffered, no one is going to believe in them. So, they must start off on the right foot by winning this game against one of the media’s darling teams.

To state the obvious, to have any shot of winning, the 49ers must contain Adrian Peterson. Just like NaVorro Bowman, Peterson missed just about all of last season — though, his stemmed from his legal troubles rather than injury. Now, Peterson is back and is hungry to play.

Historically, the 49ers have done a good job at shutting Peterson down. In his three games against the 49ers, Peterson has carried the ball 58 times for 174 yards — a disappointing three yards per carry, which is well below his career average of five yards per carry.

If the 49ers want to win this game, they have to continue their hot streak against the former MVP, even if it means doing it without players like Patrick Willis and Justin Smith.

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San Francisco needs to take the ball out of Peterson’s hands and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. Bridgewater is a second year QB that has a massive amount of potential. However, he is still young and prone getting shaken which leads to him making mistakes.

In years past, the 49ers wouldn’t attempt to fool quarterbacks with exotic coverage and blitz packages. Their philosophy was to just beat the man in front of them. Now, with Eric Mangini as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, San Francisco will disguise their coverage and blitzes and try to surprise the young quarterback.

Helping the 49ers is the fact that the Vikings are having trouble on their offensive line as of late. Their top draft pick in 2012, Matt Kalil, has struggled mightily after his rookie year and appears to be continuing to struggle. The Vikings have also lost their starting center, John Sullivan, for the first few games of the season.

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49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses
49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses /

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  • Despite the roster turnover and loss of stars like Aldon Smith, the 49ers must be able to take advantage of the Vikings’ problems on the offensive line. San Francisco no longer has a force of nature like Smith, but what they do have is depth. They may not have any stars on their line, but they have plenty of capable guys they can switch in and out which forces the Vikings’ line to constantly face fresh legs.

    Regardless of what happens on the defensive side of the ball, just like most other games,, it will be the offense that will win or lose the game for San Francisco.

    It’s time for the offense to show the improvements that the world has heard so much about in camp. We didn’t see it during the preseason, but there are plenty of reasons why that might be so. However, there are no more excuses. If Colin Kaepernick and company can’t click and put points on the board, then the 49ers will be in for a long season.

    As mentioned before, the Vikings have an underrated and talented defense. They have a star on the back end in Harrison Smith and an emerging one on the corners in Xavier Rhodes. The 49ers need be careful to not play in their hands.

    The key to winning this game will most likely be running the ball well — this will most likely be true for every game this season. The offensive line must create good holes for Carlos Hyde to exploit. If the 49ers can establish the run game early, it will be easier for Kaepernick to connect with his receivers.

    For Kaepernick to throw to his receivers, he’s going to need time. If the offensive line can’t give him that, then there’s not much the offense can do. During week three of the preseason against the Broncos, Kaepernick played an entire half and only threw the ball five times — primarily because every time he stepped back, there was already a defender in his face.

    Now, the Broncos are a great team and might lead the league in sacks this year, but a professional offensive lineman must be able to at least hold his own for more than half a second. If San Francisco’s line can’t do that, the team is in real big trouble.

    Like most teams, the brunt of the load falls on the quarterback’s shoulders. If Kaepernick plays well, the 49ers will win. If not, then we might see the 5-11 season that many people are predicting.

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