I think most of us were happy to see the Minnesota Vikings improbably go to New Orleans and kill the Saints Super Bowl dreams yet again. Two years ago there was the improbable catch and run on the last play of the game that thwarted the Saints Super Bowl march. Then there was the non-call on a blatant pass interference late in the Rams game that ended their comeback.
This last game? Well, Brees had two huge turnovers in the 2nd half to kill drives, and the Vikes did just enough to take the lead late and hold on to force NO to kick a field goal and go to overtime. NO had their chances, yet squandered them. Minn pressured Brees all day and had 7 hits, 3 sacks, and one strip sack.
The 49ers? Well, we had the luxury of having the week of to heal up. Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt are ready to go, and the possibility exists that Kwon Alexander will be ready. He is on the same fast track that JJ Watt went on to play last week and propel Houston to a win over the Bills.
Certainly good news. Thing is though, Minnesota brings a lot of pressure, and the Niners haven’t been very good lately at pass protection. Jimmy G has weathered the storms very well these last few weeks, but it sure would be nice to try and establish the run to set up play-action. Minnesota’s defense gives up a lot of yards, but their turnover numbers and sack numbers line up with ours pretty well. They do a good job in the red zone.
Their offense is pretty much the same. Nothing spectacular across the board but they run and pass efficiently. Dalvin Cook had a solid 1,230 yards rushing, and Stefon Diggs had an equally solid 1,135 yards receiving. The Saints shut him down, but Adam Thielen took up the slack against the Saints, and they have a tough TE of their own in Kyle Rudolph.
Even Kirk Cousins, the almost-49er, had a solid season. His rating of 107 is 4th in the league, and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He didn’t light up the league in yards, but neither did a lot of other playoff QBs. Of the top 10 QBs in yards per game, only Mahomes and Brees (7th and 8th respectively) made the playoffs.
So, what does all this mean? Well, those of us who have been around a while surely remember when the 1987 49ers cruised through the regular season at 13-2 only to get annihilated by the 8-7 Vikings in the opening round of the playoffs. A crushing defeat that had reverberations for quite some time as it drove an unmendable wedge between Eddie D and Bill Walsh to the point where Walsh had to be talked back into coaching by Eddie and his players. Walsh didn’t want to end his run on that note, and came up with his best coaching year in 1988 when the Niners staggered down the stretch, but won 7 of 8 games to win the West, and eventually the Super Bowl.
Overconfidence should not be a factor, and the 49ers shouldn’t be looking forward to the possible Seahawks rematch as that game won’t be decided till Sunday, and everywhere you look, you see references to the 1987 Minnesota playoff game.
I hope Kyle is making the team aware of that game, and its ramifications.