2019 has been a crazy roller-coaster for San Francisco 49ers fans, filled with crippling injuries, missed field goals, unexpected stars, trick plays, and heart-stopping walk-off wins and losses.
Nothing has gone according to plan, until Saturday’s divisional round victory over the Minnesota Vikings. No drama, no surprises, no heartache. Just sweet, sweet domination and victory.
You like THAT, Kirk Cousins?
The 49ers came out throwing against the Vikings’ suspect secondary, then ran down their throats (186 yards) until Minnesota proved they could stop it. Which was never.
No surprise there.
The return of Jaquiski Tartt, Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford returned the defense to its early season omnipotence, holding Dalvin Cook to 18 yards rushing on 9 carries, and the Vikings total offense to 147 yards. All game. The entire team.
Mitch Wishnowsky was a masterful tactical punter, allowing no return yards at all on 4 punts, with two muffed catches and two punts landing inside the 20. Raheem Mostert remains one of the two or three best gunners in football, standing by and waiting for Marcus Sherels’ second muff, and alert enough to dive on the ball for a key turnover.
What else is new?
Bringing Dee Ford back unlocked the power of the 4-man rush, which grew more savage as Minnesota fell further behind. The Niners front line finished with 6 sacks and 9 QB hits.
Even the bad news was predictable. Matt Breida fumbled almost as soon as he emerged from Shanahan’s doghouse, Kendrick Bourne had a pointless, drive-ending drop, and Jimmy Garoppolo threw a stupid interception to an underneath defender he somehow didn’t see.
Even Booger McFarland saw that stuff coming.
About the only surprises in the whole game were Tevin Coleman having a great game for once, with 105 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries, and that George Kittle didn’t (16 yards on 3-5), aside from the usual stellar blocking.
The coaching staffs on both sidelines executed their game plans effectively. Minnesota shut down Kittle by putting their best surviving coverage back (LB Eric Kendricks) on him, and San Francisco squelched Cook, leaving Minnesota a one-dimensional against the NFL’s best coverage unit and 4-man pass rush.
The end result boiled down to this: San Francisco had other ways to win, and Minnesota didn’t.
After their big upset win over New Orleans, Vikings fans expected their unexpected winning ways to just continue somehow. They were wrong.
The team with more talent and versatility, superior coaching and a better team culture won.