The San Francisco 49ers' offense seemed to run stale during their four-game losing streak. However, winning back-to-back games has given the players an “unstoppable” feeling. San Francisco welcomes the sneaky good Minnesota Vikings team to Levi’s Stadium for their 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time matchup Sunday.
Minnesota is headlined by the firepower they have on offense. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen have been vital to the Vikings’ offensive success. Prepare for the announcers to reiterate that 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan wanted to reunite with Cousins over and over. In reality, the focus should be on Jefferson and Thielen’s ability to do damage against this 49er secondary.
I’m sure those are two names this 49er defense is more than aware of. The announcers should shed light on the talent of the Vikings tandem in comparison to the rise of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers’ offense will have to outshine Minnesota’s high-powered stars. Samuel and Aiyuk are more than equipped to lead the charge.
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen vs. the Niners secondary
Jefferson and Thielen pose a great threat to this Niner secondary that has come along after being vulnerable earlier in the season. Jefferson has four 100-yard receiving games on the season and is coming off back-to-back games of 143+ receiving yards against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Green Bay Packers.
Jefferson can create separation on short and intermediate routes, make catches through contact, and gash the defense deep. However, I worry about San Francisco's cornerbacks when 49er defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans gets aggressive. Leaving these corners on an island has worked in recent weeks, but these two receivers pose a greater threat than this defense has seen in recent memory — especially when a polished receiver like Jefferson is lined up in front of them.
Thielen is a savvy veteran that has proven to be a number one receiver over the last six seasons. The nine-year NFL vet has gone from undrafted free agent to a premier wide receiver.
Both Jefferson and Thielen can do damage against man or zone coverage. The Vikings' tandem is also good at winning their routes at the line of scrimmage. San Francisco may not be a heavy press-man defense, but they play some of the same principles when they play Cover 1.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk vs the Vikings secondary
San Francisco’s receiving core is headlined by their three-headed monster (Samuel, Aiyuk, and George Kittle). Samuel, in particular, has taken charge as the top receiving target on the team. His first monster performance came in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, as he nearly had 200 yards receiving.
Samuel has proven week in and week out that he is not limited to only catching short passes and jet sweeps to display his “Y.A.C.” ability. He has shown in 10 games that he can win at all three levels on the field and stress defenses as a ball-carrier with him being handed the ball out of the backfield. Samuel turning into a jack of all trades has elevated the offense and has given others opportunities to flourish.
Aiyuk has had an interesting 2021 season. One can say it has been underwhelming, but you would have to dig deeper than box scores to see the talent Brandon Aiyuk possesses.
It took nine games for Aiyuk to have an above-average performance. Last week, Aiyuk caught all seven of his targets for 85 yards. Aiyuk’s biggest games happened this month. Based on the way his usage is trending, it’s safe to assume he’ll have his first 100-yard game of the season sooner than later. Most importantly, touchdowns are happening. Aiyuk has also scored twice in two games.
We all know about Samuel’s impact on the ground. As a rookie, Aiyuk had six carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He only has two carries this season. In an effort to continue to get Aiyuk touches, getting him involved more near the line of scrimmage is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Which duo would you take?
Which WR duo would you rather have?