The Vikings, standing at 2-4 on the season, are notorious for one-score games, a pattern that has been highlighted in every game this season.
While their run game has been nonexistent and the passing game is currently lacking the presence of Justin Jefferson, the Vikings have still been respectable.
That’s partially due to an improved defense, statistically, in defensive coordinator Brian Flores’s first year with the Vikings.
How has Flores looked to call plays with the Vikings and their personnel in his first season?
One thing that’s remained consistent has been heavy pressure, as Flores has called Cover-0 blitzes on a whopping 20 percent of third downs this season, much higher than the league average of six percent.
That’s been apparent on film for the 49ers, as well as Minnesota’s ability to bracket and try to confuse opposing offenses.
“Obviously, they love to bring the whole house and all the zero looks that they’ve got and then being able to bluff out of that and stuff. So, they do a really good job with it. On film it may look like, ‘oh man, there’s some space and stuff,’ but they do a good job with bracketing stuff and sort of just anticipating what teams are going to try to do,” quarterback Brock Purdy said ahead of the matchup on Monday.
“And so, they’re really well coached. They do it well, and then I think all of their players are really smart and they know what they’re trying to do within the scheme. So, for us, it’s like, man, we’ve got to be ready for obviously having answers with zero and pressure and stuff.”
However, in finding those answers against a blitz-heavy scheme, Purdy and the 49ers understand they've got to just be smart with the ball and not allow the pressure to prompt mistakes on their end.
“But you know, at the same time, we’ve just got to be smart,” Purdy said. “For myself, we’ve got to be smart with the ball. That’s what they’re trying to do is pressure the quarterback, get the quarterback to make some mistakes and stuff. So, and they’ve done that within the games that they’ve played in. They’ve done that to a lot of the quarterbacks, getting them to, you know, some strip-sacks and all that kind of stuff. So, it’s a good challenge.”
Has Flores changed his concepts scheme-wise going from Miami to Minnesota?
While there’ve been adjustments due to the personnel, it’s been a similar scheme, Purdy noted.
“Yeah, a similar scheme for sure,” Purdy said. “It’s slightly different but comes from the [Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian] Flores thought process and stuff. And so, we just, last year going into that game, it’s like, ‘alright, got to be ready for zero, but they probably won’t do it as much.’ And then once I got thrown in, they did it a lot. So, I think it was good experience for myself and then for all the other guys to be ready for those kinds of looks and looking for the ball quick and getting the ball out of my hands.”
“But at the same time, this is all a different game, different players and stuff that we’re going against. And like I said, these players, they know the system and they look comfortable in it, and so they’re smart. Not to say Miami wasn’t, Miami was, but it’s a little different, just different players.”
While the Vikings do play more zone coverage than expected on base downs, that pressure via the blitz certainly stands out, and Purdy is ready for the possibilities that Minnesota could throw at the 49ers offense.
“Yeah, I feel like their base defense for sure [is more zone coverage than you’d expect],” Purdy said. “But man, do they love playing in that realm of bringing pressure and then hoping we get the quarterback or get guys to mess up and then force the ball to be turned over. So, I feel like that’s more of what they like to do, but at the same time, we can’t just go into a game saying they’re going to do this, this, or that. You know, they’ve had a week to prepare and switch things up, so you never know.”
The 49ers are looking for a bounce-back effort offensively after scoring just 17 points last week, and will face a pressure-heavy defense in the Minnesota Vikings.
Is Brock Purdy up for the task? We’ll find out on Monday night.