by Keegan Ohta
Congratulations, 49ers faithful: You are going to get to see a playoff game for the first time at Levi’s Stadium since the facility’s opening in 2014. Also, you get to see the 49ers as the NFC’s No. 1 seed for the first time since 1997.
There is now one obstacle standing in your way: the Minnesota Vikings.
If the 2018 Minneapolis miracle wasn’t enough, the Vikings found some way to beat the Saints again, but in New Orleans this time.
The Vikings are on the hunt for their second appearance in the NFC Championship game in three years.
Now you could call this game the tiebreaker because both teams have won 23 games each in their 47-game history with each other (with one tie). However, in the playoffs, the teams’ history dates back to the 1997 season. They played each other two days after 1998 rung in, and Steve Young and Terry Kirby led the 49ers to a 38-22 victory.
This victory was one of four against the Vikings in the playoffs. The only victory in five playoff games for the Vikings came in 1987, where Chuck Nelson of the Vikings scored 18 of their 36 total points on five field goals and three extra points.
But that’s all in the past. Let’s talk about their first meeting in the playoffs in 22 years.
The matchup now puts what is basically going to be a battle of breakthroughs as the 49ers defense gave up an average of 19.4 (8th NFL) points per game in the regular season and the Vikings only gave up 18.9 points per game (T-5th NFL)
Offensively, the 49ers averaged 29.9 PPG which was second-best in the league, and the Vikings averaged 25.4 PPG which was eighth in the league. For the Vikings, their average PPG is lower than two teams that did not make the playoffs: Tampa Bay and Dallas.
In the backfield, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins are almost at par with each other, with the same completion percentage and only one touchdown separating the two. Although if you look closer, neither quarterback ranks in the top half of passing attempts in the NFL, which points to one thing: the run game.
For San Francisco, there are three players with more than 100 rushing attempts: Tevin Coleman (137), Raheem Mostert (137), and Matt Breida (123). So if you do the math, these three have a combined 397 rushing attempts. But the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook has 250 attempts alone so far this season.
In total rushing, these two teams are only separated by 172 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. Meanwhile the Vikings have only given up 8 rushing touchdowns and the 49ers have given up 11 rushing touchdowns.
So regardless of the line favoring San Francisco or the fact that the game is at Levi’s Stadium, don’t assume this is a guaranteed Niner victory…
This might just be a fight to the end, and whichever team can break through the other’s wall will win this game.
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