By Jerrell Richardson
After beating the Packers and Lions in the first two weeks of the season, San Francisco will now face the team that many picked to finish last in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings, led by head coach Leslie Frazier. The match up fits the definition of a “trap game” as 49ers appear to be an overwhelming favorite. The Vikings do have the ultimate player in running back Adrian Peterson, but he has little around him in terms of support. San Francisco has the better coach and team, period, but this is exactly why this game is so dangerous. Minnesota has nothing to lose when the two meet on Sunday
After claiming ESPN’s title as the best team in football right now, San Francisco has a target on their back, and there is no doubt that they will get the best that the Vikings have to offer. Also, keep in mind that this will be a homecoming for San Francisco wide receiver Randy Moss, who became a superstar while playing for the Vikings at the start of his career, and whose brief return there in 2010 did not leave Minnesota fans with a good taste in their mouth. Both the Vikings and their home crowd have a little something extra to motivate them to make it a long day for the visiting team and Moss. Motivation does not overcome talent though, and if the 49ers are focused then Minnesota will be lucky if the game is close entering the 4th quarter.
Doesn’t Matter Who They Are Playing
The 49ers have minimal changes to their game plan on offense from week to week. With weapons in all phases now, they are able to dictate what they want to do and not hope that the running game will be enough to move the chains. The biggest threat to the 49ers when they have the ball is defensive end Jared Allen and the Vikings pass rush. Allen is one of the best at his position, which makes those around him better. San Francisco will have to decide to double him or see if they contain him one-on-one, but either way they must keep him out of the pocket. To keep the pass rush at bay, though, will be the threat of the running game and the variety of packages, most notably the Jumbo package that was successful against a more physical Detroit Lions defensive front. When they do pass, San Francisco will frustrate Allen with the quick drops and short to medium passes that has been the staple of the passing game. If Alex Smith does not hold onto the ball unnecessarily, then the offense will be fine and Allen’s impact minimal.
Unstoppable Back Vs. Immovable Object
By having a team built around their running back, the Vikings could not match up any worst against the 49ers. There is no arguing that Adrian Peterson is probably the best running back in the league. Since he entered the league in 2007 he has amassed the 4th highest per run average in history, become the fastest player to reach 5,000 yards in league history, and become a threat in the passing game as well. He is often times the fastest and, outside of the lineman, probably the strongest player on the field at all times.
The problem is that as good as he is, Peterson is going to be Minnesota’s first, second and third option, and the Vikings are not going to try and hide it. San Francisco will be able to key on Peterson and at least give him the attention needed to make sure that he does not beat them. As with any talented payer, sometimes they are just impossible to slow down, but he will certainly not sneak up on anyone. Further making Peterson’s day daunting is that the 49ers have recently been the best rush defense in the league by far. The fact that Peterson is playing at home and on artificial turf gives him a fighting chance, and it will be a great match-up featuring a running back at the top of his game versus a defense that is virtually impossible to run against. One will have to give, and chances are it’s Peterson.
Nothing in the recent past lends to the thought that the 49ers will overlook Minnesota. The match-up is clearly in San Francisco’s favor, but the Vikings have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars this season, and it’s not as though the team is completely incompetent. Any team with a player the caliber of Adrian Peterson is never out of any game and should not be taken lightly — which is the only way that the Vikings will escape the game with a win.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.