The Minnesota Vikings made a statement putting a dominant winning effort together to defeat the San Francisco 49ers. Here is the game tape analysis of the Vikings vs 49ers game, with grades A through F.
Christian Ponder (79 snaps – 100%) excelled against one of the league’s top defenses finishing with an adequate stat line — 21-of-35 passing for 198 yards, two touchdowns and a 94.7 passer rating — his third straight game without an interception. Ponder added 7 rushes for 33 yards and a rushing touchdown, which came with 5:31 left in the 2nd quarter. Ponder started the game completing his first four passes before getting hit as he threw on a dump off to Toby Gerhart. The play was followed with Ponder throwing wildly behind wide out Stephen Burton on a slant. In what was one of his more inaccurate games of the season (60% completion compared to 74% and 77% the first two games), Ponder almost threw his first interception of the season on a crucial mistake in the 4th quarter. The pass was intended for Michael Jenkins, who had fallen down, allowing Donte Whitner to have a possible pick 6 slip between his hands. The longest pass of the day came in the first quarter on a lob to Percy Harvin, who might have scored had he not stepped out of bounds. No question the Vikings are still missing a deep threat as 7 of Ponder’s 21 completions (33%) were completed behind the line of scrimmage – All those plays resulted in positive yardage with five going to Harvin and one each to Gerhart and Rudolph. The first touchdown to Kyle Rudolph was placed perfectly as 49ers defensive back Dashon Goldson was forcing Ponder to backpedal to evade the rush on a 4th-and-goal. Ponder’s second touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph was more than questionable as he had Peterson wide open. Ponder did a great job escaping the pressure throughout the game as he did not take a sack and for the first time this season did not commit a turnover.
Running Backs (C-)
Adrian Peterson (49 snaps – 62%) doesn’t have his full burst and cutting ability back yet, but that didn’t stop him from accumulating a total of 107 yards on 27 total touches – almost 4 yards per touch. Peterson carried the ball a total of 25 times — 6 carries to the left, 11 carries up the middle, and 8 carries to the right. His longest run came on a 20 yard burst to the left as the Vikings were backed up inside their own 10 yard line. Peterson was stuffed a total of five times for no gain or a loss. A scary moment ensued after Peterson got tripped as Ponder and Peterson clashed feet. Peterson stumbled over Ponder’s foot and lay on the field motionless for a minute before getting up with no problem. Percy Harvin, who recovered a fumble Peterson put on the ground late in the 3rd quarter, helped save what would have been Peterson’s first lost fumble of the year. Peterson also showed up in the blocking game as he helped lay a key block on Navarro Bowman while Ponder scampered for a 23-yard touchdown run. Toby Gerhart (23 snaps – 29%) had a game he would like to forget. With a longest run of 9 yards, Gerhart coughed the ball up while while the Vikings were trying to run the clock late in the 4th quarter. Gerhart managed to fumble on three out of four plays, recovering one of his own fumbles. In Gerhart’s defense, his first fumble was clearly whistled dead while he maintained position of the ball, but the replacement refs overturned the call – one of many bonehead calls from the NFL weekend. Gerhart finished the game with 8 carries with 18 yards and 2 catches for 20 yards. Gerhart finished with three fumbles, two lost. Jerome Felton (38 snaps – 48%) couldn’t keep Ahmad Brooks away from Ponder, resulting in Ponder’s first incompletion of the game. Felton played decent at times, but failed to produce any major blocks. He was also in on the tackle after Gerhart’s third fumble of the game and second lost fumble. Matt Asiata (4 snaps – 5%) should have taken Gerhart’s final snaps of the game. During the game Asiata caught one pass inside the 5 yard line that didn’t count due to a holding call on the 49ers secondary. The core of backs failed to produce a touchdown while combining for 104 yards on 33 carries – just over 3 yards per carry. The group, lead by Gerhart, also fumbled the ball a total of four times, losing two of them.
Wide Receivers (C)
Percy Harvin (53 snaps – 67%) might be the best receiver in the league right now. Percy caught a total of 9 passes on 11 targets, including five catches behind the line of scrimmage. If not for stepping out of bounds, Percy might have taken a 24-yard lob from Ponder 80 yards to the end zone. Percy finished the game with 9 catches for 89 yards (9.9 average) and tacked on a red zone carry for 9 yards. Adrian Peterson fumbled only to be rescued by the a Percy Harvin recovery. Michael Jenkins (64 snaps – 81%) went practically unnoticed throughout the game, finishing with just one catch on five targets for eight yards. He was overthrown twice during the Vikings’ last-minute, first-half drive. Jenkins was also the receiver that fell down on a pass that should have been picked off. Devin Aromashodu (39 snaps – 49%) finished the game with two catches for 24 yards, both catches resulted in the chains being moved for the Vikings. Stephen Burton (10 snaps – 13%) helped draw a holding penalty on 49ers corner Carlos Rodgers, and was also part of a broken slant play on the Vikings’ first drive of the game. Burton was also on the field for the final kneel down snaps.
Tight Ends (B)
For the first time Kyle Rudolph (67 snaps – 87%) looked like a legitimate red zone threat catching two timely touchdowns. Rudolph’s first touchdown came as Ponder was fading away on a 4th-and-goal play from the one yard line. Rudolph also scored on a questionable throw from Ponder early in the 4th quarter as he posted up defensive back Donte Whitner and came down with the one handed touchdown catch. Rudolph also drew a 15-yard penalty that sent Jim Harbaugh crazy on the side line. A solid overall performance, Rudolph finished the game with five receptions for 36 yards and two touchdowns – a fantasy football delight. John Carlson (29 snaps – 37%) is yet to haul in his first catch of the season after signing a 5-year deal in the offseason. Carlson and Rudolph both need to improve on blocking, but both did an acceptable job against a run stuffing defense. Carlson was targeted just once on a third and short, but the coverage of Navarro Bowman was perfect. Rhett Ellison (19 snaps – 24%) was mostly noticed helping teammates up after they had been tackled. Ellison did make back-to-back impressive blocks on the Vikings first drive of the game.
Offensive Line (B-)
The Vikings faced one of the leagues top defensive lines featuring Justin Smith and talented OLB Aldon Smith. Matt Kalil (79 snaps – 100%) held up well in pass protection, but had his down moments while trying to run block, especially in the red zone. A few times Matt Kalil and Charlie Johnson (79 snaps – 100%) got fooled with a 49ers stunt move that sent Aldon Smith barreling down on Christian Ponder, forcing him to get rid of the ball early. The Vikings line failed to get any significant push in the red zone against the stout 49ers defensive line – a defensive line that hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown to a running back all season long. John Sullivan (79 snaps – 100%) battled through his ankle injury and helped double team Justin Smith multiple times throughout the game. The Vikings seemed to want to make sure Justin Smith would not be a factor in the game, but Smith showed up big in the red zone multiple times, including a huge stuff on Peterson who seemed to have a clear lane for six. Brandon Fusco (79 snaps -100%) went relatively unnoticed throughout the game — which is generally good for lineman — other than a glaring non block of linebacker Patrick Willis, who come through free on the Ponder near interception. Phil Loadholt (79 snaps – 100%) came up big for the Vikings this week after a less than spectacular week against the Colts. Loadholt also appeared on the left side of the formation making Fusco the RT – this only happened for one play. The play resulted in a Peterson rush to the left for a 7-yard gain. The offensive line did not give up a sack, but Ponder was forced to get rid of the ball early on a number of occasions.
Defensive Line (C+)
The Vikings defensive line, with the help of the linebackers, helped flush Alex Smith out of the pocket right out of the gate. Although the Vikings line accounted for only one sack, the first sack of the year by Jared Allen (49 snaps – 84%), it also accounted for a batted ball by Kevin Williams (40 snaps – 69%) and multiple QB hurries. The Vikings’ line did a great job penetrating into the backfield and forcing Alex Smith out of the pocket. Jared Allen jumped out on the second defensive play of the game putting pressure on Alex Smith, forcing Smith to dump it. Jared later had a grasp of Smith’s ankle that forced him to throw it away. Defensive end Brian Robison (52 snaps – 90%) put presser on Alex Smith multiple times including swiping past Smith right before Jared Allen sacked and jarred the ball loose. Brian Robison jumped on the ball for the fumble recovery to seal the game. Robison also forced Alex Smith out of the pocket with a huge amount of presser which ultimately resulted in Chad Greenway’s first sack of the game. Kevin Williams had the bulk of the presser that forced Alex Smith to release a pass to Moss, who was wide open for an easy touchdown that sailed over his head. The defensive line accounted for 9 total tackles. Letroy Guion (29 snaps – 50%) has a high motor, making multiple tackles and plays down the field. Guion made a tackle on Mario Manningham who had caught the ball 8 yards down field and decided to dance backwards. Guion was also part of a special teams blocked field goal. Everson Griffen (30 snaps – 52%) didn’t have his best pass rushing game going against the 49ers line. Griffen spent time in the two-point stance trying to confuse the 49ers offensive line, but generally speaking only confused himself. He also dropped back in coverage on multiple occasions, most notably allowing Vernon Davis to break free for a first down pass play. Fred Evans (16 snaps – 28%) made his biggest impact forcing his way through the 49ers line on what would be a Brinkley tackle for a 5-yard loss. Evans got a great jump off the snap and ended up 5 yards into the backfield as Hunter received the handoff. Christian Ballard (19 snaps – 33%) spend more time watching than making plays. Ballard tried to exercise a spin move multiple times, but failed.
Chad Greenway (58 snaps – 100%) had one of his best games in recent history recording 2 sacks, 13 tackles, and making plays all over the field. Greenway didn’t take a break and missed only one tackle as running back Frank Gore escaped an ankle tackle. Greenway’s first sack came as Alex Smith stepped out of the pocket to avoid the pass rush. As Smith stood waiting for someone to get open, Greenway came up and laid a shot on the quarterback, who should have thrown the ball away. The second sack recorded by Greenway was more or less a touch sack as Alex Smith started to run the ball and tripped on the turf. As Smith rolled around Greenway came and touched him down for a “no gain sack”. Impressive with his rushing, Greenway also shoved Kendall Hunter so hard that Hunter blew back into Alex Smith who was forced to throw the ball early, resulting in an incomplete pass. Overall Greenway had his best game of the young season with his presser and great open field tackling. Jasper Brinkley (55 snaps – 95%) had his best game in a Viking uniform exploiting blitzes. Brinkley had a solid game overall and made a number of tackles in the backfield, including blowing up a Kendall Hunter run in the backfield for a loss of five. He finished the game with four tackles and a QB hit, but no question still needs to work on his coverage skills. Marvin Mitchell (35 snaps – 60%) was the replacement for the injured Erin Henderson (concussion). Mitchell was the first player to land on the Frank Gore fumble and was given credit for the recovery despite Everson Griffen coming up with the ball. The Vikings sent a total of 11 blitzes (five or more guys) when Alex Smith dropped back to pass.
Defensive Backs (B)
The Minnesota Vikings got an interception for the first time this season (excluding Audie Cole in the preseason) thanks to Josh Robinson (23 snaps – 40%). Robinson played well in his limited time only giving up a few dump off passes. Mistral Raymond (13 snaps – 22%) left the game on the last play of the 1st quarter due to an ankle injury. The good news pertaining to the injury is it being nothing serious – no break, no fracture, no surgery, and no IR. That said, Raymond will more than likely miss a couple of weeks due to the injury. Harrison Smith (58 snaps – 100%) played about a 13 plays (22%) inside the box as the Vikings prepared for a heavy dose of Frank Gore. Smith was spotted multiple times lining up against San Francisco star tight end Vernon Davis in man-to-man coverage and didn’t give up a catch. Smith was also the single high safety on a pass to Vernon Davis, who beat safety Jamarca Sanford (44 snaps – 76%) in man-to-man coverage. The play resulted in a first-and-goal and set up the 49ers first and only touchdown of the game. Sanford was also responsible for forcing a fumble on Frank Gore early in the 4th quarter. Sanford and Smith combined for 14 total tackles (7 tackles a piece). Chris Cook (57 snaps – 98%) played mostly off coverage, pressing only a few times throughout the game. Cook was responsible for Vernon Davis, who scored the 49ers only touchdown of the game. Cook bit on a fake as Vernon Davis ran passed him to the back corner of the end zone. Cook was content to give Moss whatever he wanted underneath, making sure he wasn’t going to be beat deep. Antoine Winfield (57 snaps – 98%) had a stick on quarterback Alex Smith who tried to run for the first down on a third-and-short. Winfield showed a lot of heart after making a rare speech in front of the team. In yet another solid game, Winfield finished with eight tackles, second on the team to Greenway, and had an impressive pass deflection with 2:30 left in the game. Newly acquired corner A.J. Jefferson (3 snaps – 5%) played solid man-t0-man coverage on Vernon Davis during a 3rd-and-6 about midway through the 4th quarter.
Special Teams (C+)
Blair Walsh (8 plays – 35%) set the Vikings’ record with 3 consecutive games with a 50+ yard field goal. Walsh is also the first rookie in NFL history to kick a 50-yard field goal in each of his team’s first 3 games. Although his kickoffs were deep into the end zone, Walsh out kicked his kick off coverage multiple times, resulting in two long kick off returns by Kyle Williams. Josh Robinson (11 plays – 48%) saved both long kick off returns, including hustling down Kyle Williams’ 94-yard return and forcing him back into the arms of Jamarca Sanford to begin the second half. Chris Kluwe (8 plays – 35%) had four punts for 181 yards, including a beauty that should have been downed inside the 5 yard line had A.J. Jefferson (4 plays – 17%) been able to keep the ball from going into the end zone. The special teams play of the day came on a 43-yard field goal attempt. Letroy Guion (4 plays – 17%) blocked the 43-yard David Akers field goal attempt. The play lead to a six point swing as the Vikings turned the field goal position into a Blair Walsh 52-yard field goal to end the half.