Amid an electric atmosphere for the NFC divisional round contest, the San Francisco 49ers looked to get off to a hot start against the No. 6 seed, the Minnesota Vikings, amid the pageantry and pomp of the Niners' first ever playoff game at Levi's Stadium.

After one half of play, the 49ers were able to get out to a 14-10 first-half lead, clicking well on both sides of the ball in spite of some key mistakes.

Franchise legends Joe Montana and Bryant Young were honorary captains, which saw the Niners win the opening toss and then defer to the second half. And with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook a major focal point for San Francisco's defense, it was promising to see Minnesota go 3-and-out on its opening drive.

The 49ers, meanwhile, worked their way into the red zone on their opening drive, thanks to some key catches by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a 3-yard touchdown grab by the team's top red-zone weapon, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne:


Minnesota settled down the following drive, though, then began targeting No. 2 cornerback Ahkello Witherpsoon frequently. Witherspoon was called for a questionable defensive pass-interference call, then subsequently gave up catches to wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Diggs turned his 41-yard grab into the Vikings' first seven points of the game, tying things up at the 5:23 mark of the first quarter.

As the 49ers were driving again, Bourne came up huge on what might have been an intended pass his direction. Or not, it's hard to say. But the Niners picked up a crucial 16-yard gain on third down with the play:


But that didn't save the Niners from needing to punt just after the second quarter began. And with the Vikings' second offensive drive, it was clear the 49ers had a short leash on Witherspoon, pulling him in favor of fellow cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who took his place on the boundary. Moseley ended up making a third-down tackle, forcing the Vikings to another 3-and-out.

San Francisco nearly had another disaster when wide receiver Deebo Samuel appeared to fumble the ball within Minnesota territory, and the Vikings recovered. But review determined Samuel's knee was down before the ball came loose, and the 49ers drive culminated with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Tevin Coleman to put the Niners up 14-7.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a key block on San Francisco's second touchdown drive, was 8-of-13 over the first half for 105 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 80.6 passer rating. But he was also sacked twice, which is something the Niners will have to be concerned with in the second half.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, went 10-of-12 for 81 yards, a touchdown and was sacked twice.

But Minnesota's offensive focal point, Cook, was held almost entirely in check over the first half. He had 11 yards on the ground from six carries, adding just 8 through the air on four catches.

Garoppolo's interception, however, came at a bad time when the Niners were looking to grind down the clock before the half. A slightly underthrown pass, intended for Samuel, ended up in the hands of Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, which immediately set up another Minnesota scoring chance, starting on the 49ers 29-yard line at the two-minute warning. Yet the defense held well enough, as EDGE Dee Ford came back from his hamstring injury to sack Cousins, forcing the Vikings to settle for a 39-yard field goal to make it 14-10.

The 49ers, meanwhile, will open up the second half on offense.
  • Peter Panacy
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    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.