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49ers hold off Vikings in 34-26 barnburner to move up in Wild Card race

Nov 28, 2021 at 4:36 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
MIN 7 7 12 0 26
SF 7 7 20 0 34

It was a playoff atmosphere at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers battled for positioning in the NFC Wild Card race, and in the end it was the 49ers who proved to be up to the task as they outlasted the Vikings in a 34-26 shootout.

The Vikings and 49ers entered into the game at 5-5 on the season and in control of the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds in the NFC playoff picture, respectively. The 49ers answered the bell with a combination of effective offense and big plays on defense in the first meeting between the two teams since their 27-10 win over the Vikings in the 2019 NFC Divisional Playoff round.

The 49ers fell behind 14-7 early in the game but were able to tie the game before the half before taking the lead for good on an explosion of points in the third quarter. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished with 230 yards on 17-of-26 passing with one touchdown and one interception on the day, while Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 20 of 32 passes for 238 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

First Half

In their previous two games over the past couple of weeks, the 49ers got off to an ideal start by putting together long scoring drives at the beginning of the game that established early momentum. Today saw them start on a much less successful note.

The 49ers held the Vikings to a three-and-out on the game's opening drive but quickly gave the ball back when Garoppolo was picked off by safety Harrison Smith on the next possession near midfield. A flea flicker four plays later from Cousins to wide receiver Adam Thielen set the Vikings up with a 1st-and-Goal at the 6-yard line, then Cousins connected with Thielen again on fourth down for a two-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Things went differently on the next possession for the 49ers, who put together the response they needed after the Vikings' early score. Garoppolo connected with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk for a 37-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 early in the drive, then after two runs by Elijah Mitchell put the 49ers inside the 20, wide receiver Deebo Samuel took a handoff and ran in for a touchdown to tie the game at seven at the 5:31 mark in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts towards the end of the first quarter, then the Vikings put together a second scoring drive that finished with a Cousins-to-Thielen touchdown. The Vikings moved across midfield on the drive when Cousins found wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a 30-yard gain, then after a 15-yard reception by Jefferson and a 7-yard run from Alexander Mattison, Cousins and Thielen connected from 20 yards out to cap a six-play, 80-yard drive and take a 14-7 lead.

A three-and-out from the 49ers followed the touchdown, then the Vikings were forced to punt after five plays due in part to a six-yard loss that came on the 11th sack of the season from 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. After that, the 49ers put together the type of long, time-consuming scoring drive that was missing at the start of the game -- a 15-play, 85-yard drive that took over eight minutes off the clock and finished with a three-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to wide receiver Jauan Jennings with 18 seconds left to play. The drive was kept alive with the help of a third down defensive holding penalty at the Vikings' 44-yard line as well as a 24-yard completion to Aiyuk on 3rd-and-11 with less than a minute in the half.

The Vikings got a 30-yard kick return from Keke Nwangwu and a 14-yard completion to running back Dalvin Cook to put them in 49ers' territory with five seconds left in the half, but the last-second pass from Cousins fell incomplete to leave the score tied at 14 at the break.

Second Half

The ball kept rolling for the 49ers to start the third quarter due in large part to the continued excellence from Samuel as a running back. Samuel broke loose on an electric 49-yard run on the third play of the quarter to set the 49ers up with a 1st-and-Goal at the Vikings' 8-yard line, then he ran in two plays later to give the 49ers a 21-14 lead after a six-play, 75-yard drive.

The touchdown was the first score in what would become a flurry of 32 combined points from the two teams over the course of the third quarter. The 49ers struck again on the very next play, as after taking over at their own 21-yard line following a 21-yard kick return from Nwangwu, the Vikings gave the ball back to the 49ers when Cousins threw the ball into the arms of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. Al-Shaair returned the interception to the 2-yard line, which led to a touchdown run from Elijah Mitchell to give the 49ers a 28-14 lead.

The Vikings began clawing their way back into the game on the following possession with a quick touchdown after a five-play, 75-yard drive. Cook began the drive with a 30-yard run that moved the Vikings into 49ers' territory, then after two completions of 15 yards and 24 yards to Jefferson, the Vikings cut the lead to 28-20 on a 6-yard run from Mattison. Kicker Greg Joseph's point after attempt sailed wide right, leaving the deficit at eight points with 8:32 remaining in the third quarter.

The 49ers responded with a 46-yard field goal from kicker Robbie Gould to open up a 31-20 lead after a seven-play, 47-yard drive, but the Vikings brought themselves closer on the ensuing kickoff when Nwangwu broke free for a 99-yard touchdown return. A two-point conversion attempt after the touchdown was unsuccessful, leaving the 49ers up 31-26 with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Three more points were put on the scoreboard before the third quarter came to an end courtesy of a 22-yard field goal from Gould. The 49ers gained possession at the Vikings' 9-yard line late in the quarter after Al-Shaair recovered a fumble by Cook (who was carted off the field after the play), then the Vikings forced the 49ers to settle for a field goal to take a 34-26 lead as the quarter came to a close.

The scoring slowed down in the fourth quarter due to a defensive stand from the 49ers on the Vikings' next drive. The Vikings took possession with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter and moved to the 49ers' 6-yard line in eight plays, but the 49ers held the Vikings out of the end zone over the next three plays, forcing the Vikings to make a decision on fourth down. They chose to take one more shot at the end zone, but Cousins' fourth down pass was incomplete, turning the ball over to the 49ers on downs at the 3-yard line with just over nine minutes left in the game.

From there, the 49ers offense took over and seemed to be on their way to milking the bulk of the game clock on route to a game-sealing score. The 49ers moved 72 yards in 12 plays to the Vikings' 24-yard line, taking over seven minutes off the clock while forcing the Vikings to use their last timeout. But a 42-yard field goal attempt by Gould with two minutes left to play sailed wide right, leaving the Vikings with one last chance to tie the game. The Vikings moved inside the 49ers' 40-yard line but fell short from there, giving the ball back to the 49ers to run out the clock with 45 seconds left to play.

The win boosts the 49ers' wild card hopes significantly after a day that saw most of their competitors lose. The 49ers now stand at 6-5 on the season, one game ahead of the Vikings (5-6), Atlanta Falcons (5-6) and New Orleans Saints (5-6) and a game and a half ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) and Carolina Panthers (5-7). The 49ers also moved to within one game of the Los Angeles Rams, who lost their third consecutive game (36-28 to the Green Bay Packers) to fall to 7-4 on the season.

The 49ers will return to the road this week for a Sunday afternoon game against the Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT, FOX). The Seahawks, who entered the weekend at 3-7 on the season, will be coming off a road Monday night game against the Washington Football Team. The 49ers have lost four of their last five games against the Seahawks and are just 4-16 in their last 20 contests against the Seahawks dating back to the 2012 season.

MIN Team Stats SF
323 Total Yards 423
256 Passing Yards 215
67 Rushing Yards 208
7.9 Avg Yards per Pass 8.8
3.7 Avg Yards per Run 5.3
1 Fumbles Lost 0
1 Int Thrown 1
1 Sacks Allowed 2
22:53 Time of Pos 37:07
5 Penalties 5

Vikings Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Kirk Cousins 20/32 238 2 1
Justin Jefferson 1/1 24 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Dalvin Cook 10 39 3.9 0
Alexander Mattison 7 21 3 1
Kene Nwangwu 1 7 7 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Justin Jefferson 4 9 83 0
Dalvin Cook 6 7 64 0
Adam Thielen 5 7 62 2
Tyler Conklin 2 3 25 0
C.J. Ham 1 1 16 0
Alexander Mattison 2 3 7 0
K.J. Osborn 1 2 5 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Tyler Conklin 1 0
Dalvin Cook 1 1
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Jordan Berry 3 53.3 1 59
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Kene Nwangwu 171 42.8 1 99
Alexander Mattison 18 18 0 18
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Harrison Smith 6-5 0 1 0
Anthony Barr 5-3 0 0 0
Patrick Peterson 5-0 0 0 0
Nick Vigil 4-4 0 0 0
Xavier Woods 4-2 0 0 0
James Lynch 3-2 0 0 0
Eric Kendricks 2-4 0 0 0
D.J. Wonnum 2-2 1 0 0
Bashaud Breeland 2-1 0 0 0
Sheldon Richardson 1-4 0 0 0
T.J. Smith 1-2 0 0 0
Blake Lynch 1-2 0 0 0
Armon Watts 1-2 1 0 0
Josh Metellus 1-1 0 0 0
Ezra Cleveland 1-0 0 0 0
Kris Boyd 1-0 0 0 0
Tashawn Bower 1-0 0 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jimmy Garoppolo 17/26 230 1 1
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Eli Mitchell 27 133 4.9 1
Deebo Samuel 6 66 11 2
Jeff Wilson 2 5 2.5 0
Brandon Aiyuk 1 4 4 0
Jimmy Garoppolo 3 0 0 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Brandon Aiyuk 3 6 91 0
Kyle Juszczyk 2 2 37 0
Eli Mitchell 5 6 35 0
Jauan Jennings 2 3 24 1
George Kittle 1 2 13 0
Deebo Samuel 1 4 12 0
Charlie Woerner 1 1 11 0
Trent Sherfield 1 1 5 0
Jeff Wilson 1 1 2 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 2 3 46 4
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 3 61 1 67
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Brandon Aiyuk 2 7 0 12
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Azeez Al-Shaair 7-1 0 1 0
Jaquiski Tartt 4-0 0 0 0
Jimmie Ward 3-1 0 0 0
Josh Norman 3-0 0 0 1
D.J. Jones 2-3 0 0 0
Emmanuel Moseley 2-2 0 0 0
Talanoa Hufanga 2-0 0 0 0
Samson Ebukam 2-0 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 2-0 1 0 0
Fred Warner 1-2 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 1-2 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 1-1 0 0 0
Kevin Givens 1-1 0 0 1
Charlie Woerner 1-0 0 0 0
Mitch Wishnowsky 1-0 0 0 0
Charles Omenihu 1-0 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 1-0 0 0 0
Tom Compton 1-0 0 0 0

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