For the first time since around Thanksgiving, the San Francisco 49ers did not play in a game decided in the final 30 seconds! Instead, San Francisco controlled the game with a lead and lowered both the heart rates and blood pressure of the Faithful, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 27-10.

Here are my takeaways from the 49ers' first playoff win in six seasons:

1) The Defense is Back


After Minnesota answered San Francisco's impressive opening drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, there was a little uncertainty as to how the defense would hold up. It turned out to be the only big play allowed the entire day.

The return of Jaquiski Tartt, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander provided a major shot in the arm to a defense that had been struggling to regain the level of dominance it had enjoyed during the first half of the season.

Alexander brought a lot of energy and other intangibles that do not show up in the box score. From Jennifer Lee Chan-

"There's so much more swag and confidence when he's out there," 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said. "He's great. I love being out there with him. He's a leader. There's a lot more to it than him just being a good ballplayer out there. His value is huge for the team."

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan noted that even when he's not racking up defensive statistics, Alexander affects the play on the field.

"Having Kwon out there, the times I'm looking up watching him, the way he flew around, made some plays on the screens," Shanahan said. "Even when he flew and missed the guy on the screen, he makes the back have to come to a complete stop and cut back the other way, then our pass rushers can get there."

Alexander brings leadership and energy while Dee Ford brought the pressure. It was very obvious how much Ford means to the pass rush. The entire line got pressure and sacks, despite struggling for weeks while Ford was out with a hamstring injury. No matter where Ford was lined up, he made his presence felt and opened things up for everyone else.

Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas all had sacks and harassed Kirk Cousins nearly the entire game.

As a whole, the defense completely shut down running back Dalvin Cook, holding him to 18 yards on 9 carries and 8 yards on six catches. Once Minnesota is forced to be one dimensional, strong pass rushes can tee off on Cousins, like the 49ers did.

Richard Sherman picked Cousins off in the 3rd quarter. The coverage was great on Adam Thielen, Diggs, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. This unit looks fresh and poised to be dominant the rest of the way.

2) The Offensive Line Dominated the Trenches


Despite all the talk about the vaunted Viking defensive line, there were only two sacks given up. For the most part, the running game had its way with the front seven, gaining 186 yards and ended up suffocating Minnesota's defense. The crazy stat of the day? 49er running backs gained 5 or more yards a staggering 19 times!

Joe Staley and Ben Garland did not allow a pressure. Mike McGlinchey, minus one play, was dominant. Guards Laken Tomlinson and Mike Person were steady and cleared out running lanes all day for the backs.

It was a terrific day in the trenches for the offensive line.

3) In Shanahan We Trust


Kyle Shanahan schemes against his opponent as well as anyone in the game. Anyone. He knows how to construct a game plan that may not always be 100% perfect, but always very difficult to overcome.

Against Minnesota, the 49ers offense was balanced early, allowing Jimmy Garoppolo to get into a rhythm. The ground game was a support but it was the passing game on the opening drive that got the job done, concluding with a Kendrick Bourne touchdown pass.

After the first half, the Vikings were looking a little tired. San Francisco decided not to throw on their drive and ran the ball the entire way for a touchdown.

The ground game allowed the 49ers to chew up the clock and tire out the Vikings' defense for the remainder of the second half.

Shanahan doesn't put players in spots where they can't succeed. Case in point, once it was obvious Ahkello Witherspoon was a liability on the outside, there was no hesitation to bring Emmanuel Moseley. Once that change was made, the Vikings had almost no offense the rest of the day. There was no reason to be aggressive on offense as the defense stifled Minnesota for the entire fourth quarter.

Whatever the situation, expect Shanahan to know how to scheme around it, make adjustments and give his players the best possible chance to get the win. Like the days of Bill Walsh, just having him on the sideline is a major advantage.

Extra Points


- Nick Bosa finished the day with six tackles and two sacks.

- Jimmy Garoppolo had a few off throws, but a couple were turned into great catches by the receivers. Garoppolo will continue to improve but will have to get the ball out quicker and make sure he sees the spying linebacker who is watching his eyes.

- The 49ers suffered no major injuries and are healthy for next week.

- San Francisco will host the NFC Championship Game next week at Levi's Stadium for the first time in the stadium's history and is in the game for the first time in six years.