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Credit: Sean M. Haffey / Staff / Getty Images

The 49ers Literally Run Their Way to the NFC Championship Game

ESPN Radio
January 13, 2020 - 10:21 am

By Charlie O. Mallonee @Charlieo1320

The 49ers rushed the ball 47 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. San Francisco Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game that his pregame plan was to run the ball at least 30 times. His team exceeded that goal by rushing the ball on 69% of their plays in their 27-10 win over the Vikings.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception with 2:49 to go in the first half. After that miscue, the Niners ran the ball on 30 of their final 36 plays in the game. Shanahan threw down the gauntlet and declared that his team would keep running the ball until the Vikings stopped their ground attack. Minnesota was unable to shut down the 49ers running game and it cost them the game.

Kyle Shanahan on his team’s running game: We really believed the team that got over 30 runs would win. We thought only one team would and that was a complete team goal. The offense would not have been able to get that many runs if the defense didn't play like they did and if the special teams didn't play that way also.”

The 49ers played shut down defense

The San Francisco defense never gave Kirk Cousins or Dalvin Cook the chance to be successful against them on Saturday. The Niners defense held the Vikings to just 147 yards of total offense and limited them to just seven first downs in the game (tied for the third fewest in NFL playoff game history).

Cousins was pressured on 46% of his drop backs. He was sacked five times by five former first-round draft picks: Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead. The Minnesota “O-line” probably will not be receiving Rolex watches from Cousins for their outstanding protection after their play on Saturday.

All Richard Sherman had to do was show up on the field. The 49ers lined Sherman up on the right side of the offense almost exclusively. Cousins did not attempt a pass outside right numbers on the field in the game. Eight of Cousins passes were thrown to the right of the hash marks and one of those passes was intercepted by Sherman.

San Francisco had allowed an average of 29.4 points per game over their final five regular season games. With some of their key personnel back on defense, they were able to hold the Vikings to just 10 points.

Shanahan was very happy with his defense: “I was pumped with the defense. We had a goal going into this game. We thought the team that got over 30 runs would win this game. We truly looked at that as a team goal. We ended up getting 47 on offense. It's a lot easier to do when the other team goes 2-of-12 on third down. I think we were at 45%. I think they ended up only being able to get 10. When you just see the way the defense is playing it makes it so much easier to stay with that. I think our whole team kind of fed off of it.”

New year, same @rsherman25. Headed back to the NFC Championship next Sunday on @nflonfox --

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Special Teams did their part

Rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky punted the ball four times for an average of 46.5 yards per kick. His longest punt of the day went for 56 yards.

Raheem Mostert also plays on Special Teams and made a fumble recovery when the Vikings Marcus Sherels mishandled a punt late in the third quarter. That fumble recovery would result in Robbie Gould kicking a 21-yard field goal early the fourth quarter to give the Niners a 27-10 lead.

Robbie Gould was “golden” on Saturday. He went 2-for-2 in field goal attempts and connected on 3 of 3 extra point tries.

Outstanding performers in the game


  • Tevin Coleman 22 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns
  • Raheem Mostert 12 rushes for 58 yards plus one fumble recovery
  • Matt Breida 8 attempts good for 17 yards


  • Deebo Samuel 6 targets, 3 receptions, 42 yards
  • Kendrick Bourne 5 targets, 3 receptions, 40 yards, 1 TD
  • George Kittle 5 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards
  • Emmanuel Sanders 2 targets, 2 receptions, 33 yards


  • Jimmy Garoppolo 11-for-17 passing, 131 yards, 1 TD, 1 Interception, 2 sacks (-9 yards)

Garoppolo on his team running the ball to win the game: “Yeah, it was awesome. There was one drive where we literally didn't pass the ball, came off to the sideline, it was as excited as we've ever been offensively. When you can do that to a team, it makes it tough on defenses, when they have to bring more guys into the box, start bringing safeties down. We ran the hell out of the ball. Those guys up front battled their asses off. It was fun.”

Garoppolo has been the focus of a great deal of criticism this season for not being a “franchise quarterback”. His critics have berated him for not putting up “big” passing numbers. What those critics have missed in their observations is that Garoppolo is a “winning quarterback” who appears more interested in team victories than individual accolades. That attitude has “Jimmy G” preparing to lead his 49ers into the NFC Championship Game next Sunday.

The entire 49ers defensive unit

  • The defense held the Vikings to 147 total yards (21 rushing and 126 passing)
  • That is the fewest yards allowed in the Niners postseason history of 51 games
  • The 21 rushing yards is fewest allowed in a postseason game in franchise history

Kyle Shanahan’s response to being asked if he was worried that performance by his defense had just cost him his Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh to the Cleveland Browns as their new head coach: “No. I mean, hopefully they're not making their decision just off that game. He's done a good job all year. But, I hope I didn't. We'll see how that plays out.

*UPDATE: In true Cleveland fashion, it is being reported the Browns have hired Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator – Kevin Stefanski – to be their next head coach. The coordinator whose team just put up a whopping 147 total yards in the NFC Divisional Semi-finals versus the 49ers is going to be the Browns new head coach. If you know anything about the Browns, it’s totally logical.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

  • The 49ers entered the game as the oddsmakers favorites minus 7 points. They won by 17, so they covered the spread. If you took the Niners minus the points, go to the window and cash those tickets.
  • The over/under was set at 44.5 for the game. Lots of fans took the over in this contest. We hope you weren’t one of them.
  • One of many prop bets was the over/under on Raheem Mostert rushing for more or less than 55 yards. The RB hit the over with a total of 58 yards on the ground.

Up Next: The NFC Championship Game

The Green Bay Packers downed the Seattle Seahawks 28-23 on Sunday night. Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams combined to lead the Packers over the Seahawks and earn a spot in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday versus the San Francisco 49ers.

This will be the second time the Packers have visited Levi’s Stadium this season. The 49ers defeated the Packers 37-8 on Sunday November 24th. Aaron Rodgers threw for just 104 yards and one TD in that game. Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Niners to a victory. That game and the game coming up on Sunday may have very little to do with each other. This is the NFC Championship Game. There is no tomorrow. The winner goes to the Super Bowl and the loser goes home.

The game on Sunday will kick off at 3:40 PM PST at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

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