This Sunday the San Francisco 49ers travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings at Mall of America Field. A dome in which the atmosphere is notoriously noisy, as fans make it very challenging for opposing offenses to operate at their highest efficiency. To make matters worse, the Vikings welcome back their forgotten son Randy Moss, who although a fan favorite in Minnesota, will more than likely not be treated as the deity he once was.
The 49ers had better be prepared come Sunday, the Vikings are hungry, and welcome the challenge of the undefeated San Francisco squad. After coming off of two huge victories against two of the top ranked teams in the league, the 49ers have no room to get complacent. Just because their not facing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers or Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions does not mean that the 49ers defense gets a night off.
As a matter of fact, the 49ers may have to prepare that much more, as the Vikings bring a completely different offensive scheme to the table. The Vikings are a run dominant team, unlike the Packers or Lions, which put much more emphasis on their passing game. And the man at the helm of the attack for the Vikings is none other than a healthy Adrian Peterson. His leadership and hard running opens up so much in the Vikings passing game.
After returning from a potential career ending knee injury, Peterson has not played as well as he had hoped thus far in 2012. In two games he has a combined total yardage of just 144, and just two touchdowns. It is far off his normal production rate. However, the low production is probably attributed to him just getting back into game form. Fact of the matter is, Peterson is due to explode for a big game, even if it is against arguably the toughest run defense in the league. The 49ers have not had to face a runner with his capabilities yet this year, so this contest is in no way a walk in the park.
As for the Vikings quarterback position, that is led by a very efficient Christian Ponder. Ponder operates in the offense much the same way that Alex Smith does for the 49ers. He is very protective of the ball, very rarely puts himself in the position to fail, and has a high completion percentage. He does not throw for a lot of yards, but when he does throw the ball it is typically not a difficult pass or catch. As evident by his zero interceptions thrown thus far. The 49ers defensive front will have to maintain pressure on the young quarterback to get him off kilter as much as they can.
The Vikings receiving unit has been guided by Percy Harvin over the last three years, and he is about as talented as any other receiver in the league not named Calvin Johnson. He has exceptional hands, cheetah like speed, and demonstrates precision route running, it makes him a deep threat and a game breaker through out every contest. The only thing hindering the passing game is the lack of depth at the position. As talented as Harvin is, the Vikings rely on him almost solely. Most likely, the 49ers will exploit that lack of depth and force Harvin to beat them alone. And the pass happy Lions couldn’t even make that scenario work with Megatron at the ready.
Defensively, the Vikings are desperately trying to unleash Jared Allen on opposing quarterbacks. Thus far he has yet to record one sack. Unfortunately, that does not vote well for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, as Allen is frothing at mouth with anticipation. The 49ers have had to deal with Clay Matthews of Green Bay and Ndahmukong Suh of Detroit so far, so they are tested, hopefully not too worn out.
There’s no question that the 49ers have a huge target on their back as the team to beat thus far. And there is no doubt that the Vikings think they are the ones to do it. If the 49ers again stick to their game plan, they should again win. But to reiterate, the 49ers can certainly not relax at any point.
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