1:00 p.m. ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (SF ball, down 10-3/first-and-goal at MIN 4/ 4:16 Q2)
• After going down 10-0 to start the game, the 49ers show signs of life by kicking a field goal, recovering a Vikings fumble and taking the ensuing drive from their own 29-yard line down to the Vikings goal line. In a drive that took just over eight minutes (8:04), the 49ers ended up with no points. Alfred Morris fumbled the ball at the Vikings 2-yard line on second down.
• The 49ers ran four plays at the goal line — one resulted in a sack and the other three were Morris runs that were stuffed for little to no gain, including on the fumble. Play and formation variation down here might have helped the 49ers stave off a stout Vikings run defense and resulted in points for the 49ers.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (MIN leads 10-3/first-and-10, MIN 2/ 2:18 Q2)
• Minnesota had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning when the Vikings took over after the Morris fumble. Momentum had swung in their favor. The Vikings traveled 45 yards in 12 plays and ended the half without a legitimate shot at scoring points. They used two of their timeouts, but didn’t act with any sense of urgency even though they had gained some yardage.
• If the Vikings were to have made this a two-score game, it might have changed the way the 49ers would have approached the second half. A score here might have made the 49ers more desperate and they would have taken more significant risks.
• One school of thought is perhaps the Vikings were afraid that if they went too fast and were forced to punt, they would give SF the ball back with possibly good field position and with the 49ers having one timeout remaining. And if that happened, perhaps SF would have gained some momentum heading into the second half as the 49ers were set to receive the kick in the second half.
Key Coaching Decision #3: (MIN ball, leading 24-16/ fourth-and-1, MIN 37/ 2:54 Q4)
• Kirk Cousins’ scramble attempt left the Vikings a yard short of the first down. It was a close spot and one that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer challenged and lost. The Vikings lost a timeout as did the 49ers who called a timeout to stop the clock.
The Vikings lined up to attempt a fourth-down conversion on their own 37-yard line. We don’t know if they were going to snap the ball, but all indications suggest that they were going to try to have the 49ers jump offsides in order to get a new set of downs. That is what the Vikings successfully did. SF defensive lineman Solomon Thomas jumped offside to give the Vikings a new set of downs.
• At that point, had Thomas not jumped offside, the 49ers likely would’ve had excellent field position (as well as one timeout and the two-minute warning) and the opportunity to tie the game.
The fourth-down conversion via penalty allowed the Vikings to keep the ball and bleed more clock. The 49ers defense held on the next set of downs, and finally ended up with the ball backed up on their own side of the field.
• The 49ers were not good inside the red zone. In five trips, the 49ers could only muster nine points (three field goals).
• This game featured two head coaches that are excellent in making adjustments.
San Francisco’s use of the fullback and tight ends made the Vikings do things they didn’t want to do on defense, namely, stray away from the nickel defense. When the Vikings played a more traditional base defense, that meant more playing time for linebacker Ben Gedeon.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan used QB boot game and play action to get the 49ers offense going and to slow down the Vikings pass rush after a slow start. They began to also have route runners come across the formation after the snap. The Vikings did not have an immediate response. However, Mike Zimmer helped slow this down in the second half by widening the pass rush to shorten the boot action and seemed to have played more man with defenders following 49ers coming across the formation.
• The Vikings’ team speed prevented the 49ers from getting much going outside the hashmarks.
• The 49ers have two emerging players in tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner. Both are playmakers drafted by the current regime.