Hock's Take: 49ers Not Ready for Peterson, Vikings

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Hock's Take: 49ers Not Ready for Peterson, Vikings
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Somewhere, taped inside the front of Brett Favre’s helmet, there is a message posted. It says simply: “Turn around, and hand off the ball.”

It’s a simple strategy, but an effective one, and one that has served the Vikings well for the past two seasons. Because in their backfield, there is a guy you may have heard of named Adrian Peterson.

People have been waiting for Favre to revert to his gun-slinging ways, to suddenly go from putting up line scores like 23/27-155-2-0 to his old 31/47-310-2-3, and maybe he will. But it’s not going to happen this week.

“But, Matt!” I can somehow hear you saying, “The 49ers run defense is one of the best in the league this season!”

Well, yes. That’s technically true. But Adrian Peterson is not Beanie Wells or Justin Forsett. And if the Niners think they’ll be able to stymie Peterson like they did two season ago, they’re in for a surprise.

Not that I think the 49ers are so haughty as to think that. Mike Singletary might be a hothead with a propensity for pulling his pants down, but he understands good run defense. After all, he did star for the Bears for a 100-odd years. So he’ll have his team geared up to stop Peterson.

And it won’t matter.

Simply put, the Vikings’ offense is perfectly suited to run against the 49er’s 3-4 scheme. By overloading the left side of their offensive line by putting Jim Kleinsasser in to block, Peterson should be able to bypass Justin Smith and get around the corner.

Once he gets to the second level, Peterson’s speed and power are unmatched by any current player. He is not afraid to get Patrick Willis or Takeo Spikes on their heels. Even with a sore back, Peterson has always been an instinct first runner, and he won’t shy away from contact.

And therein lies the reason for the Viking’s success in the past two games. While the 49ers might be able to bottle the running game up for a quarter or two like this, stuffing runs for 2-3 yards per play with some creative run blitzing, second level defenders are not used to getting hit, and the Vikings play a more violent run scheme than just about anybody.

I don’t see the Vikings altering their scheme any for this game. I think Peterson takes 20-25 carries, mostly to the left center of the line behind Bryant McKinney and a tight end. Also, I suspect one or two reverses to Percy Harvin out of the backfield, to take advantage of the 49ers’ overeager linebackers crashing down on Peterson early in the game.

We’ve yet to see how the 49ers react to playing a more physical, run-first offense, and I think it might just be a rude awakening. Honestly trying to compare the Niners’ last two opponents to the Vikings is like comparing a pen knife to a tank.

Okay, given Peterson’s injury, we’ll say a pen knife to a bazooka.

And if the Niner’s become so fixated on maintaining their status as one of the NFL’s best run defenses? We might just get to see how far Brett can still throw it.

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