The 49ers are in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2013, the last of their three straight trips to the conference title round.
Minnesota's wait for a first Super Bowl title extends for another season. One playoff win probably isn't the return the Vikings expected through the first two years of Kirk Cousins' three-year, $84 million contract.
The 49ers took an early lead with a three-yard touchdown reception by Kendrick Bourne on their first drive of the game.
San Francisco didn't begin pulling away from the Vikings until the third quarter, though, when Tevin Coleman scored on a two-yard touchdown run to help make it a 24-10 game.
A two-score deficit was too much to overcome for a Minnesota offense that gained 147 yards.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: 11-of-19, 131 yards, one touchdown, one interception
- Tevin Coleman, RB, 49ers: 22 carries, 105 yards, two touchdowns
- Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers: 12 carries, 58 yards
- Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: 21-of-29, 172 yards, one touchdown, one interception
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: nine carries, 18 yards; six receptions, eight yards
- Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: two receptions, 57 yards, one touchdown
San Francisco Wears Down Vikings Defense
Saturday encapsulated the value of bypassing Wild Card Weekend. While the Vikings needed overtime to beat the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers had a week to rest and recharge for the divisional round.
San Francisco only held a four-point halftime lead despite being in control for much of the first half. But Kyle Shanahan's plan was to exploit any Vikings fatigue.
The possession culminating in Coleman's third-quarter touchdown showed how effective the strategy had become. Working with a short field, the Niners called eight straight run plays as they steadily moved the ball against a tired Minnesota defense.
David Lombardi @LombardiHimself
The 49ers run game is at 35 carries, 131 yards, and 4.1 per rush. And they set it up with the early pass. It’s easy to see Shanahan’s larger gameplan today: Tire the Vikings out a bit, and then just pound them into exhaustion with the ground game. Bye week, better team leg-up
Willie Anderson @BigWillie7179
Kyle Shanahan must be commended for calling a dominant game plan all game but especially that last drive! That’s 90’ early 2000’s for ya QB lovers! A good QB must have a solid to good run game to win playoff games and Super Bowl! Not a dominant one but good! #MINvsSF #49ers #NFL
Totaling 308 yards in a playoff game generally isn't ideal. In San Francisco's case, that number was an illustration of how much the offense set the tone. The Niners possessed the ball for 38:27 of the 60 minutes.
Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs on a 41-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to tie the score.
Aside from that play, San Francisco was dominant on defense and made Cousins' life a nightmare in the pocket. Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead each registered at least one sack.
Bosa delivered one of the day's more entertaining moments, quickly rising to his feet after it appeared he was injured on a sack of Cousins in the fourth quarter.
Given the balance they displayed Saturday, it's hard to think the 49ers will fall short of a conference title.
Niners Secondary Holds Cousins in Check
Minnesota's victory over the Saints a week ago had a cathartic feel for Cousins, especially in light of his passionate postgame speech in the locker room. The win seemed to answer the skeptics who questioned whether Cousins could get the Vikings over the top.
Those same questions will inevitably arise after Cousins averaged 5.9 yards per pass attempt Saturday.
San Francisco allowed only 169.2 passing yards per game in 2019, fewest in the NFL, so it was a bad matchup from the outset. Cousins' inability to move the ball through the air was surprising nonetheless.
Courtney Cronin @CourtneyRCronin
49ers are winning the battle of the defensive lines thus far. Kirk Cousins & Vikings had a net gain of 4 yards when the 49ers sent 4 or fewer pass rushers. Cousins completed 6-of-8 attempts against a 4-man, but had 16 yards passing and lost 12 yards on sacks on those plays.
Cousins did his best to avoid Richard Sherman. On one of the few times he targeted Sherman, the Pro Bowl cornerback picked off the pass in the third quarter.
The presence of a running game would've helped Cousins. But Dalvin Cook was a non-factor, which allowed the 49ers to focus their efforts almost exclusively on stymying Cousins and Minnesota's aerial attack.
Matthew Coller @MatthewColler
Biggest issue for the Vikings in the first half is the same as it was in their losses to Chicago, GB and KC... the opponent's D-line mauled their OL and didn't give Dalvin Cook a chance to escape. Screens didn't work. Vikings need to find a new way to get Cook the ball in 2nd
The Cleveland Browns confirmed Thursday they planned to interview Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski for their head coaching vacancy. Saturday's defeat wasn't the kind of impression Stefanski will have wanted to make if he's interested in a move to Cleveland.
In terms of the bigger picture, Minnesota basically finds itself in the same position it was a season ago, after having missed the playoffs altogether: The Vikings might have a firm ceiling on their championship ambitions with Cousins under center.