3 Takeaways from 49ers' Week 12 Win
The San Francisco 49ers are back in the playoff mix. With a 34-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, they moved to 6-5 and into the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
San Francisco welcomed back Elijah Mitchell and proceeded to dominate the Vikings on the ground. The rookie running back got a big assist from wide receiver Deebo Samuel (66 rushing yards, two touchdowns), and the 49ers rushed for more than 200 yards as a team.
The 49ers have now won three straight and four of their last five. They've also reestablished their identity as a team that can play physical, opportunistic defense and pound opponents with the run. This, of course, is the same formula that helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
If San Francisco gets into the postseason, it will be a tough out for any opponent. The good news for the 49ers is that they now control their playoff destiny.
Here's what we learned during San Francisco's big Week 12 win.
The Run Game Is Clicking at Exactly the Right Time
Getting Mitchell back was big, after he missed Week 11's game following finger surgery. His absence didn't stop the 49ers from running over the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of 171 yards, though, as head coach Kyle Shanahan has committed to using Deebo Samuel in the backfield.
Over the last three weeks, Samuel has carried 19 times for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
Mitchell was fantastic on Sunday, though, carrying 23 times for 133 yards and a touchdown. In all, San Francisco rushed for 208 yards and controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes of game clock. It ran 39 run plays and only 26 pass plays
It was a smart and well-executed game plan against a dangerous opponent jockeying for a spot in the playoffs. It's a strategy that suits the 49ers roster, and it's working at just the right time. San Francisco has six games left, three against likely playoff participants—the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 14), Tennessee Titans (Week 16) and Los Angeles Rams (Week 18).
The Niners would be in the playoffs if things ended today, but they cannot afford a letdown between now and the postseason.
Jimmy Garoppolo Might Go Out on a High Note
The 49ers are best when they're a run-first, run-heavy team. However, they're not going to challenge for a Super Bowl if they cannot also get quality quarterback play.
Fortunately, that's exactly what San Francisco has been getting from Jimmy Garoppolo—more often than not, anyway. He did throw an interception on the 49ers' first drive, but he settled down and played efficient ball after that.
The 30-year-old finished 17-of-26 for 230 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Over his last three games, he has thrown five touchdowns passes and just the one interception. He isn't perfect, but he's playing well enough to steer San Francisco through a deep playoff run.
However, it appears likely this will be his last opportunity to do so.
"Absent a Super Bowl run, which at this point is still theoretically possible, this is the 49ers' plan next season: start Trey Lance, trade Jimmy Garoppolo. Not a surprise there, they've been pretty up front about that," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on NFL Gameday Morning.
If this is Garoppolo's last run in San Francisco, he and the 49ers have the potential to make it a good one.
Deebo Samuel's Groin Injury Could Be a Problem
If there's a negative to take away from Sunday's win—and there is—it's that Samuel exited the game with a groin injury. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he will undergo an MRI on Monday to evaluate the extent of the problem.
Losing the 25-year-old for any length of time would be a major blow. While he's done most of his damage as a runner over the last two weeks, he's still over 1,000 receiving yards on the season.
Samuel is now the first wide receiver in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in the same season, according to ESPN.
San Francisco might be able to survive without the South Carolina product against the stumbling Seattle Seahawks, but it's far from a guarantee. Seattle won the first meeting in Week 4.
Samuel has emerged as San Francisco's most reliable offensive weapon, and the team will be very grateful if the injury isn't serious.