Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Vikings

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's pivotal NFC battle of undefeated teams between the 49ers and Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the big game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 12 noon Central
SITE: The Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn.
SURFACE: Turf
RECORDS: 49ers 2-0, 2-0 in NFC, 2-0 in NFC West; Vikings 2-0, 2-0 in NFC, 1-0 in NFC North
TV: FOX (Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan)

SERIES HISTORY: 39th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 19-18-1. The Vikings have not had nearly as much success in the postseason against the 49ers as they've had in the regular season. The Vikings are 1-4 in the divisional playoffs against the 49ers, with four of those games having been played in San Francisco.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Vikings' typically air-tight run defense is allowing 109 yards per game and will see a heavy dose of 49ers RB Frank Gore. San Francisco's gameplan the first two weeks has been very conservative through three quarters before letting QB Shaun Hill open up the passing attack a bit and take advantage of eight-man fronts in the fourth quarter. The Vikings' focus is to start strong after rallying from a pair of first-half deficits. The matchup between RB Adrian Peterson and LB Patrick Willis will be compelling as the 49ers are allowing just 53 rushing yards per game. QB Brett Favre has yet to throw an interception, but the Vikings have also asked very little of the passing game thus far.

FAST FACTS: Peterson's 272 rushing yards is a franchise record through two games (Robert Smith, 269, 1998). ... Gore leads the NFC with 4,070 rushing yards since 2006.

BY THE NUMBERS: 85.2 -- Brett Favre's completion percentage (23 of 27) last Sunday against Detroit, a Vikings record for a single game. Randall Cunningham had held the franchise mark with a completion percentage of 84 percent (21 of 25) on Nov. 1, 1998, at Tampa Bay. 79 and 80 -- Running back Frank Gore had two career-long carries Sunday against the Seahawks. With his two long touchdown runs, he joined Barry Sanders as the only other player in league history to have two scoring runs of at least 75 yards in the same game.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"Well, you know what? If they're not taking us seriously, that's OK. They can keep doing that. We're going to continue to take ourselves seriously." -- 49ers coach Mike Singletary on the perception of the 49ers around the league.
"We're not going to go back there and go bombs away all game. We've got A.D. (Adrian Peterson) in the backfield. We can't do that. But when it presents itself we're definitely going to take the chance and try to get it in there." -- Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian on his expectation that the Vikings will start to go vertical more often as the season progresses.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers' formula for success is pretty simple. They want to run the ball, control the clock and play solid defense. This is a formidable challenge, as the 49ers go up against one of the best defenses in the league against the run. The offensive line will be faced with a major challenge to provide running back Frank Gore with run lanes. The 49ers want to chew up a lot of clock every time they touch the ball to limit the number of chances given to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Brett Favre. Quarterback Shaun Hill is an accurate passer who can provide and extension of the run game with his reliance on short passes to the backs and tight end Vernon Davis. In two games, the 49ers wideouts have accounted for just 170 yards receiving. Defensively, the 49ers have been very strong against the run. If they can keep Peterson in check, they will want to turn up the heat on Favre to force the league's all-time leader in touchdowns and interceptions into making some mistakes.

VIKINGS GAME PLAN: The Vikings have not allowed an individual to rush for 100 yards for the past 25 games - the second-longest streak behind the Baltimore Ravens (37) - but that will be tested on Sunday by San Francisco's Frank Gore. Gore is third in the NFL with 237 yards rushing after gaining 207 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns in the 49ers' 23-10 victory over Seattle last Sunday. What makes Gore all the more potentially dangerous is the fact the Vikings run defense has not looked as sharp this season. The Vikings gave up 129 rushing yards to the Lions last Sunday and are ranked a very average 15th in run defense, giving up an average of 109 yards per game. San Francisco will look to establish the ground game in part because their passing attack has put fear into no opponent so far. The 49ers are 30th in the NFL, averaging 152.5 yards per game through the air. That places San Francisco ahead of only St. Louis and the Vikings. That's right, the Vikings are dead last in passing offense in the NFL, averaging 119 yards per game with new quarterback Brett Favre running the show. Favre, though, has yet to throw an interception and is among the league leaders in completion percentage and passer rating. The Vikings' bread-and-butter is giving the ball to Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing last season and again is atop the league through two weeks. However, at some point the Vikings are going to need to establish the aerial game so they can get defenders out of the box. This is not a new problem for the Vikings but it is one they think Favre can help solve.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers LB Patrick Willis, the 49ers' top defensive player and a two-time Pro Bowl performer in two seasons, vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who leads the NFC in rushing through two games after leading the league a year ago.
--- 49ers LT Joe Staley, who has gotten off to a strong start in his third NFL season, vs. Vikings DRE Jared Allen, who has more sacks (58.5) than any player from 2004.
--- 49ers OLB Parys Haralson, the 49ers' best pass rusher, vs. Vikings RT Phil Loadholt, a rookie who won the starting job in training camp.
--- 49ers LG David Baas, whose Week 2 performance was greatly improved from a subpar opener, vs. Vikings UT Kevin Williams, a four-time Pro Bowl performer who has one sack on the season.
--- Vikings FB Naufahu Tahi, who is often the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson, vs. 49ers LB Patrick Willis, who had 13 tackles and an interception last Sunday against Seattle. Members of the Vikings offensive line also are going to have to help in stopping Willis, but Tahi will play a key role in picking him up at times in the backfield. The 49ers are the second team the Vikings will play this season that uses a 3-4 defense and they will see that scheme again in Week 4 when they play host to the Packers. That means a guy like Willis could be coming from anywhere. The Vikings do need to improve their protection for Brett Favre, who has been sacked seven times in two games.
--- Vikings WR Bernard Berrian, the team's biggest deep threat and a guy who can stretch the field, vs. 49ers CB Nate Clements, who has seven interceptions in three seasons with San Francisco. Berrian did not catch a pass in Week 1 as he returned from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the final three preseason games. He did catch six passes last week but they went for an average of 7.7 yards. That was a far cry from the NFL-leading 20.1 yards per catch Berrian averaged last season. Part of the issue is getting Brett Favre and Berrian on the same page after the two did not have much time to work together after Favre arrived on Aug. 18. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers put Clements on Berrian in an attempt to make sure that doesn't happen.

INJURY IMPACT

49ERS:
RB Frank Gore sat out the final seven minutes of last week's game with a right ankle sprain. He was limited in practice early in the week, but is expected to be at full strength for Sunday's game. ... WR Brandon Jones has returned to practice but was not sharp enough to play last week. Depending on how he fares in practice this week, the 49ers will decide whether to play him Sunday against the Vikings. He has not played since sustaining a broken shoulder blade in an Aug. 6 practice. ... LB Ahmad Brooks underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month and returned to practice. He is not expected to play this week.

VIKINGS: Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson missed practice this week because of a shoulder injury and that could be cause for concern. Rookie Jasper Brinkley is listed as Henderson's backup on the depth chart. Safety Madieu Williams was limited in practice Wednesday but is expected to be ready to go. So is running back Adrian Peterson, who was limited because of an issue with his back.


PERSONNEL NEWS

49ERS


--- RB Frank Gore went through limited practice as he continues to nurse a right ankle sprain. Gore did not play the 49ers' final two possessions of their game against the Seattle Seahawks. His limited work in practice appears to be just a precaution. Gore said he is feeling fine and will be healthy for Sunday's game.
--- LG David Baas returned to full practice Thursday after taking part in limited work Wednesday. Baas' improved play in Week 2 was a big key in the 49ers' ability to run the ball effectively against the Seahawks.
--- LB Ahmad Brooks, who has been out of action since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery after the team's third exhibition game, returned to full practice this week. However, it is questionable whether he will dress for Sunday's game against the Vikings.
--- RB Glen Coffee sustained a hip pointer in the 49ers win over the Seahawks. However, he does not appear affected by the injury. Coffee did not miss any practice time this week.
--- K Joe Nedney has been perfect through two games, as he's made all five of his field-goal attempts. Nedney has hit a long of 50 yards.

VIKINGS

--- WR Bernard Berrian, who missed three preseason games because of a hamstring injury and did not have a catch in Week 1, continues to go at nearly full speed. Berrian caught all six of the passes thrown to him in the Vikings' victory at Detroit.
--- WR Percy Harvin missed Thursday's practice because of illness, according to coach Brad Childress.
--- LB E.J. Henderson was limited in practice Thursday because of a shoulder injury suffered Sunday in Detroit. Henderson had not practiced at all on Wednesday.
--- LB Erin Henderson continues to be sidelined because of a calf injury suffered in the final preseason game. He is expected to miss at least two more weeks.
--- TE Jim Kleinsasser (hand) remains listed on the injury report but hasn't missed a practice in the past two weeks.
--- RB Adrian Peterson was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a back injury but was able to take part in the portion that was open to the media. Peterson has been held back in practice before but has only missed two games in his two-plus seasons.
--- S Madieu Williams was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a shoulder injury but said he will be fine.
--- DE Jared Allen has one sack this season and 58.5 since entering the NFL in 2004. That ranks first among all players during that time.
--- LB Chad Greenway became only the 15th player in franchise history to have a three-takeaway game and only the third linebacker (Jack Del Rio and Roy Winston) to accomplish the feat.


INSIDE THE CAMPS

49ERS


The 49ers have employed mostly a base offense this season consisting of a halfback, fullback, tight end and two receivers.

The one receiver everybody is talking about is not yet in uniform, as 10th overall pick Michael Crabtree has yet to sign a contract.

Only three wideouts have caught passes for the 49ers this season, and the 49ers have not put four receivers on the field at the same time through the first two games. Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle have combined for just 14 catches for 170 yards and no touchdowns.

And the 49ers might soon be adding another receiver to the mix. Free-agent acquisition Brandon Jones became the team's highest-paid receiver in the offseason but he has yet to play after sustaining a broken shoulder blade on Aug. 6.

He is currently going through his second week of practice. He returned to work last week, but coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye determined he was not yet ready for game action.

"I think Brandon is making progress," Raye said. "If he adds on, we will see. We haven't made that decision."

Battle and Micheal Spurlock have both seen action as the No. 3 receiver. Battle is a more well-rounded wideout. Spurlock has been used when the 49ers go to their "Taser" formation -- their version of the "Wildcat."

Morgan is the team's starter at split end, but he did not catch a pass in the team's 23-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last week. However, he was lauded for his blocking. Morgan and Bruce played key roles on both of Frank Gore's long touchdown runs.

With the 49ers' passing game ranking 30th in the league, their wideouts are being asked to do more blocking than pass-catching.

"I think if you notice, historically around the league, all great runs have add-ons," Raye said. "And without add-ons from the receivers in the blocking part of it, you don't usually get the breakout runs.

"Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce and Micheal Spurlock did an excellent job of adding on the second level when the ball broke the line of scrimmage. If you are going to be a running team, you have to have the add-ons from the back end on the perimeter group to take some hats off the runner."

VIKINGS

Brett Favre has played 16 regular-season games in his career at the Metrodome but each one of those was spent as a member of the Vikings' archrival, the Green Bay Packers.

On Sunday, Favre will be a good guy in the stadium as the Vikings open their home schedule against the 49ers.

Favre did play two series at the Dome in a preseason game against Kansas City three days after joining the Vikings last month, but this time he will get a chance to fully grasp the fact that when he looks down his jersey will be purple and not green and gold.

"I think it will be awesome," Favre said of playing a home game in Minnesota. "I'm looking forward to it. Especially after playing the last two games on the road, it will be nice to get back home."

Favre should receive a warm welcome considering the Vikings were victorious at Cleveland and Detroit. Favre hasn't put up any big passing numbers but then again he also hasn't made any big mistakes.

He has thrown three touchdowns with no interceptions, and his 77.1 completion percentage leads the NFL.

Favre said the two victories are all that's important to him.

"That is the only thing that matters," he said. "The only thing I would say about people who are (complaining about a lack of downfield passes) is they are always going to be (saying), 'It's not good enough,' or, 'Why didn't you do this?' The bottom line is winning and we are 2-0. ... My philosophy has always been, 'Whatever it takes to win, you do.'"

As for being at home in the Metrodome, Vikings' kicker Ryan Longwell knows that will be strange for Favre. Longwell spent nine seasons as a teammate of Favre's with the Packers before joining the Vikings as a free agent in 2006.

"It will be different for Brett but it's fun having the Dome packed and the crowd on your side and cheering for you," Longwell said. "The weirdest thing was going out for the first field-goal attempt and it was quiet. You are so used to it being the other way. So I think when he gets under center and it's quiet and he can communicate, it will be different for him than what he's used to in that building because any time (Green Bay) is on the field, they are screaming against you as a Packer."



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