The San Francisco 49ers are nearing their best start in 14 seasons partly because their defense did enough to keep a pair of the NFL's top quarterbacks from beating them.
Their own signal-caller has done a pretty nice job as well.
Alex Smith and the unbeaten 49ers visit the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a game that will also feature Randy Moss' return to the city where he became a star.
San Francisco (2-0) is in position to win its first three games for the first time since 1998 after getting past Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Detroit's Matthew Stafford in the last two weeks. The 49ers held those offenses more than 23 points and 210 yards below their combined averages from last season, when both ranked among the league's top five - as did their quarterbacks in most categories.
The Niners limited Stafford to 19 of 32 for 230 yards in a 27-19 victory last Sunday. Dashon Goldson's interception set up Frank Gore's short touchdown run in the second quarter, and Aldon Smith had 1½ of the team's two sacks after being involved in a car accident Friday.
"Playing on this team right now is really exciting," Smith, the linebacker, said. "Being fortunate enough to play on this defense is even more exciting, playing with all the playmakers."
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco has committed one turnover and Alex Smith hasn't thrown an interception in a franchise-record 216 consecutive regular-season passes.
Smith hasn't topped 226 yards in either of the first two games but is the league's second-rated passer (115.9). He's completed 70.2 percent of his throws with four touchdowns, including two to tight end Vernon Davis last Sunday.
"The way Alex is playing, he's so efficient with the football, he knows exactly where to go," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier told the team's website. "He has the capability as well so that creates a lot of problems for any defense that lines up to play them. We'll have our hands full defending the run game and not giving up big plays in the passing game."
Moss had only one reception for 14 yards against Detroit after catching four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown during his debut with San Francisco. He totaled 574 receptions, 9,142 yards and 90 TDs over seven star-studded and sometimes contentious seasons in Minnesota before being traded to Oakland on March 2, 2005.
"I'm just very fortunate to go back where it all started at. We had some great times in Minnesota," Moss said after practice Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to just hearing the Metrodome rock. Now I'm on with the away team and I look forward to a good game."
The 35-year-old Moss, who has never played against the Vikings, enters this game needing 81 receiving yards to join Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce as the only players to reach 15,000.
"Watching him on tape, they utilize (Moss) in different packages. I know he's playing well for them and making plays for their offense," Frazier said. "It always seems like he's motivated to play. He had a lot of great years here in Minnesota. We've got to do a good job when we line up against him. He can still make plays.
"I would expect he would be up for this game like any game."
Frazier's team nearly joined San Francisco among the NFC's unbeaten teams but fell 23-20 in Indianapolis last Sunday on a field goal with 8 seconds to go.
Christian Ponder threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 6-yarder to Kyle Rudolph with 31 seconds left, as the Vikings (1-1) came from 13 points down to tie the game. Minnesota, though, allowed Colts rookie Andrew Luck to complete a pair of 20-yard passes to set up Adam Vinatieri's winning 53-yard kick.
"We've got to do better," Frazier said. "The way our team is built, we're going to play a lot of close games."
During his return, Moss will try to help San Francisco earn its first win at the Metrodome since Dec. 13, 1992. The 49ers have dropped four straight there and the latest was a last-minute defeat Sept. 27, 2009.
That's the last matchup between these teams. Gore, fourth in the NFL with 201 rushing yards, suffered an ankle injury early in that game while Adrian Peterson rushed for 85 yards.
Peterson has gone seven straight games without reaching 100 yards, one shy of a career high.
Minnesota will be without linebacker Erin Henderson because of a concussion. Henderson, who was injured against Indianapolis and did not practice all week, leads the team with 22 tackles and two sacks.
49ers present a stifling challenge
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