Vikings-49ers Game Plan

The Vikings should win this one, as they have the edge in most of the important statistics, including playing against the lowest-ranked offense in the league. Get the in-depth keys from both camps and the matchups to watch in Sunday's game between the Vikings and 49ers.

VIKINGS

Considering the way the Vikings have been playing, this is a game they most definitely should be able to not only win but control.

For a rushing offense and defense that both rank No. 1 in the NFL, this means the Vikings should be able to dominate the 49ers at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

This should be especially true given that the 49ers offense is ranked last in the league, including 27th in rushing and 32nd in passing. The Vikings pass defense remains at the bottom of the NFL as well, but it has been getting better of late.

San Francisco running back Frank Gore could be in for a long day, but if the 49ers are going to have any success on offense, they probably will need to at least establish they can move the ball on the ground.

Last Sunday, Detroit only had seven rushing attempts against the Vikings and scored a total of 10 points. Gore's best hope is to get outside because running up the middle against the Vikings is nearly impossible.

Offensively, the Vikings have shown great improvement of late and that should continue against a San Francisco defense that is 23rd in the NFL. The 49ers are equally mediocre against the run and the pass, meaning Vikings running backs Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor could be in for another big game.

The two combined for 186 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns against the Lions.

49ers

The 49ers will try to carry out a similar plan to the one they used last season when they defeated the Vikings 9-3. The 49ers simply must find a way to get the ball in the hands of RB Frank Gore. When San Francisco is able to get him involved, it stands a much better chance at winning. He had 32 touches in an overtime victory against the Cardinals two weeks ago. Last week, Gore carried just 12 times and caught five passes. Gore appears to be running much stronger after being limited earlier in the season with an ankle sprain.

Many of the 49ers' offensive problems stem from their difficulty in picking up blitzes. Offensive line coach George Warhop has to do a better job of preparing his line, as well as the entire blitz pickup team.

Embattled offensive coordinator Jim Hostler has tried to do a better job of putting his players in the best positions to make plays. However, it is difficult if the 49ers can't keep the chains moving.

The 49ers lead the league in three-and-outs this season. Last week, they ran just 52 offensive plays. The club has to do a better job on third downs to keep those drives alive and enable Hostler to dial up more plays. The 49ers have converted just 27.3 percent of their third-down chances this season.

Defensively, the 49ers feel as if they'll be able to handle the Vikings' passing game. Their attention will shift to slowing down RB Adrian Peterson, who leads the league in rushing. S Michael Lewis undoubtedly will be seen at the line of scrimmage repeatedly as an eighth defender in the box.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. 49ers DT Bryant Young. Cook has gone from suspect to solid this season and has been tested on an almost weekly basis. Another difficult assignment will come this Sunday when he goes against Young, who has 6.5 sacks this season. The 49ers play a 3-4 defense, so Cook will get some help on Young but he also will have to be on alert for linebackers rushing Tarvaris Jackson.

The success of the Vikings run defense begins up front with Kevin and Pat Williams and the 49ers' Eric Heitmann will be the latest center to have to spend his afternoon going against Pat while providing occasional help on Kevin. Heitmann's success against Pat Williams will help to determine if Gore is successful in establishing any semblance of a run game for San Francisco. Gore also can catch the ball — his 38 receptions are second on the team — so it would not be surprising to see San Francisco try to swing the ball out to him and attempt to take Pat Williams out of the equation. Heitmann, who makes all the line calls for a 49ers team that has often looked confused this season and Williams, who leads the line with 62 tackles, is a big reason the Vikings rank No. 1 in the league against the run.

If cornerback Antoine Winfield does indeed return from a hamstring injury, look for the 49ers to try to get receiver Arnaz Battle matched up on second-year cornerback Cedric Griffin. Battle, who is battling a sprained ankle, is San Francisco's top receiving threat with 43 catches and also has four touchdowns on the season. Teams have consistently tried to go at Griffin during the course of the season and San Francisco could be the latest.

49ers LB Patrick Willis, a rookie who leads the NFL in tackles, vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, a rookie who leads the NFL with 1,197 rushing yards.

49ers RDE Marques Douglas, who is having the best season of his career with 79 tackles, including 12 stops behind the line of scrimmage, vs. 49ers LG Steve Hutchinson, whose attitude and his play have helped the Vikings become the best rushing team in the league.

49ers TE Vernon Davis, whose production has been up and down this season, vs. Vikings SLB Ben Leber, who will try to re-route Davis off the line of scrimmage on pass plays.

49ers LT Adam Snyder, who has struggled in pass protection at times, vs. RDEs Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, who have combined for 8.5 of the team's 30 sacks this season.

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