Vikings-49ers game plan

In many respects, the 49ers and Vikings will be playing strength against strength. And it all revolves around the running game.


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.


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 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.

OTHERS: 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.

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