Four and counting
Vikings rip 49ers, win fourth in a row
By Kevin Seifert
SAN FRANCISCO — Stay with us for a moment. We’re going Field & Stream on you.
At this time of the NFL year, you’ve got two types of teams. You’ve got the Hunters and the Hunted. In essence, half the teams are trying to get where the other half already are.
Not long ago the Minnesota Vikings were languishing among the Hunters, fumbling with their bow and jamming their rifle at every turn. Sunday, however, they completed a successful transition into the more enviable and dangerous position of Hunted.
When Hunters take the field, opponents play their own style and hope to win. When Hunted teams play, their opponents conjure exotic methods to stop them and pull off an upset. To keep their place, Hunted teams must find ways to stay alive.
The San Francisco 49ers stripped the Vikings of their primary weapon Sunday at Monster Park, yet the Vikings managed to pull off a convincing 27-7 win..
With tailback Adrian Peterson limited to 3 yards on 14 carries, the Vikings took advantage in other areas to win their fourth consecutive game and put themselves in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card playoff berth.
"Teams have seen that we’ve put four good games together," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who finished with a passer rating of better than 90 (95.9) for the third consecutive game. "They can’t be in the mindset where they’re not really worried about us. ... I’m not saying we’re at the top of the world, but at the same time we are playing good football and teams are going to be gunning for us."
Jackson was among those who capitalized on the 49ers’ decision to blitz their cornerbacks routinely to stop Peterson’s outside runs. The plan worked against Peterson, but Jackson threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Robert Ferguson in the second quarter against a cornerback blitz.
Chester Taylor, meanwhile, broke off an 84-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter against a safety blitz. The run gave the Vikings a 27-0 lead with 5 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half.
It also ensured that the NFL’s top-rated rushing offense would finish with at least 100 yards, as it had in 11 of its previous 12 games. (Without it, the Vikings had 33 yards on their other 30 carries.)
"There is a step-up mentality here," coach Brad Childress said. "I do think it says something about our team. There are a lot of different ways you can win."
Childress talked to players Saturday night about the difference between the Hunters and the Hunted. No, he didn’t predict routine cornerback blitzes, but he acknowledged that it’s a little different to play from the top of the playoff race.
"You just have to be aware that you’re on the radar now," Childress said. "You’re not sneaking around. You’re a team that went from success to significance. People look at you differently, and you’re going to get their best shot all the time."
If Sunday was the 49ers’ best shot, then it’s safe to say they’ll remain among the Hunters for a long, long time. In front of a friendly home crowd, tight end Vernon Davis committed a false start on the first play of the game, and quarterback Trent Dilfer threw a low pass into the arms of Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams on the second.
Williams intercepted the pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, his second of the season and the fourth of his career. Ryan Longwell kicked a 48-yard field goal on the Vikings’ first offensive possession, and the Vikings had all the points they needed with 5:08 left in the first quarter.
It was 27-0 at halftime, and for the second consecutive week the Vikings played a meaningless second half. For the first time in team history, they have won three consecutive games by at least 20 points.
"I say it every week," defensive tackle Pat Williams said. "We’re just having fun. Everyone is on the same page. We know that if we keep this same mentality, everything will fall into place."