Grading 49ers' offense, defense in crucial win over Vikings


SANTA CLARA — Here come the 49ers.

The 49ers’ third consecutive victory — a 34-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings — was more of the same.

The 49ers did not dominate as they did in their recent victories over the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars. But it might have been even more impressive because not everything went according to plan.

The 49ers made some mistakes, but they overcame them in order to move to 6-5 and No. 6 in the NFC postseason seedings.

Here is the 49ers’ report card from their Week 12 victory:

Rushing offense

The previous two games were about quantity. On Sunday, the 49ers emphasized quality.

Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell returned to action after sitting out a game due to a fractured middle finger on his right hand. He showed his toughness with his second consecutive 27-carry performance.

Mitchell gained the tough yards. He always fell forward to get the most yards possible with every rushing attempt. Mitchell gained 133 yards and one touchdown.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel added 66 yards and two touchdowns on six rushing attempts.

The 49ers gained 208 yards on 39 rushing attempts. The team’s 5.3-yard average was 1.5 yards more per carry than in their previous two games against the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville. 

Grade: A

Passing offense

This game did not start well for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who made what coach Kyle Shanahan categorized as an “inexcusable” error with a first-quarter interception.

Garoppolo’s accuracy was up-and-down, but he made some big-time throws in key moments.

Brandon Aiyuk had just three catches but he came through with a season-best 91 yards.

Garoppolo completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 230 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Jauan Jennings, who made his mark as a blocker in his first two games as the No. 3 receiver, got in on the action in the passing game with a 3-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half.

Grade: B 

Rushing defense

The 49ers’ run defense allowed a 30-yard run to Dalvin Cook. But on Cook’s other nine rushing attempts, he managed just 9 yards. 

The 49ers knocked Cook out of the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter on a play in which defensive tackle Kevin Givens forced a fumble that linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair recovered for a takeaway.

The Vikings managed only three first downs on the ground. Nose tackle D.J. Jones was particularly stout on the defensive line with five tackles.

Grade: A

Passing defense

The 49ers went up against one of the top passing games in the league, and they more than held their own.

Kirk Cousins completed 20 of 32 pass attempts for 238 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Al-Shaair came up with a game-changing interception of a Cousins pass at the beginning of the third quarter.

The 49ers got decent pressure on Cousins without bringing extra pass rushers. Nick Bosa registered his 11th sack in the 11th game.

Grade: B

Special teams

The 49ers’ kick coverage unit allowed the Vikings to get back into the game in the third quarter on Kene Nwangwu’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Mitch Wishnowsky had to make another tackle to prevent another big return.

Kicker Robbie Gould made field goals of 46 and 22 yards, but he missed wide right on a 42-yard attempt late in the game that would have clinched the victory.

Wishnowsky hit the ball very well, as he averaged 61.0 yards on three punts with a net 47.7 after two touchbacks.

Grade: D-minus


The 49ers had strong plans on both sides of the ball and made the necessary adjustments as the game went along to keep them one step ahead of the Vikings.

The 49ers created big running opportunities with shifts, motions and isolating mismatches.

Defensively, a mid-game adjustment was directly responsible for Al-Shaair being in position for his third-quarter interception.

Shanahan and Garoppolo did a masterful job of working the clock at the end of the first half to score a touchdown and leave the Vikings with little time to do anything.

The 49ers scored a touchdown at the end of the first half. Then, they received the kickoff to open the third quarter and scored another touchdown.

Grade: A


Unlike the first two games of the 49ers’ current three-game winning streak, this one started with some adversity. But Garoppolo and the 49ers bounced back from the early turnover.

RELATED: Where 49ers stand in NFC playoff race after beating Vikings

There are no longer questions about the 49ers searching for their identity. They are playing efficient football, and they are getting roster-wide contributions.

Grade: A-minus

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