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49ers knock out Vikings, 27-10, in NFC Divisional Round

*The 49ers are one win away from the Super Bowl. Behind a dominating defensive effort and ball-control offense, San Francisco suffocated the Vikings in a 27-10 victory in Saturday's Divisional Round. *

The NFC's top-seeded 49ers will host the Seahawks-Packers winner next Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET. Here's what we learned from San Francisco's win:

  1. The Niners' defense got healthy on the bye week. It showed. Robert Salah's unit dominated the game from start to finish. San Francisco snuffed out the Vikings run game, harassed Kirk Cousins, and smothered wideouts all over the field. Minnesota picked on corner Ahkello Witherspoon on the second drive of the game -- a 79-yard march punctuated by a 41-yard TD from Stefon Diggs against the corner. The 49ers sent Witherspoon to the bench for Emmanuel Moseley and clamped down the rest of the way. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner dominated the line of scrimmage, compiling five sacks. Bosa gobbled up two sacks, three QB hits, two tackles for loss, a pass defended, and screamed down the line to stuff Dalvin Cook several times. Ford returned from injury to snag a sack, two QB hits and a tackle for loss. The Niners' D dictated the entire game. After the TD drive, San Francisco gave up eight total yards and one measly first down on the next seven Vikings possessions, including six 3-and-outs. The Niners' defense gave up just seven first downs, the third-fewest by a team in an NFL playoff game, and just 147 total yards, the fewest allowed by a San Francisco postseason team in the Super Bowl era. Salah's defense entered Saturday giving up 29.4 points per game the previous five bouts in December. With a healthy crew, that defense throttled everything Minnesota tried.
  1. Kyle Shanahan unleashed an unstoppable run game. With the offensive line plowing open holes, the Niners ran the ball a whopping 47 times for 185 yards. Tevin Coleman led the way, galloping 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Raheem Mostert added 12 carries for 58 yards. The Niners don't have a proverbial workhorse back. They have a scheme that puts defenses on a sled and gobbles up first downs. The Niners compiled 12 first downs on the ground, helping dominate time of possession 38:27-21:33. When Shanahan's offense is grinding on the ground as it was Saturday, it doesn't need the passing game to be more than a complementary weapon.
  1. Minnesota came in believing it could exploit the 49ers' one defensive weakness: the run. That plan got flattened. With San Francisco controlling the line of scrimmage throwing aside blockers like ragdolls, Cook was stuffed repeatedly with no room to run. He rushed the ball just nine times for 18 yards, a 2.0 average with a long of six yards. The dynamic running back compiled just 26 scrimmage yards. When a team's best weapon is shut down so thoroughly, blowouts ensue. A Vikings team desiring to be a ground-first offense generated just 21 yards on 10 runs.
  1. Playing on short rest, the Vikings' defense looked gassed versus a team coming off a bye week. After keeping it close early, including a great interception by linebacker Eric Kendricks, who played a phenomenal game, Minnesota had its will broken by the 49ers' run game. Following a Cousins interception, San Francisco opened holes up front with ease on an 8-play, 44-yard TD drive, all runs. There was little life from the Vikings D after. Even when the D did make a stand, trouble ensued. After forcing their first 3-and-out of the game, still within striking distance late in the third quarter, Marcus Sherels muffed a punt. Ball game. Outside of splash plays from Danielle Hunter and Kendricks, the Vikings' defense got blown off the ball repeatedly. It looked like a group that played an overtime game less than a week ago. When teams fight ferociously to secure a bye week down the stretch, this game was one example of why.
  1. Neither quarterback played flawlessly. The focus will land on Kirk Cousins, as it always does after big games. The Vikings quarterback was swarmed repeatedly by the Niners' D, getting sacked six times. Far too often, Cousins was in check-down mode. Even when he tried to go deep, however, the QB had zero time to throw. Cousins finished 21-of-29 passing for 172 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt, a TD, one INT, and an 84.3 passer rating. With zero run game, Cousins was a sitting duck, and couldn't overcome a better defense. Jimmy Garoppolo started off on fire, completing five of six passes for 57 yards and a TD on the opening drive. Aside from that, the QB was hit-or-miss. He finished 11 of 19 for 131 yards, a TD, one bad INT, and a 74.7 passer rating. Unlike his counterpart, however, Jimmy G didn't need to be great thanks to a dominant run game and an overpowering defense on his side.
  1. With the W, the NFC will run through San Francisco. The No. 1 seed in the conference will host the championship game versus the winner of Sunday's Divisional Round bout between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The Niners blew out the Packers at home in Week 12, 37-8. San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks, including a Week 17 victory by inches. The NFC Championship game will be played on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6:40 p.m. ET in Santa Clara.
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