The Minnesota Vikings will welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Mall of America Field for Week 3 after losing 23-20 to the Indianapolis Colts last week. The Vikings head into this week’s game with a record of 1-1, while the 49ers are 2-0 and have beaten two other NFC North squads in the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in their first two games.
Here are some things to watch during Sunday’s game.
Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson has passed every physical test up to this point as he recovers from his knee injury, and it will be interesting to see how he does against a tough 49ers’ defense. We may see a little more of Toby Gerhart even if Peterson sees more work on Sunday, but Minnesota’s ability to establish their running game will be a key component any success they have offensively and Peterson offers explosive running ability Gerhart largely doesn’t.
Keeping the offense on schedule and in manageable down and distances will fall largely on the shoulders of quarterback Christian Ponder. He will have to recognize what the San Francisco defense presents, get the Vikings out of potentially negative plays when needed and exhibit better pocket presence to avoid sacks and turnovers. Ponder’s ability to rise to the challenge against one of the league’s best defenses will play a big role in Minnesota’s chances to win the game, while also perhaps giving him the confidence to go forward and play better over the rest of the season if he plays well on Sunday.
The Vikings’ defense will be challenged by a well-balanced San Francisco offense with Alex Smith at the helm. Tight end Vernon Davis will present a great challenge for the team’s base Cover-2 defensive scheme, and his overall physical skills makes him a big potential mismatch for a struggling pass defense. The return to Minnesota of 49ers’ wide receiver Randy Moss will also be noteworthy to fans and media as Sunday’s game gets closer, but his on-field impact may not be great if his role over the first two weeks of the season is any indication.
Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen has not made much of an impact so far this season, with zero sacks and just three total tackles. That will most certainly have to turn around on Sunday if the Vikings hope to keep the 49ers’ offense at bay, as Allen can be a difference-making pass rusher and if he makes an impact early in the game that could lead to him having a big impact all game long. Allen will need to be a factor against the run as well, as Minnesota’s ability to contain 49ers’ running back Frank Gore and company will be key in creating less than ideal situations for Smith if he is forced to throw more than usual.