1) No Turnovers
The Vikings have done well in this department, with the exception of two Christian Ponder fumbles on sacks this season. The second year quarterback is yet to throw an interception, which is great, but he has to play nearly perfect come Sunday.
One turnover against the 49ers’ defense is too many. The Vikings cannot afford to make any mistakes if they want a chance in this game. Ponder must continue his role of being a game manager, and keep making the safe plays. It’s imperative he doesn’t take too many sacks, and that he scrambles for a few yards when he can to avoid any negative plays.
2) Limit the Penalties
Penalties were they deciding factor in last week’s game in my mind, not the Adam Vinatieri field goal. If the Vikings had played a more disciplined game, it’s unlikely they would have even been tied going into the final minutes. So obviously if penalties can cost them a game against the Indianapolis Colts, they will almost certainly cause their demise against arguably the league’s best team.
Minnesota cannot give the 49ers any second chances, back themselves up, or play in third and long situations. If they commit anywhere near their 11 penalties from a week ago, they will lose this football game. It’s that simple.
3) Make Alex Smith Beat Them
Finally 8 years into his NFL career, Smith is developing into a game changer. His play has been on an upward trend for about the last year, and defenses around the league will have to continue to respect his presence as a passer.
However, as far as the Vikings are concerned, they still need to make Smith beat them. We all know that San Francisco is going to run the ball, so the Vikings’ defense must do all it can to limit the damage on the ground, and force Smith to convert on third down passing plays.
I look for Minnesota to load up the box, and to commit to stopping the run. Now there’s no question the 49ers are going to get their yards on the ground, that’s what they do, but the Vikings have to control it the best they can.
Smith is to the point in his career where he can beat teams with his arm on a regular basis, but the game plan for Minnesota has to be to make him prove it. If he does step up and destroy the Minnesota secondary, I can live with that, but if they can run all over the field, there’s no stopping the passing game.