SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jimmy Garoppolo threw a TD pass on his opening drive as a playoff starter and then watched San Francisco’s defense and running game take over in the 49ers’ 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round Saturday.
The Niners’ first playoff game in six seasons and first at Levi’s Stadium turned into a lopsided one as top-seeded San Francisco (14-3) turned a pair of second-half turnovers by Minnesota (11-7) into 10 points.
Richard Sherman set up Tevin Coleman’s second short touchdown run of the game with an interception against Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Sherels’ fumbled punt led to a field goal that made it 27-10 early in the fourth quarter.
“Those guys did very well,” Coleman said of his offensive line. “They moved the guys back so I had clear holes to run through. So, yeah, they did a real good job.”
San Francisco didn’t allow Minnesota to gain a first down for more than 27 minutes of game action starting late in the second quarter.
The Niners will host the NFC championship game next week against the winner of Sunday’s game between Seattle and Green Bay.
“A lot of things to clean up, but we played well enough to get the win,” tight end George Kittle said. “That’s all you can ask for. Playoff football, anyone can win and we just made more plays today.”
Garoppolo threw an interception deep in his territory late in the first half and then spent most of the second half handing the ball off to Coleman and Raheem Mostert.
There was little reason for coach Kyle Shanahan to take chances the way his defense completely bottled up talented runner Dalvin Cook. That took away Minnesota’s play-action game and forced Cousins into becoming a drop-back passer.
“That was the No. 1 emphasis all week,” defensive lineman Nick Bosa said of the Minnesota running game. “We knew we were facing probably the best back we’ve faced all year with Dalvin, and we knew we had to earn the right to pass rush. So, that’s what we did. We took the run as serious as we could, shut it down and then we ate.”
Cousins finished 21 for 29 for 172 yards with his only big play coming on a 41-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs in the first quarter.
Cook was held to 18 yards on nine carries as the Niners defense was back to its dominant early-season form thanks in part to the return from injuries of defensive end Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt.
“It was huge to have those guys back,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “They’re leaders on our team, talented players, they make big plays for us. We were missing some pieces out there, but to get those guys back, we hit back on all cylinders.”
San Francisco had six sacks and held Minnesota to 147 yards for the game with a large chunk coming on two late garbage-time drives.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.