This Sunday the 49ers will take on the Minnesota Vikings. While it would seem like an easy win for the 2-0 49ers, every win in the NFL is difficult. Here are three keys to a 49ers victory this Sunday.
1. Keep Peterson in Check
Peterson said back in 2009 that facing the 49ers defense was like facing a swarm of bees. He was referring to a game in 2007 when he had 3 yards on 14 carries. He pointed out Patrick Willis specifically saying, “he’s got that deadly sting.”
Well the 49ers beehive has only picked up more deadly stingers since then, with Bowman and Justin Smith joining Willis inside.
In his career versus the 49ers, Peterson has 88 yards on 33 carries, a 2.67 YPC average. The 49ers will need to keep that up Sunday, and it seems likely they will. The 49ers have allowed only one 100 yard rusher in the last 42 games, including the playoffs.
Alex Smith has played perfect football through two games this season. In fact, Smith now has a streak of 216 straight pass attempts without an interception. Including the post season that number is up to 253. For comparison, Steven Young’s record was 185 andMontana’s was 154. If Smith keeps that streak alive, the 49ers should win the game.
On the other side of the field we have Christian Ponder. While the second year quarterback has yet to throw an interception this season, those two games were against Jacksonville and Indianapolis, ranked 16th and 25th in passing defense respectively. I am not yet convinced he is a real NFL starter, and he will face his first real test of the year against the 49ers. If the 49ers can generate a pass rush with their front seven like they normally do, Ponder likely will throw that first interception of the year, fumble (two already this year) and the 49ers will win the game.
3. Field position
One of the biggest reasons for the 49ers surprise success in 2011 came down to field position. The 49ers owned the field position battle thanks in large part to their pro bowl punter Andy Lee. According to FootballOutsiders, the 49ers 2011 net LOS/Dr (average offense starting field position minus Opp. average starting field position) was a league best 9.39. In 2012, the 49ers haven’t had quite the same success in this area. In week one, the 49ers lost the field position battle but won the game and on the season have a 1.64 net average, 14th in the league.
While the drop off is due in large part to the offense playing much better (less punts leads to better opponent field position), it still presents a problem for the defense. Towards the end of the first two games of the season, the 49ers defense looked tired, resulting in big plays for the opposing offense. Pinning Minnesota inside its own 20 will be key to keeping the 49ers defense rested and strong throughout the game.