Why 49ers Defense Must Make Vikings Offense One-Dimensional


There is no question the name of the game for the San Francisco 49ers defense will be containing Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. A three-time first-team All-Pro selection, Peterson was not given the nickname, “All Day,” for nothing.

Now, as he prepares for his first game back since being suspended by the NFL for alleged child abuse, the verdict is out if the 49ers new-look defense can contain the six-time Pro Bowl running back.

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Historically, Peterson has not fared well against the red and gold, as he’s had limited success in three career games all while never reaching the end zone. A testament to the 49ers coaching staff for making the Vikings one-dimensional, they will need to have a similar encore performance, as Peterson is the engine that makes that offense go — and it all starts up front.



The 49ers have a new-look front seven, as they lost five starters from last year’s team including three linebackers. Fast forward to today and surprisingly the 49ers front seven is still dominant, as they have three healthy starters back in the mix including NT Ian Williams (team captain), DE Glenn Dorsey, and ILB NaVorro Bowman (team captain).

So how can the 49ers contain Peterson? By clogging up running lanes with gap integrity all while setting the edge on the outside.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Vikings OC Norv Turner uses a power-run scheme aimed at pulling his lineman to hit the second-level while creating cut-back lanes for Peterson to exploit. If the 49ers can anchor the point of attack while maintaing gap-integrity, that should allow linebackers ILB NaVorro Bowman and ILB Michael Wilhoite to shoot the A-gaps with ease.



Not to mention, it will open things up on the outside as second-year OLB Aaron Lynch will be able to then set the edge forcing plays back inside, there will be little real-estate for Peterson to work with as he will be suffocated at or near the line of scrimmage.



The Vikings desperately needed help at right tackle last year and as a result drafted fourth-round pick (No. 110) T T.J. Clemmings. A rookie who was drafted to provide depth from the tackle position behind RT Phil Loadholt, it appears that Clemmings is now in line to start as Loadholt suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last month. 



Look for Lynch to take advantage of the Pittsburgh product, as Clemmings tends to fall off his blocks when his base gets too narrow in the running game. If this happens that can be disaster for the Vikings offense, as they will have no choice but to run up the gut or to LT Matt Kalil’s side.


If Mangini can dictate the running game, he can then overload one side by bringing FS Eric Reid and SS Antoine Bethea down in the box. Sure it will leave the cornerbacks on an island pre-snap, but it will also keep QB Teddy Bridgewater on his toes, as he will have no idea if Reid or Bethea will come up in run support or back off as the single-high safety.


An aggressive approach but one that will cause confusion, look for Mangini to give an abundance of exotic looks as safeties, cornerbacks, and linebackers will all show blitz at some point during the game.

If the 49ers can contain Peterson and keep him bottled up for four-quarters that should bode well for the 49ers stingy defense. A task easier said than done, look for the 49ers to do that and more as I predict Peterson to finish with a stat line around 24 carries for 84 rushing yards.


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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.