Can the 49ers defense contain Dalvin Cook? 5 burning questions for 49ers vs. Vikings

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) rolls out on a play as Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard, left, and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (90) rush during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)


The San Francisco 49ers have some momentum and good vibes in their favor coming off a two-game win streak over the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars. But the same can be said for their opponent on Sunday.

The Minnesota Vikings also are celebrating victories over the Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers.

The recent hot streaks for both teams have set up a must-see battle at Levi’s Stadium, as each look to solidify their position in the NFC playoff race.

Here are five questions to keep an eye on Sunday.

1. Will Jimmy Garoppolo finally figure out Mike Zimmer’s defense?

Jimmy Garoppolo has played very well over the past four weeks, recording a passer rating over 100 in each contest over that stretch.

Garoppolo, though, has struggled against the Vikings. In two starts against Minnesota, Garoppolo has completed only 50% of his pass attempts and thrown four interceptions to only two touchdowns with a combined passer rating of 55.93.

He is at his best when he can hit receivers in the middle of the field, and this has been a part of his problem against Minnesota. The Vikings have a strong linebacker duo in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These two can make things very difficult for Garoppolo if the 49ers are unable to get the run game moving. If Kendricks and Barr are forced to step up to help defend the run, it should create room for Kittle, Samuel and Aiyuk to work the middle of the field. 

2. Can the 49ers keep the run game going?

This is a matchup the 49ers should win. San Francisco has averaged 43 rushing attempts during their current two-game win streak. The Minnesota defense has allowed the second most rushing yards in the NFL this season.

The surge in the running game for the 49ers comes as Deebo Samuel’s role in the backfield increases and Jeff Wilson Jr. returns.

Samuel has brought an explosive element to the San Francisco run game that it has missed during the absence of Raheem Mostert. The receiver is built like a running back, and it’s almost expected that he is going to run through the defense every time he touches the ball.

The role of Jeff Wilson Jr. shouldn’t be overlooked in this. While Wilson’s numbers aren’t anything to write home about, his days as a fullback allow Kyle Shanahan to be very creative in his use of personnel.

San Francisco should benefit from a Vikings defensive line, which has been decimated by injuries. Minnesota will be without their four preferred starters on the defensive line Sunday. Defensive end Danielle Hunter is gone for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in a loss on to the Cowboys on Oct. 31, and nose tackle Michael Pierce will miss his seventh straight game while on injured reserve with an elbow injury.

Minnesota also will be without Dalvin Tomlinson, who was placed on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday, and defensive end Everson Griffen is away from the team following a mental health incident on Wednesday.

3. Can the 49ers defense slow down Kirk Cousins?

The 49ers will need to find a way to duplicate its performance from two weeks ago when it slowed down Matthew Stafford to pull out a victory on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins has been playing at a very high level all year and currently has the third best quarterback rating in the NFL. His 106.3 only slightly behind Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray.

Cousins has three very good targets to throw to, starting with Justin Jefferson. The second-year receiver from LSU has proven himself to be among the best young receivers in the league, averaging 15 yards per reception and 94.4 yards per game.

Adam Thielen and tight end Tyler Conklin both are averaging over 10 yards per reception this season as well. These two, along with the running of Dalvin Cook, will make it very difficult for the 49ers defense to focus on any one player.

4. Can the 49ers defense stop Dalvin Cook?

As good as Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson have been this season, Dalvin Cook is the engine that makes the Vikings go. He is a big reason why every game he has played this season has been decided by a touchdown or less.

Cook comes into this week averaging 109.1 total yards and nearly 23 touches per game.

This will put a lot of stress on a 49ers defense that has shown the inability to consistently stop the run, allowing 4.3 yards per attempt, 19th in the NFL. San Francisco has also struggled with containing the screen game in recent weeks.

Although Minnesota has a number of injuries along their defensive line it might not matter if they can get Cook going and win time of possession, something the 49ers have done the last two weeks.

5. Can the 49ers hold on to the ball?

While much of the focus over the past two weeks has been the play of Jimmy Garoppolo and the dominance of the 49ers running game, San Francisco’s ability to hold on to the football has been equally important.

The 49ers have not turned the ball over the last two weeks, but this question goes a bit deeper.

A big part of San Francisco dominating time of possession, especially in the first half the last two weeks has come from the lack of drops.

While winning only three of their first eight games, the 49ers led the league in dropped passes. This often led to third and long situations which the offense could not overcome.

With the dropped passes going away, the 49ers have found themselves in much more manageable scenarios and the results have followed.


49ers 24 Vikings 23

This article has 18 Comments

  1. Dude if you going to write your fantasies at least give us accurate numbers – How hard is it to use a calculator?

    Cook comes into this week averaging 109.1 total yards and nearly 23 touches per game.


    D Cook has a total of 734 yards this season – in 10 games averaging 73 yards per game – 4-6 yards per carry – 4tds – What is special about that?

    Everyone knows the key matchup is at WR and CB

    Vikings WR’s are playing at a high level and 49ers corners are much better – defense ranks seventh in yards per play at 5.3 and more importantly, 12th in opponent 3rd down conversion rate at 39.02%,

    One impressive stat that Moseley’s accumulated this season is that he’s yet to allow a touchdown despite being targeted 48 times, trailing only the Buffalo Bills’ TreDavious White for the most targeted defensive back without allowing a single touchdown.

    Please stop reaching and report on FACTS we are not dummies.

    There is a reason nobody is on here to read lazy mediocre write up – step up your game

    1. Wow, seriously??? Happy Holidays to you too!

      He hasn’t played all 10 games. Only 8. And Jack states total yards so probably factoring in his pass catches as well.

      Had a terrible Thanksgiving or something?

    2. Lol! When you’re going to give a ripping to someone you really better be right.

      Cook has played 8 games this season. And the 734 yards is only his rushing totals – Jack very clearly outlined he was talking about total yards, including receiving.

      But nice rant.

      1. I am always here – I hear you all on the total yards.

        but C’mon the point = Is D. Cook a threat ? does he have enough numbers to warrant an article saying he is a threat? – Answer is still NO – whichever way you write it up.

        Ok Total yards – Dude is averaging 2 – 3 receptions a game.

        – seriously 3 catches a game and averaging less than 100 a game is not a threat – I stand corrected on my feedback on the article – This is a lazy write up.

        Writing he has 23 touches a game – leaving out that it is only 3 catches a games is FAKE NEWS

        1. A RB averaging nearly 110 total yards per game isn’t a threat? I mean, even if you haven’t watched the Vikings for the past three years and are just relying on stats, this is still a really bad take.

          And then to be upset about not talking about the Vikings receivers… even though he did in point 3… before he talked about Cook.

          But please, do go on.

        2. You are just plain wrong. He is ranked #4 in yards per game. That’s a threat and there was no article written about him, it was 1 of 5 points. I think you should quit on this topic as you are looking a little foolish.

        3. Really? Because Jerry Rice only hit those types of yardage numbers over the course of a season a few times in his entire career.

          But you be you…. in this case, a complete fool.

          Way to walk back that unnecessarily aggressive comment.

  2. Where is our brother AES? Great day for Michigan brother! Are you putting back your old avatar? lol
    Man, I love that run dominating offense!

    1. No dog in the fight but it was really fun watching that raucous crowd all waving yellow rags. It was a bit like watching the Red Sox finally get past the Yankees and the curse of Babe Ruth back in the day. Congrats!

      1. I don’t follow much college football but I do root for Michigan coz of Jim and that brand of football. So much on the line in that game and like you said, getting Jim to finally beat OH at home too must have felt like the Sox finally beating the NY!

          1. Thanks man! Awesome bro, I would have loved to see any of the S&M show! Saw them 93 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Santa Clara for the 1st time.

            1. Awesome! Hope to see them one more time but I have a current feud with TicketMaster going which might prevent me from ever wanting to buy tix again.

  3. Using Deebo as a running back is fraught with difficulty. That takes him out of the passing game, and we then have no triple threat. Also why not try Cannon as a running back? He is actually faster than Deebo and is a returner. Less chance of injuring Deebo and lets him get back to the passing game.
    By the way Mitchell will be the main running back next year. He is as fast as Mostert and on a cheap rookie contract. Be great to have Mostert as well but we will not be able to afford him.

    1. Good point about Cannon, but Deebo is just so electric with the ball in his hands. he can still be used as a receiver out of the backfield as well so not completely out of the passing game.

      it seems like it confuses the defense quite a bit when the players are switched around. For instance, that 2nd and 2 at the goal line on the first drive – i believe every single skill position was filled by someone that does not have that primary position. i think there were 5 guys at the MLB spot when the ball was hiked – they had no idea which way to go.

      unfortunately, under pressure, Jimmy fired the (incomplete) pass to Wilson instead of floating it like he did to Kittle and Sermon earlier in the game.

      Cannon just does not inspire the same fear in the backfield that Deebo does. I do agree with your concern about the physical toll on him.

    2. The Jags had a top run defense and we didn’t have Mitchel so Deebo was very much needed in the run game. The situation is reversed this time so I suspect not to see much of Debo in the run game and we will likely need him more in the pass game.

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