As the Vikings prepared to face the 49ers on Sunday, the team that was 3-13 in 2011 noticed something about the team that was 13-3.”Teams that beat the 49ers last year ran the ball well against them,” quarterback Christian Ponder told PFT by phone after Sunday’s unlikely 24-13 win. “We decided to run the ball.”
Run it they did, with Adrian Peterson getting 25 carries for 86 yards, and with Ponder adding 33 and a touchdown on seven attempts. Toby Gerhart chipped in 18 yards on eight carries.
Ponder said that the team draw on its experiences early last year, when multiple double-digit halftime leads were blown, to ensure that a potential victory over the consensus best team in the league wouldn’t result in a defeat. He said they decided to start fast — and then to adhere to the team’s motto for 2012: “Finish every game.”
Helping the offense prepare was former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary. Ponder said Singletary worked with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave as Musgrave prepared to go against plenty of players Singletary drafted, signed, and/or coached.
But it wasn’t only the running game that got it done for Minnesota. Kyle Rudolph had five catches for 36 yards and two touchdowns. “If he’s not in the Pro Bowl this year,” Ponder said of Rudolph, “he’ll be there next year.”
Ponder said that the second score to Rudolph, which came after the 49ers had scored 10 straight points to cut the margin to four, came on an all-0ut blitz. So Ponder floated the ball before Rudolph made his break to the inside, and he caught the ball with one hand as it dropped over the defender.
“We know they have a good team,” Ponder said of the 49ers. “We had confidence going in that we could make it competitive.”
The Vikings did more than make it competitive. Next week, they’ll take that confidence to Detroit, where they’ll find a Lions team that may not be feeling very confident after falling to 1-2 after an overtime loss to the previously winless Titans.