SANTA CLARA – The running game took flight today, Deebo Samuel rushed for a pair of touchdowns before sustaining an injury. Elijah Mitchell rushed for 133 yards and scored to help guide the 49ers 34-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings 34-26.
Both teams entered Week 12 with identical 5-5 records and jockeying for a wild-card position in the NFC. It felt like a playoff game watching both teams play to a 14-14 standstill at halftime. But the second half was played more at a feverish pace with six scores in the third quarter alone.
San Francisco took a 28-14 lead following Samuel’s second rushing touchdown of the day from three yards away, the Vikings quickly answered on 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kene Nwangwu. Minnesota missed the extra point making it a 28-20 game.
Jimmy Garoppolo, shook of an early interception on the 49ers first drive of the game, he finished 17-for-26 passing for 230 yards and a touchdown, but San Francisco did most of their damage on the ground.
The 49ers rushed for 208 yards rushing on 39 carries, aiding them to their third straight win after losing five of their last six games.
“I think both of us are playing really good ball these last couple of weeks,” San Francisco’s head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We have ground to make up and that’s why we believed it would be like a playoff game.
When two teams are playing inspired and have everything on the line, that’s why it’s a good football game for people to watch. It’s not always the most fun tense-wise for everybody. But I’m proud of our guys and how they handled it.”
Offensively, the 49ers controlled time of possession (37:07 to 22:53), racked up 423 yards total on 67 plays and converted 5-of-12 on third-downs. San Francisco picked up 23 first-downs.
Samuel finished with 78 total yards (66 yards rushing, 12 yards receiving). His 12-yard catch in the third quarter put him over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season. With five rushing touchdowns this year, Samuel became the first wide receiver to rush for five touchdowns in a season since the merger according to ESPN Stats Research.
Samuel, the 49ers do-it-all playmaker, will undergo further testing on his groin injury per Shanahan. The running back left the game with a groin injury in the third quarter and did not return.
“My groin got kind of tight once I went to make a move,” said Samuel. “So I was just like, let’s not make anything worse. And that’s why I just went down.
Not too much concern. I got an MRI and stuff in the morning. We’ll just go see how it goes.”
Kirk Cousins completed 20-of-32 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver Adam Thielen that gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. But Cousins threw an inexplicable interception in the third quarter to linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair inside Minnesota’s territory setting a up short scoring drive for San Francisco.
“They completed that pass a couple of times,” Al-Shaair said. “I remember we just talked [at halftime] about changing up the coverage a little bit and just reading three step…That is something we’re always supposed to do and I was able to slide underneath it and he threw the ball.”
Al-Shaair’s interception snapped Cousins streak of 212 straight passes without an interception. Entering today’s game, Cousins had thrown two touchdowns with no interceptions in seven straight road games.
The 49ers defense held Minnesota to 323 yards of total offense. San Francisco came up with two big stops on fourth-down in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The first stop came midway through the period near the Vikings goal line when Cousins couldn’t connect with Justin Jefferson in the back of the end zone.
“We couldn’t finish the game,” said Minnesota’s head coach Mike Zimmer. “Credit San Francisco. They did a nice job today. We continue to fight like crazy. Our guys played with a lot of fire, fight, and heart and just didn’t quite get it done today.”
Robbie Gould missed a field goal from 42 yards with 1:56 left in the game giving the Vikings one last chance. After they drove to the San Francisco 38-yard line, Minnesota turned the football on downs after Cousins missed Jefferson over the middle of the field on fourth-and-8.
“We’re all excited to be back in the mix and have the season in our control,” Nick Bosa said, who recorded his 11th sack of the season. “We all knew we were a really good team. We had to execute better and now we’re starting to execute at the right time.”
Both teams hit the road for divisional games next week, the 49ers visit the Seattle Seahawks and the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions in Motown.
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