Everybody has that one friend who just makes things better. Every great team has that one player who does the same. Dee Ford was the friendly face the 49ers couldn't wait to have back Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Ford returned to the 49ers in their 27-10 win over the Vikings in their NFC divisional-round playoff game for the first time since Week 14, a game in which he only played four snaps. The defensive end had been dealing with a strained hamstring, and his impact surely was felt by both San Francisco and Minnesota.
Just ask Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Ford played 22 snaps in the win. He still made his mark, too. When Ford was on the field, Cousins completed nine of 14 passes for only 48 yards and was intercepted once, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats. With Ford off the field, Cousins went 12-for-15 for 124 yards, one TD and no INTs.
The Vikings passing offense had little success when Dee Ford was on the field:— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 12, 2020
Ford ON-Field: 9/14, 48 yards, INT
Ford OFF-Field: 12/15, 124 yards, TD
The 49ers were more likely to blitz without Ford (28% blitz rate) than with Ford (6%).#MINvsSF | #GoNiners
“Dee's speed off the edge is one of a kind,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “It really opens up more opportunity for the guys in the inside, also for Nick on the opposite side. They can't pick and choose every time on where they want to slide the protection or who they want to double. They have to change it up.
"It's very challenging when you have four guys that can rush the passer.”
Bosa had two sacks, one quarterback hit and four hurries in his playoff debut. He also had three run stops on just seven snaps against the run, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I knew getting Dee back and getting Kwon, Tartt, just having them on the field, it's a completely different energy,” Bosa said. “It's the energy we had early in the year. It's really fun playing on a really good team, just knowing that every person around you is going to do their job really well. Makes it a lot easier for me.”
Ford finished the day with three total pressures -- one sack, one hit, one hurry -- in 17 pass-rush snaps, according to PFF. His impact was felt by the Vikings and made all of the 49ers' feared defensive line that much better.
There's no doubt keeping Ford healthy and on the field for crucial plays will be a major key to the 49ers reaching Super Bowl LIV in Miami.