SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers have faced some excellent running backs this season. They quarantined Cleveland’s Nick Chubb. They battled Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, bottled up Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and stifled Baltimore’s Mark Ingram. They quieted Alvin Kamara and even faced off against Beast Mode himself.
Saturday’s showdown with Dalvin Cook will be equally tough or harder considering the unique challenges he’ll present in Saturday’s NFC divisional-round clash with the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium.
Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa has followed Cook’s career for a while now and enters this pivotal in-game matchup with the appropriate amount of respect for a physical runner so tough to take down.
“I have been watching him since he was at Florida State. He’s really good,” Bosa said Tuesday. “Not many people can maintain the speed he maintains through contact. He just makes cuts and never slows down. He’s so physical. It’s going to be a challenge. We have played some good backs, but we haven’t played him.
"We just have to bring it.”
So much pregame talk will focus on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, especially considering his close relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Slowing Cook is the real key to beating the Vikings, a tough out built for playoff football.
The Vikings are 7-2 when he has at least 70 yards rushing. They played the last two regular season games without him and lost both times, including a Week 16 home defeat against Green Bay when the NFC North was lost.
Cook swears the shoulder injury that kept him out is behind him and he’s ready to play like the elite feature back he was earlier in the year, when he was churning out 100-yard games on the regular.
That’s good news for the Vikings, who will need him playing well to compete against Bosa and the 49ers' front.
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“He runs with physicality. He has great vision,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said on a conference call. “His ability to run through tackles and make guys miss tackles has been really big for us. He catches the ball well out of the backfield.
"Overall, he’s just a great kid.”