49ers

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 27-10 NFL playoff win vs. Vikings

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 27-10 NFL playoff win vs. Vikings

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers earned a bye for the first round of the NFL playoffs. And they took full advantage of all the benefits.

The 49ers came out enthusiastic, energized, healthy and focused, and coach Kyle Shanahan’s team easily took care of the Minnesota Vikings with a 27-10 victory Saturday at Levi’s Stadium to advance to next week’s NFC Championship Game.

The 49ers imposed their will on the Vikings. They delivered a suffocating defensive performance, and combined it with a running attack that completely crushed Minnesota’s soul.

The 49ers will host the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers winner next Sunday with a trip to Super Bowl LIV on the line.

Here's what you need to know about the 49ers’ impressive performance in their divisional-round playoff win:

Dee-fense unlocked

Robert Saleh said Dee Ford is the key to the 49ers' defense because he “unlocks” the pass rush. What the defensive coordinator meant is that having Ford’s presence gives the 49ers another threat off the edge, so it opens things up for defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead.

It showed Saturday.

Ford returned to action after playing just four snaps over the final six regular-season games. And the entire group looked to benefit. Bosa registered two sacks. Ford, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner each registered a sack of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Solomon Thomas also picked up a sack in the final minutes.

Cousins completed 21 of 29 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

It started with the 49ers’ run defense to set up third-down situations. The 49ers completely shut down Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who was held to just 18 yards rushing on nine carries and came up with 8 yards on six receptions.

Running all over 'em

Shanahan often speaks about his goal of having balance between the running and passing games. But, he says, he'll always call plays that he believes will give the 49ers the best chance to win.

On Saturday, that consisted of a steady diet of runs that seemed to take all the air out of the Vikings’ sails.

The key sequence of the game came in the third quarter, after Richard Sherman picked off a Cousins pass.

Shanahan dialed up eight consecutive running plays. Tevin Coleman had runs of 4, 6 and 6 yards. Raheem Mostert then entered the game and picked up 7, 4 and 4 yards. Coleman re-entered and tore off an 11-yard run to set up his 2-yard touchdown.

It was Coleman’s second 2-yard TD of the game. He finished with 105 yards and two scores on 22 carries.

As a team, the 49ers rushed the ball 47 times for 186 yards (4.0 average).

[RELATED: Jimmy G lays out Vikings' Barr on pancake block]

Permanent switch at cornerback?

The 49ers gave Ahkello Witherspoon one more opportunity, but they did not show much patience.

Before the first quarter was over, the 49ers switched to Emmanuel Moseley at right cornerback. And it appears Moseley has a good opportunity to move into the starting role on a long-term basis.

After insisting that Witherspoon did not play poorly in Week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks, Shanahan and Saleh decided to remain with Witherspoon to open against the Vikings. They had benched Witherspoon for the final drive against the Seahawks.

But the leash was short this time. Witherspoon was called for pass interference against Stefon Diggs. He also gave up a 12-yard pass to Adam Thielen on third-and-2, then was beaten by Diggs for a 41-yard TD on the Vikings’ second drive of the game.

Moseley entered the game for the next series and finished it out.

Kyle Shanahan sees Jordan Reed as big 49ers contributor, if healthy

Kyle Shanahan sees Jordan Reed as big 49ers contributor, if healthy

Veteran tight end Jordan Reed seemingly is taking a huge risk with designs on a return to football after sustaining a seventh documented concussion a year ago.

But it is a risk that could pay off big for Reed and the 49ers this season, his first NFL coach said on Monday.

Kyle Shanahan was in his final season as Washington’s offensive coordinator during Reed’s first season after entering the league as a second-round draft pick. Now, Shanahan and Reed are back together after Reed agreed to a one-year contract on Monday.

“I know he hasn’t been on the field for a little bit. I know he’s very hungry to get back out there,” Shanahan said.

“When you have a talented guy who’s hungry to play football, it works out if they can stay healthy. And Jordan has had some bad luck over the years. I know he’s ready to go. I hope he has some good luck here. And if he does, I think it’s going to be a hell of a deal for the Niners and a really good deal for him, also.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Reed, 30, has appeared in just 65 games over the past seven seasons with Washington. He has 329 career receptions for 3,371 yards and 24 touchdowns. His best season came in 2015, when he saw action in 14 games and caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He did not play last season after sustaining a concussion in a preseason game. The Washington Football Team released him in February.

“Everyone is aware of Jordan’s ability,” Shanahan said. “When he’s been healthy, he’s played at an extremely high level. And he’s been one of the first third-down tight ends in the league when he’s been healthy.”

[RELATEDShanahan optimistic 49ers, Kittle will get contract done]

Shanahan said he typically likes to bring six tight ends to training camp. It was a little more difficult this summer because teams have to trim to 80 players instead of the usual 90-man limits. But the 49ers found a way to add Reed, who figures to join a competition to become George Kittle’s backup.

Reed will compete with Ross Dwelley, Daniel Helm and sixth-round draft pick Charlie Woerner for the backup job.

“It's well-documented that he’s had multiple concussions prior,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “So in situations like this, there’s a reason that a guy like Jordan Reed is out there, right? There is some risk-reward. We got to a point where we felt the risk that we’re taking on was worth it with the potential reward.”

Trent Williams thrilled 49ers signed former teammate Jordan Reed

Trent Williams thrilled 49ers signed former teammate Jordan Reed

Trent Williams isn't the only former Washington Football Team player joining the 49ers this offseason.

San Francisco signed free agent tight end Jordan Reed to an incentive-laden one-year contract on Monday, hoping to put a steady backup behind All-Pro George Kittle. Formerly a third-round draft pick by Washington in 2013, Reed was a teammate of Williams in the nation's capital for each of the past six seasons. Williams expressed his excitement for Reed on his Instagram story Monday afternoon.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

A Pro Bowl selection in 2016, Reed missed all of the 2019 season after getting a concussion in the third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. Like Williams, Reed finished the 2019 season on injured reserve. Washington released Reed in February.

Reed could see his role increased significantly early on with the 49ers if Kittle's contract negotiations continue to stall, as general manager John Lynch didn't give much of an update Monday on the conversations.

[RELATED: 49ers rule D.J. Reed out for year after surgery on torn pec]

“We’re working diligently to come to a resolution,” Lynch told reporters over Zoom on Monday afternoon.

Reed's concerning history with concussions wasn't lost on Lynch, but the 49ers clearly see the upside in a tight end with four 50+ catch seasons out of his six healthy NFL seasons.

“It's well-documented that he’s had multiple concussions prior,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “So in situations like this, there’s a reason that a guy like Jordan Reed is out there, right? There is some risk-reward. We got to a point where we felt the risk that we’re taking on was worth it with the potential reward.”