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


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.

Why Marquise Goodwin, 49ers parting ways this offseason makes sense

Why Marquise Goodwin, 49ers parting ways this offseason makes sense

Marquise Goodwin led the 49ers with a career-high 962 receiving yards in 2017. Since then, he has just 581 yards combined in two seasons.

The 29-year-old wide receiver is under contract for the next two seasons, but a change of scenery this offseason could benefit both him and the 49ers.

Through injuries and off-field adversity, Goodwin has played in just 20 regular-season games the last two years. He clearly has fallen down coach Kyle Shanahan's depth chart, and the 49ers parting ways with the seven-year NFL veteran this offseason would give him more time to chase a dream away from the gridiron.

"The Niners would save a little less than $4 million on the salary cap by parting ways with Goodwin, and it would also allow Goodwin, a world-class long jumper, to follow through on his intention to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo," ESPN's Nick Wagoner recently wrote.

Goodwin was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 10 after dealing with multiple knee and foot issues. Though his time with the 49ers might come to an end, Goodwin clearly still believes in himself.

The 49ers' receiving corps likely will be led by Deebo Samuel next season after he opened eyes as a rookie. Kendrick Bourne is expected back as a restricted free agent, and Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor are returning from injuries.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The 49ers likely will target a receiver in the draft, as this year's class is loaded. They also could look at adding a veteran in free agency or bringing back Emmanuel Sanders, whom they acquired in a mid-season trade.

Goodwin is on the outside looking in after hauling in just 12 catches for 186 yards and one touchdown over nine games last season. Sometimes, change is best for both parties.

How 49ers can add more picks in 2020 NFL Draft, according to Peter King

How 49ers can add more picks in 2020 NFL Draft, according to Peter King

The 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they are extremely short on selections this year after that. 

San Francisco has just one pick in the top 150. After the first round, the 49ers won't be on the clock again until the fifth round. They own two fifth-round picks, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. 

Between the second and fifth rounds, it's completely barren for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. But NBC Sports' Peter King looked at how San Francisco could accrue more selections this April

Here's what King wrote in his latest Football Morning in America column. 

To project the Niners’ path, I looked north for a clue. The arch-rival Seahawks, with ever-restless GM John Schneider, provided an excellent example in 2019 of how to turn one first-round pick into a bevy of picks, replenishing what would have been a thin crop.

The trades:

Seattle traded its first-round pick, 21st overall, to Green Bay for the 30th, 114th and 118th picks.
Seattle traded the 30th pick to the Giants for the 37th, 132nd and 142nd picks.
Seattle traded the 37th pick to Carolina for the 47th and 77th picks. At 47, Seattle picked S Marquise Blair.
Seattle traded the 77th and 118th picks to New England for the 64th pick. At 64, Seattle selected WR DK Metcalf.
Seattle traded the 114th pick to Minnesota for the 120th and 204th picks.
Seattle picked WR Gary Jennings Jr. at 120, S Ugo Amadi at 132, LB Ben Burr-Kiven at 142, and RB Travis Homer at 204.

So Seattle turned pick 21 into picks 47, 64, 120, 132, 142 and 204 ... two second-round picks, two fourth-round picks, one fifth-round pick and one sixth-round pick.

The 49ers lost their second-round pick when they acquired defensive end Dee Ford in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. They then lost their third- and fourth-round picks when they acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos.

But they added a fifth-round pick in the Sanders trade and a seventh-round pick from the Detroit Lions in a 2018 trade where they shipped away linebacker Eli Harold.

[RELATED: 49ers in good shape at QB entering the 2020 offseason]

The 49ers don't have too many holes on their roster after losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. However, depth is always a must, as they learned this season. With Jimmie Ward being an unrestricted free agent, the 49ers could target a safety early in the draft. They also likely will have their eyes on a loaded receiver class and depth on the interior offensive line. 

To add picks, though, they might have to take a lesson from their biggest rivals.