The Vikings know they have to put a plan in place to attempt to stop 49ers receiver, Deebo Samuel, on Sunday.
Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about the need to slow down Jimmy Garoppolo’s No. 1 target as a key to the game. Through 10 games Samuel has caught 55 of his 88 targets for 994 yards and five touchdowns.
The third-year receiver has also been used as a running back with 19 carries for 137 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Samuel’s yards after catch are what separates him from many players and the Vikings head coach knows they will need to tackle soundly in order to limit his production.
“He is a terrific player,” Zimmer said on Friday. “When he has the ball in his hands he is extremely dangerous. He got a screen against Chicago for about 80. He is really difficult in the red zone, the things they do with him. Not only his speed but his run after catch is really dynamic.”
Vikings defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer is focused on stopping Samuel but also on getting his defense prepared for the pre-snap motions that Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers are known for. The head coach’s son has spent a lot of time preparing his group to not be distracted by what goes on before the ball is actually in motion.
“They are a challenge because they create so many gaps one way or the other based on moving the tight end on the snap or moving the receiver across the formation,” Adam said. “You really have to do a good job of making those adjustments and making sure you get lined up first.
“You have to show them the runs and how to fit them up. It’s a long process. We had a lot of walk-throughs of formation adjustments and run fits this week and we are going to continue to do that up until Saturday night even.”
Since their Week 9 loss to the Cardinals, the 49ers have been very productive on the ground. After only 39 yards rushing vs. Arizona, Shanahan and his offense have refocused and put up 327 yards on the ground in two games.
Samuel himself is averaging nearly nine yards per carry in the past two games and over seven yards per carry for the season. The Vikings will not only need to stop Samuel but Brandon Aiyuk who has caught 10 of his last 11 targets for 111 yards and one touchdown. Not to mention tight end George Kittle who caught all four of his targets for 34 yards and a score vs. the Jaguars.
“It’s a challenging offense to play they do a great job with their scheme,” Zimmer said. “Kyle Shanahan is one of the best in the league calling games. They do a little more movement than other teams do.
“It’s rocket sweeps, it’s flashing the tight end on the snap which has kind of become in vogue this year. They are doing it more than anybody. There are a lot of wrinkles that they’ve implemented.”
Outside of the window dressing, the 49ers will likely stick to their power run game headed up by Samuel and Jeff Wilson. Elijah Mitchell was listed as questionable by the team on Friday and could play based on his confidence level in holding onto the ball after recovering from a fractured finger.