The third win in a row lifted the San Francisco 49ers into the 6th seed in the NFC. With another impressive win, the team has found the formula to win games. Here are the five takeaways from the 34-26 victory over Minnesota Vikings.
Will Deebo's absence hurt the 49ers?
Deebo Samuel is not just a wide receiver in the NFL -- he is the heart of the 49ers offense even though he is not the highest-paid player on this roster or the quarterback. As opposed to the Green Bay Packers, who can survive without David Afrasiab Bakhtiari, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, because they have Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers do not have the luxury of having a quarterback as the best player of the offense.
That is why Samuel is vital to this team. He is a running back and wide receiver packed into one human body. Before leaving the field with a groin injury, Deebo had 66 yards rushing and a 12-yard reception, including two touchdowns.
The 49ers have a challenging road game against Cincinnati Bengals in two weeks. If Samuel does not make the trip, things would be scary.
Josh Norman is a liability.
Norman missed coverages that allowed big gains by Adam Thielen. In the 4th quarter, Norman was penalized for his trademark pass interference. Plus Norman missed tackles too.
Norman can force fumbles by punching the ball out of the opposing player's hand, but that alone does not justify his position in the secondary. The 49ers need to win at least four more games for a guaranteed playoff spot. Norman alone can cost the 49ers one of those games.
The defensive unit makes the difference.
For the 3rd week in a row, the 49ers defense came up with a positive turnover count. The lack of turnovers made the difference in close losses early in the season. But in this game, the 49ers defense came up with two turnovers, which resulted in 10 points.
Azeez Al-Shaair was probably the stand-out performer of the day with an interception and a fumble recovery. The injury to Fred Warner will be a big blow for the 49ers, but Al-Shaair's impressive performance should give enough ammunition to keep the opposing offenses away. Talanoa Hufanga made good contributions as well in this win.
Nothing "Special" about special teams or plays.
Robbie Gould missed a 42-yard field goal which could have put the game beyond the Vikings reach. The 49ers were lucky that possible pass interference penalties were not thrown in the last drive by the Vikings.
The kicking game of Gould is turning into bronze lately. The 49ers overpaid the aging veteran.
The special teams allowed Vikings to score a touchdown on kickoff return. There is a dire need for improvement from special teams in the next season.
It was not just special teams that looked ordinary. The special package plays executed by the 49ers were disastrous throughout the season. The team tried another special play which ended up gaining no yards.
The 49ers should stick to regular plays for the rest of the season to avoid embarrassment.
The team carried Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo was erratic in his ball placement early in the game. He missed receivers high and threw an ugly interception right into the hands of Harrison Smith.
He recovered soon enough not to make further mistakes during the game. Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel combined for 199 rushing yards to take the burden away from Garoppolo.
The team around Garoppolo will continue to carry him until Shanahan's game plan works. With Deebo Samuel missing at least two games, Garoppolo will have to step up his game.