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Why Garoppolo Has Struggled Against the Vikings

The Vikings seem to have Garoppolo's number.

SANTA CLARA -- 55.9.

That's Jimmy Garoppolo's passer rating in his two career starts against the Minnesota Vikings. His third start will be this Sunday.

The first time Garoppolo faced Minnesota was Week 1 of 2018, when he completed just 15 of 33 passes, threw for 261 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions and lost 24-16. He was awful. The next time he faced Minnesota was the Divisional round of the 2019 playoffs. This time, he completed 11 of 19 passes, threw for a mere 131 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick and won 27-10 because the 49ers' defense and run game performed so well, not because he was good. He struggled.

The Vikings seem to have Garoppolo's number.

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This week, I asked him what challenges the Vikings defense presents. "They don't give you anything easy," Garoppolo said. "That's where it starts. Their linebackers are really talented, kind of play high to low on things, a challenge in the pass game with some of the two-high stuff, try to take away the play pass and things like that. And it makes it tough on us."

"What does it mean when the linebackers play high to low?" I asked.

"Similar to our linebackers, actually," Garoppolo explained. "They'd rather play the 10-yard route than the five-yard route and make you just check it down and march down the field."

Translation: The Vikings have two excellent linebackers -- Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr -- who play deep to take away the 10-yard in-breaking routes which are Garoppolo's favorite throws. That's why he has thrown four picks in two starts against Minnesota. The Vikings have the talent at linebacker to take away Garoppolo's biggest strength.

That means to beat the Vikings, the 49ers most likely will have to take the ball out of Garoppolo's hands and run the ball as much as possible. Because he will force passes over the middle, and one interception could lose this game.