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Why the 49ers Could Pivot to a Pass Heavy Attack Against the Vikings

Running the ball has been successful for the 49ers, but they could go away from it against the Vikings.

Running the football has been massively successful for the 49ers.

It has been the reason that they are rising from the ashes and back in playoff contention. Surely, the 49ers will continue to ride this commitment of running the ball as it is clearly their greatest offensive strength. However, do not be surprised if that gets abandoned on Sunday.

The 49ers could pivot to a pass heavy attack against the Vikings.

Minnesota's cornerbacks, and secondary in general outside of Harrison Smith, is abysmal. They are incredibly slow and cannot keep pace with anyone. It is like watching a slug in coverage if you focus on each one of them. The 49ers do not necessarily have renowned speedsters at wide receiver, but Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are certainly not to be overlooked. These guys are QUICK, and can easily create chunk plays against these corners.

The Vikings pass defense ranks eighth in both yards per attempt (7.7) and first down percentage allowed (37.1). They're basically a doormat when it comes to defending the pass. More than a third of the time they are allowing a first down through the air. That's insane. Even with a quarterback like a Jimmy Garoppolo who isn't threatening, there is an opportunity here for him to have his first real breakout game of the season. 

Now, whether or not he has it in him is a different story. But I wouldn't rule out the idea that Shanahan sees a chance here to get his quarterback going. Garoppolo has been managing the game well the past two weeks. He's been playing his part well and taken care of the football, which is partly why the offense has been flowing. 

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However, Shanahan knows he cannot hide his quarterback forever. 

At some point, the running game will not be as lethal as he wants and the defense will likely have a lapse performance again down the line. Garoppolo will be called upon to do more than he is accustomed to and beyond his limitations. If he can slice up the Vikings, then that can go a long way with his confidence. Garoppolo has always been a rhythm passer. He is streaky. This can be the game that he builds upon and rides the momentum for the rest of the season. 

Plus, Shanahan could be thinking that the Vikings will do everything they can to bottle up the run. I could see the 49ers opening up their first few drives with the majority of plays being passes. As much as I believe the 49ers should still stick to the ground game, this actually could be a smart plan of attack. The Vikings cornerbacks are just putrid more than anything and it would take a real stinker from Garoppolo to mess it up. 

But passing a lot will only be smart IF Shanahan dials up a handful of play-action and bootleg plays for Garoppolo. Minnesota could be primed and ready to bite HARD on anything that remotely looks like a handoff. 

Still, it would be a gamble for Shanahan to pivot to a pass happy offense. While it may be a weakness of the Vikings, it is also a weakness for the 49ers. The Vikings do not trot out an impressive run defense either as they are tied for the most yards per carry allowed in the league at 4.8. 

No matter what the plan is, I think the 49ers can blowout the Vikings.