49ers defensive front will wreak havoc on Vikings offensive line
What might create a sense of optimism in this matchup is the 49ers’ defensive performance over their past five games. During that timeframe, San Francisco’s defense has slumped while seeing their points per game double from 14.8 points in the first 11 games to 29.4 over the last five contests.
Part of that has been the collection of injuries the 49ers have accrued over the second half of the season. With many of those players including linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jacquiski Tartt sitting on the sidelines, San Francisco saw their performance take a tumble as they also faced some strong offenses during that timeframe.
But the biggest injury may have been to defensive end Dee Ford. Ford is coming back from groin and hamstring injuries and his impact has been felt since coming over from Kansas City this past offseason. Despite playing in 11 games, his Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 9.9, ranked third in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
What could make matters worse for the Vikings is the effect Ford has had on rookie Nick Bosa’s play. The second overall pick from the 2019 NFL Draft collected eight sacks in his first 11 games with Ford on the field, but just one in the final five games without him. With the opportunity to double-team Bosa now gone, this will be a key spot for the Vikings offensive line, especially for tackles Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill.
The good news is that the Vikings offensive line is much better than it was a year ago. With the unit ranking 14th in Football Outsiders pass protection metric, there’s a chance they could withstand the 49ers front, but this is also a team that racked up six sacks against the Los Angeles’ Rams top-rated offensive line in Week 16. If the Vikings aren’t on their game, this could be a long afternoon for Kirk Cousins.