The defending NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings (13-3 in 2017) will open the 2018 regular season by hosting the San Francisco 49ers (6-10 in 2017) at noon (CT) Sunday.
Minnesota finished the regular season 13-3 in 2017, the second-most wins in the history of the franchise behind the 1998 team that went 15-1. Head Coach Mike Zimmer led the team to the ninth NFC Championship Game in franchise history.
Free-agent signing DT Sheldon Richardson joins a Vikings defense as the lone new starter on a unit that yet again improved under Zimmer in 2017 and led the NFL in yards per game allowed (275.9) for the first time since 1993 and also led the league allowing 15.8 points per game in the regular season. The Vikings defense limited opponents to 83.6 rushing yards per game (second in the NFL) and 3.6 yards per rush (fifth in the NFL). Minnesota stifled opponents to 192.4 passing yards per game, second in the NFL, making them the only defense in the NFL to rank in the top three in both rushing yards per game and passing yards per game.
DE Everson Griffen tied for fourth in the NFL with a career high 13 sacks this season, the third time in his career he has reached double digits (12 in 2014, 10.5 in 2015). LB Eric Kendricks led the Vikings in tackles with 136 (coaches' stats), marking the third time in his three-year career he has done so. S Harrison Smith, who tied his career high with five interceptions in 2017, and CB Xavier Rhodes were both named First-Team All-Pro, marking the first time the Vikings have had two DBs named First-Team All-Pro in the same season since Joey Browner and Carl Lee in 1988.
The Vikings offense finished 11th in the NFL in yards per game (358.9) after finishing 28th (315.1) in 2016. The offensive resurgence was keyed by an improved offensive line and consistent play from WR Adam Thielen, who was fifth in the NFL with 1,276 receiving yards and eighth in the NFL with 91 receptions. Pass catchers WR Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph shared the team lead with eight touchdown receptions, tied for the eighth-most in the NFL.
Adding to that unit in 2018 will be free-agent acquisition QB Kirk Cousins, who is slated to make his Vikings regular-season debut against the 49ers, and RB Dalvin Cook, who missed all but four games during his rookie campaign last season due to a knee injury. Cook registered 127 yards on 22 carries against New Orleans in Week 1 last season.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Minnesota Vikings team that went 15-1 and went to the NFC Championship Game, several players and coaches from that record-breaking squad will take part in in-game ceremonies, including a halftime program.
NATIONAL TV BROADCAST
FOX (FOX 9 in Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Play-by-Play: Kevin Burkhardt
Analyst: Charles Davis
Sideline Reporters: Pam Oliver
Compass Media Networks
Play-by-play: Chris Carrino
Analyst: Brian Baldinger
KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber
Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 10 a.m. (CT)
KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the 63-station, five-state Vikings Radio Network.
The Vikings had seven Pro Bowlers (LB Anthony Barr, DE Everson Griffen, DT Linval Joseph, CB Xavier Rhodes, S Harrison Smith and WR Adam Thielen), two First-Team All-Pros (Rhodes as a CB and Smith), and three Second-Team All-Pros (Griffen, Rhodes as a DB and Thielen) after the 2017 season.
The Vikings defense held opponents to a 25.2 percent conversion rate (51/202) on third downs, the best mark in the NFL, while the offense converted on 43.5 percent (94/216) of third downs, third in the NFL.
WR Adam Thielen finished second in the NFL in third-down receptions (32) and yards (428). He converted first downs on 25 of the 32 catches, which also ranked second in the NFL.
TE Kyle Rudolph recorded his second season with 50+ catches, 500+ yards and 5+ TDs in 2017, tying Steve Jordan for the most such seasons by a TE in team history.
The Vikings allowed only 27 sacks 2017, tied for the 7th fewest in the NFL and had 5 games without allowing a sack, tying a franchise record for most in a single season.
S Harrison Smith was one of two players in the NFL (Jordan Poyer, BUF) with 70+ tackles, 1.0+ sacks and 5+ INTs in 2017.
The Vikings defense allowed only 20 runs of 10-plus yards in 2017, the fewest in the NFL that season, and tied with the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the fewest in the NFL since 1991.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings are 3-1 in Week 1, including 1-0 at home in on kickoff weekend. The Vikings have outscored opponents 91-61 in Week 1 with Zimmer at the helm.
49ers RB Jerick McKinnon spent the first four years of his career with the Vikings (2014-17). McKinnon, who was recently placed on injured reserve, totaled 1,918 career rushing yards and 984 career receiving yards as a Viking, including a career high in both (570 rushing, 421 receiving) in 2017, helping the team reach the NFC Championship Game. McKinnon was a 3rd-round selection (96th overall) by Minnesota in the 2014 NFL Draft.
49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, who was born in Minneapolis in 1979 while his father, Mike, coached at the University of Minnesota, served as the Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator while Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and G Tom Compton were also in Washington. The three overlapped for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Vikings Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Uyeyama spent 2008-2016 with the 49ers. Uyeyama served as San Francisco's Assistant Strength Coach from 2008-10, Head Strength and Conditioning from 2011-14 and the Director of Human Performance from 2015-16.
Vikings LS Kevin McDermott started his NFL career with the 49ers appearing in all 16 regular-season games and all three playoff contests, including the NFC Championship Game, in 2013.
49ers S Antone Exum, Jr., was drafted by the Vikings in the 6th round (182nd overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Exum spent 2014-16 with Minnesota.
49ers LB Elijah Lee was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round (232nd overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. Lee spent the 2017 offseason with the club but was released during final cuts and added to Minnesota's practice squad. Lee was signed to the 49ers 53-man roster from the Vikings practice squad on Sept. 13, 2017.
49ers area scout Dominic DeCicco had a stint as a LB for the Vikings during the 2014 offseason.
49ers Senior Manager and Head Groundskeeper Matt Greiner worked for the Vikings for the 2008 season.
Vikings Personnel Consultant Paul Wiggin's ties to the Bay Area run deep. Wiggin started his coaching career in 1968 as the Defensive Line Coach for the 49ers, a post he held until 1974. Wiggin, who is a Modesto, California native, was a two-time All-American at Stanford, graduating in 1957, and served as Stanford's Head Coach from 1980-83.
49ers VP of Corporate Partnerships Brent Schoeb is a Minnesota native and a graduate of St. Cloud State.
49ers Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower is a former University of Minnesota coach, having served as the team's WRs Coach in 2009.
49ers Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Dustin Perry is a Marcellus, Minnesota, native and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, earning a master's degree in applied kinesiology. Perry also served as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Gophers from 2012-16).
49ers Groundskeeper Colby Garlick is a native of Granada, Minnesota, and has received degrees from the University of Minnesota and Anoka Technical College. Garlick began his career with the Gophers and also spent time with the Minnesota Twins.
Vikings DT Jaleel Johnson (2012-16), Vikings T Riley Reiff (2008-11), 49ers QB C.J. Beathard (2012-16), 49ers TE George Kittle (2012-16), 49ers DB Greg Mabin (2012-16) and 49ers OL Matt Tobin (2008-12) all went to the University of Iowa.
Vikings DE Everson Griffen and 49ers LB Malcolm Smith were in the same recruiting class at the University of Southern California and were teammates there from 2007-09.
Vikings LBs Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr were in the same recruiting class at 49ers DL Cassius Marsh at UCLA in 2010. The three were teammates from 2010-13. Vikings LS Kevin McDermott was also at UCLA from 2008-12.
VIKINGS TOP PERFORMERS VS. 49ERS
Kirk Cousins: 1 game, 25-of-37 passing, 330 passing yards, 3 TDs (1 rush), 1 INT, 102.3 passer rating, 4 rushes, 26 rushing yards
Linval Joseph: 4 games, 8 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QBHs, 1 PD
Kyle Rudolph: 2 games, 10 receptions, 89 receiving yards, 2 TDs
VIKINGS BIG DAYS VS. 49ERS
As a member of the Redskins last season, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins recorded one of his 23 career 300-plus-yard passing games. Cousins threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-37 passing. He added a 7-yard rushing touchdown in leading the Redskins to a 26-24 win over the 49ers on Oct. 15, 2017.
DT Linval Joseph has registered a sack in two different contests against the 49ers: at San Francisco (11/13/11) and at San Francisco (10/14/12). Joseph has 2.0 of his 20 career sacks in four games vs. San Francisco. He also was a member of the New York Giants team that beat the 49ers in the 2011 NFC Championship Game.
TE Kyle Rudolph hauled in two touchdowns against the 49ers (9/23/12) in San Francisco's most-recent regular-season game in Minnesota. Rudolph totaled 36 receiving yards in the 24-13 win.
VIKINGS-49ERS SERIES NOTES
Sunday's game marks the 47th contest between the Vikings and 49ers, the fifth most all-time among all Vikings opponents.
Vikings QB Gus Frerotte set a franchise record for highest passer rating in a single game vs. San Francisco (9/28/03) with a 157.2 rating. Frerotte threw for 267 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions on 16-of-21 passing, leading the Vikings to a 35-7 win at the Metrodome.
In Week 1 of the 1979 season, Vikings WR and Ring of Honor member Ahmad Rashad scored a team record four touchdowns (all receiving) vs. San Francisco (9/2/79).
The Vikings overcame a 24-point deficit vs. San Francisco (12/4/77) to pull out a 28-27 win, the largest comeback in franchise history. QB Tommy Kramer led the comeback while Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton sat out with an injury.