EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings defense was undermanned on the way into Sunday's game against the 49ers at San Francisco.
The unit was undermined by three "remarkable rushes" (two by Deebo Samuel and another by Elijah Mitchell), as well as throws to the middle of the field by Jimmy Garoppolo.
Here's a deeper dive at some "next-day stats" with an eye on the ever-increasing number of Next Gen Stats. References to rankings across the league include all Week 12 games except for tonight's game between the Seahawks and Washington Football Team.
1. Remarkable rushes
Next Gen Stats calculates the expectation for rush yards on run plays, and each week, the 20 with the greatest gains above expectations are listed as "remarkable rushes."
According to NGS, Samuel was only expected to gain 4 on his 49-yard run early in the third quarter. The difference of 45 yards was the second most by a player in Week 12.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings "misaligned" on the longest play from scrimmage by either team.
The run placed the ball at the Minnesota 8-yard line, and Samuel soon scored his second rushing touchdown of the game (a 3-yard run that made it 21-14 with 11:31 left in the third quarter).
Samuel's first touchdown of the game — a 20-yarder — exceeded expectations by 17 yards, which ranked 11th.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks wanted a holding penalty against San Francisco on that play, but it went uncalled.
Mitchell's longest run of the day gained 15 yards and occurred a play before the 20-yard score by Samuel. According to NGS, Mitchell was only expected to gain 3. The excess of 12 yards ranked 20th.
For the Vikings, Dalvin Cook recorded one remarkable rush during his 30-yard scamper in the third quarter before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Cook's excess on the play was calculated at 24 yards, which ranked seventh in Week 12.
2. Over the middle
While the 49ers pushed the ball to the perimeter on run plays, they repeatedly attacked the middle of the field with passes by Garoppolo.
According to Next Gen Stats, 191 of Garoppolo's 230 passing yards were gained on throws to the middle. That's a whopping 82.6 percent.
Harrison Smith stepped in front of a throw over the middle to record his 29th career interception and end San Francisco's first possession, but the 49ers struck gold for much of the rest of the game.
I had the opportunity to talk with Vikings Radio Network analyst and former linebacker Ben Leber about San Francisco's approach to the passing game. He wasn't surprised Garoppolo went to the middle.
It's consistent with Garoppolo's season stats.
2021 throws to the left: 50-of-74 passing for 546 yards with two touchdowns and one interception
2021 throws to the middle: 90-of-132 passing for 1,217 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions
2021 throws to the right: 47-of-74 passing for 579 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions
3. Long one by Nwangwu
Vikings 2021 fourth-round pick Kene Nwangwu became Minnesota's first rookie since Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013 to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Nwangwu topped his previous career long of 98 at Baltimore with a 99-yarder that gave Minnesota's sideline quite a jolt.
According to NGS, Nwangwu traveled 108 yards on the return, the second-greatest distance by a ball carrier in Week 12.
He also reached 20.19 miles per hour, which ranked 12th among fastest speeds by a ball carrier.
Samuel, by the way, covered 74.4 yards on his 49-yard rush.