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Lunchbreak: The Athletic on What the Vikings Can Learn From the Super Bowl LVIII 49ers

EAGAN, Minn. – The NFL is said to be a copycat league.

As Super Bowl LVIII nears, there are lessons, game plans and schematics that the Vikings (and 29 other teams) can study when the Chiefs face the 49ers on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The Athletic's Alec Lewis broke down the 49ers run game and shared what he thinks Minnesota can learn from San Francisco's rushing attack. Lewis wrote:

*The 49ers ranked first this season in the NFL in rushing success rate, according to TruMedia. The Vikings, meanwhile, finished 13th. On the surface, the difference between the two teams' run games is obvious. San Francisco's running back, Christian McCaffrey, is a superstar. *

*As we've learned, though, running the football effectively is dependent upon many factors: offensive line blocking ability, defensive men in the box, ancillary skill players and schematic design to name a few. These variables create a footballish version of nature versus nurture: Is McCaffrey a product of his surroundings? Or was McCaffrey's talent alone special enough to lift his team to these heights? The answers to these questions are messy because winning football hinges on interdependence. *

The Vikings were committed to running the ball more consistently in 2023. Head Coach Kevin O'Connell often emphasized its importance, and the team signed tight end Josh Oliver in the offseason to bolster its heavier formations.

And for stretches this season, Minnesota was effective running the ball. The Vikings ranked 10th in run-blocking grade, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus. But no offense was as consistent as the 49ers top-ranked rushing game.

Lewis continued:

From the time Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch arrived in San Francisco, they have infused the roster with high-end pass catchers. Shanahan is regarded as one of the most creative play designers in the NFL. Their offensive line contains one of the most decorated left tackles of all time in Trent Williams.

Still, with that scaffolding strong, the 49ers believed a dynamic running back like McCaffrey could lift their offense to such a dynamic level that they traded four draft picks for him.

*At this point, arguing with the results would be foolish. In addition to his pass-catching ability, McCaffrey led all NFL running backs this season with 72 forced missed tackles. *

Click here to read the rest of Lewis' breakdown.

Justin Jefferson vows to 'Be That Same Type of Player'

Justin Jefferson is making it clear he believes in his abilities regardless of who throws him the ball.

On Wednesday, the Vikings star receiver was a guest on NFL Network’s *Super Bowl Live* and answered questions about becoming just the third player in league history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards despite playing in just 10 or fewer games. contributor Grant Gordon reminded readers just how historic Jefferson's first four years in the NFL have been. Gordon wrote:

That same type of player has been one who has taken the NFL by storm, having produced 5,899 receiving yards, 392 receptions and 30 touchdowns in just four seasons. Despite missing seven games with a hamstring injury, Jefferson still eclipsed 1,000 yards for a fourth straight year this past season. Eye-popping numbers and jaw-dropping catches have become a standard for Jefferson, who's been eligible for an extension since last offseason and is likely to become the league's highest-paid wideout whenever payday comes.

Jefferson is one of several big-ticket items the Vikings will address this offseason. Gordon pointed out that Jefferson still made history this season despite catching passes from four different quarterbacks.

It's clear Jefferson wants Kirk Cousins back, but it's just as clear that if Cousins doesn't return, Jefferson has no doubts he'll continue to produce. He did so in 2023 with Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall each filling in after Cousins tore his Achilles.

Thus, it's safe to predict that 24-year-old Jefferson's future is bright with or without the 35-year-old Cousins.