The Vikings regularly place a priority on stopping the run, but they were unable to do so against the 49ers in a painful postseason loss Saturday.
San Francisco racked up 186 yards on the ground en route to a 27-10 defeat of Minnesota in the Divisional round of the NFC Playoffs.
Running back Tevin Coleman led the charge with 22 carries for 105 yards and two rushing scores; he was followed by Raheem Mostert, who added 58 yards on 12 attempts. The two backs both averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen tipped his hat to the 49ers.
"They had a good game plan," he said. "They came out, they ran the ball, they made us go lateral, so they tried to make us play slow. That's what they did."
Fellow defensive end Stephen Weatherly said the Vikings beat themselves defensively.
"We just weren't punching and getting to the ball, and once we got there, we had too many missed tackles as a group," Weatherly said.
The Niners were able to pick up several chunk run plays on early downs. Of the 12 times they faced a third down, only four instances needed more than five yards, making it difficult to pressure 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Minnesota did affect Garoppolo a handful of times – Danielle Hunter and Weatherly were credited with sacks – but overall weren't often able to pin their ears back and rush the passer.
San Francisco completed a third-quarter touchdown drive without ever throwing the ball, rushing eight straight times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
"They had the flow of the game the majority of the game," Griffen said.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks also paid credit to his opponents.
"They had good players. They did their thing," Kendricks said. "They ran the hell out of the ball. We couldn't stop it.
"That's Football 101; we've gotta stop the run, and we've gotta run the ball," he added. "That just is what it is."
Kendricks came up with an interception of Garoppolo that set up Minnesota at the San Francisco 29-yard line late in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the Vikings offense was unable to fully capitalize on the turnover and settled for a field goal rather than a game-tying touchdown.
"I always want to help my team win, so that pick – I wish I would have scored it myself," Kendricks said. But I just want to do my job, as well. Just trying to set my team up. We're just trying to set everybody up to win."
The All-Pro linebacker also caused receiver Deebo Samuel to lose the football earlier during the second quarter. Safety Harrison Smith recovered the loose ball initially ruled a fumble, but a review of the play showed that Samuel's knee had been down prior.
Garoppolo finished the day with modest numbers, finishing 11-of-19 for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception with a passer rating of 74.7. No 49ers receiver surpassed 50 yards through the air (Samuel and Kendrick Bourne combined for 82), and star tight end George Kittle was limited to just three catches for 16 yards.
But the dominant run game, in addition to a lopsided time-of-possession battle, told the story of the game.
Minnesota had the ball for just 21:33, while San Francisco spent 38:27 on offense.
"We left a lot of big plays on the field, and they were able to just maintain the clock and rush the ball, especially coming out of halftime," Weatherly said.
The loss sent the Vikings on a long flight home while the 49ers advance to next weekend's NFC Championship Game.
"It sucks, man. It sucks, but we'll use it as motivation hopefully," Kendricks said. "Not too much I can say right now – I'm still a little pissed. But it is what it is."
Despite coming off a physical Wild Card game in New Orleans and short week to prepare, Minnesota's defenders denied fatigue being a component of Saturday's matchup.
And even in the immediate aftermath of their season coming to an abrupt close, the Vikings had each others' backs.
"Man, I love these guys. We put the work in. When we look back at it, we don't have to question the effort. The heart was there," Kendricks said. "Obviously, we got beat, some things went wrong schematically and things like that as a team – but as far as the effort and as far as the guys in this room, I love these guys. I'm proud of everybody."
Kendricks later expressed confidence in the way Minnesota prepared, despite the outcome.
"This week of preparation, I felt like everybody was on board, everybody was ready, everybody was on a mission – this whole year," he said. "It feels good knowing that we can hang our hat on that. It sucks, obviously, losing. We don't want ever to lose, but I feel like as a team, we all put our work in.
"You lose sometimes in life, and you get hit in the mouth; you get knocked down," Kendricks added. "You've gotta get up. You've gotta keep moving."