The Tennessee Titans weren’t the only team that pulled off an upset in the NFL Wild Card Round, as the Minnesota Vikings shocked the world when they went into the Superdome and beat the New Orleans Saints.
Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (left ) celebrates with teammates after defeating the New Orleans Saints in overtime of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It was quite a surprise, and one of the biggest upsets in Wild Card Round history, with the Saints having been listed as an eight-point favorite in the game. No one was giving the Vikings a shot in the game, aside from their defense possibly being able to keep the score close. Beating quarterback Drew Brees and offensive mastermind head coach Sean Payton, at home in their dome, no less, seemed impossible.
Not to the Vikings it wasn’t, though, as they went in and ran the football early and often, en route to a 26-20 overtime victory. Minnesota called 38 designed run plays, while New Orleans dialed up only 16, and it was a recipe for success on the road. They’ll look to do the same in San Francisco on Saturday, in their Divisional Round showdown with the 49ers.
Dec 29, 2019; Seattle, Washington, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates with teammates following a 26-21 San Francisco victory against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of running the football, the 49ers are all about it as well. They ranked No. 2 in the league in rushing yards this season, with 144.1 per game. Only the Ravens carried the ball for more success than they did, and it’s safe to say Saturday’s game will come down to which team can run the football more effectively.
That’s not the only similarity between these two teams, though. Both are anchored by their stout defensive fronts, each of which have given opposing quarterbacks nightmares. The Saints sacked Brees three times last week, but they pressured him nearly every other passing down, and it completely ruined the Saints’ rhythm on offense. They tied for fifth in the league for sacks this season, with 48. Here’s the thing: The 49ers also recorded that exact same number, which is quite astounding. These two teams are identical in so many ways, on both sides of the ball.
December 29, 2019; Seattle, Washington, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
It’s understandable why the 49ers are favored by sportsbooks, as NFL odds currently list them as seven-point favorites in the NFC Playoffs showdown. The Vikings, however, are very live underdogs, and don’t be surprised if they leave Santa Clara victorious. Kirk Cousins did, after all, make the two biggest throws of his career last Sunday, and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has looked shaky at times. Not only that, he’s never even played in a playoff game, so make sure to tune in and see which team comes out on top Sunday — in this clash of styles.