One great way to confuse and frustrate a young quarterback is to make him stare down pressure. There are a number of ways for a defense to manufacture pressure, but the easiest way is to bring the blitz. So far this season, no team in the NFL blitzes more than Flores and the Vikings defense. And it’s not particularly close.
The problem there is that they aren’t getting home with the pressure particularly often – especially considering how often they’re trying. Lucky for the Vikings, the 49ers offensive line isn’t particularly good outside of Trent Williams.
Outside of Williams, each of the 49ers starting offensive linemen grades towards the bottom of their respective positions. That’s going to put even more of the onus on Purdy. Not only to point out the blitz pre-snap to make sure the protection can handle it, but to be able to make plays out-of-structure post-snap.
The Vikings are going to blitz, they are going to blitz often, and they’re likely going to get into the backfield. If they’re going to pull off the upset, they’re going to need to be able to finish off the blitz and bring down Purdy, or force him to get flustered and throw the ball up for grabs.
If they can do that a few times on Monday, they’ll be putting their offense in great position – and with their propensity for turnovers, they need all the help they can get.
Confusing the quarterback is great. Forcing turnovers and putting your offense in a good spot is fantastic. But it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t do anything with it. That’s been the Vikings’ biggest problem all season.
Far too often, they aren’t doing anything with their possessions, and in fact doing the opposite – giving the other team the chance to do something. The story of the 2023 season to this point for the Vikings has been the bevy of turnovers. If they’re going to pull off the upset on Monday, they absolutely can’t let the 49ers have extra possessions.
But just simply not turning the ball over is likely not going to be enough to get the win. In addition to protecting the ball, they’re going to have to put up points. And their best chance to win would be to do so in a way they haven’t been able to yet this year: on the ground. The Vikings rushing attack has yet to score a touchdown via a rushing attempt (though Mattison does have two touchdown receptions).
If the Vikings offensive line can continue to run block effectively, and if the running backs can take advantage of the blocking and score, the Vikings may have a chance. The 49ers are an explosive offense and can score in bunches. In theory, the best way to neutralize that is to not give them the ball.
Run the ball, run the clock down, and hope your defense can do enough to keep the game in reach. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.