When the Monday Night Football contest between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers unfolded on the field, no coach, player, or fan would’ve been able to predict the outcome. In a spectacular upset that shook the NFL, the Vikings pulled off quite the victory against the 49ers. Going into the game heavily favored, the 49ers had a record of 5-1 with their only loss being to the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings entered Week 7 with a struggling 2-4 record and a hopeful spirit—one that would pay off. Let’s take a look at the key moments of the game that led Minnesota to their underdog triumph.
Scoring first and early helped motivate the Vikings to win despite missing star WR Justin Jefferson, who’s been placed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. During the first snap of the game, a toss from QB Kirk Cousins to running back Alexander Mattison resulted in a 19-yard rush—which has been his longest gain of the season considering he’s in Jefferson’s place right now. However, as unpredictable as football is, the 49ers cornerback, Charvarius Ward, intercepted a pass intended for rookie receiver Jordan Addison on just the third play. After multiple first downs, the Niners were on the Vikings’ 15-yard line when a simple run play carried by 49ers Christian McCaffrey turned into a forced fumble by Harrison Smith. After the fumble recovery by defensive end Dean Lowry of the Vikings, the wheels started to turn for Minnesota. Cousins was able to complete passes to tight end TJ Hockenson and Addison twice each, with a quick carry by Mattison in between. With just under five minutes in the quarter, a 20-yard pass to Addison put Minnesota up 7-0. The 49ers possession had a few solid plays, including second-year QB Brock Purdy connecting a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings. Purdy also escaped a sack as he scrambled to the sideline, picking up a quick 18 yards.
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The Niners made a desperate 40-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the second quarter but kicker Jake Moody fell short, leaving San Francisco with nothing to show. The Vikings’ next possession was just as exciting as the first. Two first downs were earned by Hockenson and two more came from running back Cam Akers, who managed to land inside the five-yard line. A 3rd and goal incomplete pass forced the Vikings to bring out kicker Greg Joseph, completing a 21-yard field goal attempt to make the lead 10 points over the scoreless 49ers—not for long. San Francisco drove downfield with Purdy connecting to WR Brandon Aiyuk for 25 yards, which was the biggest play in the Niners’ journey to the red zone. A 2nd and goal 3-yard run by McCaffrey finally narrowed the score to 10-7. With just a minute left in the half, Minnesota showed some urgency in their passing game. Cousins launched a pass to Addison, who was being covered by the 49ers’ Ward. What could have easily been a repeat turnover like in the first quarter became a 60-yard TD when Addison avoided his defender and bolted to the endzone. The first half ended with the Vikings up 16-7 as the extra point was no good.
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Though formerly regarded as the best team this season, the 49ers continued their trend of the game: inadequacy. Desperation was in the air for San Francisco during an early third-quarter possession. On their own 21-yard line, the 49ers were on their 3rd down with 25 yards to go. Purdy attempted a long pass only for it to get deflected— the Niners offense struggled with key players like WR Deebo Samuel and OT Trent Williams out with injuries. Minnesota regained possession and Cousins connected long passes to receivers KJ Osborn, Brandon Powell, and Jordan Addison, each earning first downs. Just inside the 20-yard line, Cousins' pass attempt to Addison drew a penalty of pass interference from Deommodore Lenoir of the Niners, moving the ball to just the one-yard line. Only feet away from a touchdown, the Vikings offense couldn’t make it happen and had to settle for a field goal, increasing the lead again to 19-7. The 49ers next possession allowed for pass yardage earned by both McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle. Purdy connected to McCaffrey, who was able to coast to the endzone for a 35-yard TD. An extra point by Moody brought the score to a close 19-14. The Vikings offense played tough during their possession at the end of the third quarter, earning multiple first downs through solid catches. On a 3rd down and 12 yards to go, Cousins’ pass to Trishton Jackson couldn’t find the yardage to keep the drive going. Minnesota still looked to extend the lead with kicker Greg Joseph, and his 54-yard field goal attempt did just that. The third quarter ended with the Vikings still on top with a score of 22-14.
To start the fourth quarter, Purdy found Kittle for an easy first down. Purdy looked to get another first down at a pass attempt to Aiyuk, but the throw was incomplete under pressure. In true one-upper fashion, Moody of the 49ers completed a 55-yard field goal to bring the score to 22-17. The Vikings’ first possession of the fourth quarter had a couple of strong completions to Powell but as downs ran out, they remained scoreless. At this point in the game, the Niners still had a chance. Purdy’s passes to a heating up George Kittle, McCaffrey’s quick run plays, it all seemed to be working; that is until Purdy was picked off by Vikings’ Camryn Bynum. Minnesota had a decent drive following the interception, though their 50-yard field goal attempt was no good in a crucial 5-point game. The Niners get the ball back and earn themselves some yardage as Purdy connects to his receivers with just a minute in the game. On the Vikings’ 40-yard line, San Francisco tries to keep the passing game going but is picked off by Bynum—again. With 30 seconds left, the game is over.
Kirk Cousins went into this contest having only won two of his 12 career Monday Night Football starts and managed to win against one of the NFL’s most solid defenses. With Justin Jefferson out for the Vikings, other players like Jordan Addison and Alexander Mattison had to prove themselves as worthy to the team. Though analysts aren’t convinced of Addison’s skills quite yet, Cousins referred to the rookie as “the real deal.” Fans did end up getting their Jefferson fix when he made a post-game appearance to pimp out “Kirko Chainz,” the QB’s alter ego.
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The 49ers will have to earn back the respect they had prior to Week 7 after losing to the erratic Vikings. Purdy has since entered concussion protocol after developing symptoms on the plane back to the Bay Area, just before a crucial matchup against the Bengals on Sunday.
The NFL has once again proven itself to be full of surprises and the remainder of the season will be no different.