May 21, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings, playing yet another close game, were able to pull out a key 22-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes to rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison, while Minnesota intercepted 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy twice in the fourth quarter to improve its record to 3-4. The 49ers (5-2) have lost two in a row after starting the season 5-0 despite two more touchdowns from running back Christian McCaffrey.

Minnesota Vikings

It’s going to be difficult for the Vikings to ponder the kind of midseason sell-off many fans and media members have been anticipating. Their victory Monday night over the heavily favored 49ers brought them within a game of .500, and with a less formidable schedule forthcoming, the Vikings will be geared more toward qualifying for the playoffs than trading veterans and settling for a high first-round pick in the 2024 draft.

It wasn’t over until safety Camryn Bynum stopped two late 49ers drives with interceptions. But as the Vikings look ahead to games against the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints — followed by the possible return of star wideout Justin Jefferson — they would be excused for believing their bad luck has run out.

All seven of the Vikings’ games this season have been decided by one score. Last season, they famously went 11-0 in such contests. Who knows what could be next.

Buy/sell on a breakout performance: Those who watched the Vikings training camp knew that Addison was the real deal. Cousins said as much recently, adding, “He’s a great player.” And all it took was an injury to Jefferson for the rest of the NFL world to see it. Addison caught seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns Monday night, including a 60-yarder just before halftime that he stole away from 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward. Addison’s six receiving touchdowns rank second in the NFL, and his 14-yard catch on third down at the 2:19 mark — after returning from a round of cramps — helped seal the game.

Troubling trend: The Vikings committed a turnover on their first possession for the fourth time this season — more than any team in a full season, let alone seven games, since 2020 — when Ward wrestled away a pass intended for Addison. The turnover did no harm from a scoring perspective, as the 49ers fumbled right back to them on the ensuing possession. Suffice to say, it’s an incredibly dangerous way to live.

QB breakdown: Cousins entered this game having won only two of 12 career starts on “Monday Night Football,” tied for the most losses in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 10 such starts. But he performed admirably against one of the NFL’s top defenses on a night when the Vikings didn’t appear to trust their running game. Cousins completed 35 of 45 passes for 378 yards and was still throwing in the final minutes as the Vikings tried to burn time on the clock.

Although the Vikings led throughout, Cousins threw 45 passes against only 19 carries by running backs. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

San Francisco 49ers

For the first five weeks of the season, the 49ers looked nearly unbeatable. But two weeks in the NFL is an eternity, and the promise of a dominant run can quickly fade into the harsh reality of how hard it is to win consistently in this league.

After falling to the Vikings, the Niners have lost two in a row for the first time since exactly one year ago. And with that losing streak comes a test of whether the 49ers are truly made of championship mettle.

Over the next seven weeks, the Niners will play the Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle again. Their championship hopes depend on how they fight back after another disappointing road defeat.

QB breakdown: After Purdy’s worst game as a pro in last week’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, many wondered how he would bounce back this week. The answer? Purdy was mostly unfazed for three quarters but had two crucial mistakes down the stretch. With the Niners driving for a potential leading touchdown, Purdy hurried a throw to Jauan Jennings that Bynum easily intercepted with 5:30 to go. He threw another to Bynum at the Minnesota 22 with 25 seconds left as the 49ers were again attempting to drive for the go-ahead score.

On an evening when the Niners had their share of issues, Purdy wasn’t their biggest one, but his interceptions came at the worst possible time. He finished 21-of-30 for 272 yards and one touchdown pass with the two picks for a passer rating of 81.5.

Pivotal Play: With 17 seconds left in the first half, Niners defensive coordinator Steve Wilks dialed up a Cover 0 blitz with Minnesota facing a third-and-6 at its 40. The Vikings had no timeouts, and any tackle in bounds likely would have ended the half.

But the blitz didn’t get home, and Ward was left in one-on-one coverage with Addison at the 49ers’ 37. While Ward nearly intercepted Cousins’ pass, Addison wrestled it away and raced for a 60-yard, game-changing touchdown. It was an eyebrow-raising defensive call, not only for the result but because it was the first seven-man pass rush in the last 30 seconds of a half in opposing territory in the NFL since Week 11 of 2020, according to Next Gen Stats. And the Niners paid dearly for it.

Troubling trend: Niners kicker Jake Moody was perfect through the first five weeks but had his first two misses last week against Cleveland, including a would-be game winner late in the fourth quarter. Those struggles carried over to Monday night, when Moody missed a 40-yard field goal in the first half. To his credit, he later hit a 55-yard attempt. But the misses in the 40-yard range are adding up.

The 49ers spent a third-round pick on Moody with the idea of him handling kicking duties now and well into the future. But this team is in win-now mode, and it’s fair to wonder how patient they can be with Moody before looking elsewhere. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Bengals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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