It was a fun moment for history, but the passing game mattered little after that.
Kyle Shanahan's 49ers dominated the Minnesota Vikings on both sides of the ball in Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Minnesota Vikings, starting with the running game. San Francisco racked up 186 yards on the ground, outgaining the Vikings' entire offense with its rushing attack alone. Tevin Coleman led the way with 22 carries for 105 yards and two scores, both from less than three yards out, and Raheem Mostert added 12 carries for 58 yards.
The numbers are excellent, sure, but one possession specifically demonstrated how the 49ers owned this game up front. Leading 17-10 and taking over with excellent field position thanks to Richard Sherman's interception of Kirk Cousins, the Niners covered 44 yards on eight plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Coleman. All eight of those plays were runs.
It wasn't intended to be a statement drive, but it sure resonated as one after Coleman barreled into the end zone to push San Francisco's lead to 24-10.
"We didn't start it out that way," Shanahan said. "I mean, you don't start it out before and say, 'Hey, we're going to run it every down.' You just call a run to start out and you just stick with it and eventually we scored. Half of us were asking where the throws were on it and we looked back at the pictures and realized we didn't throw any. It was just a hell of a job by the O-line coming off the ball, getting some push. When you can do that, you wear the guys down and force 'em to change some of their coverages a little bit."
Less than a week after the Vikings shut down any and all Saints hopes of running the ball, they did the opposite against the 49ers. Thanks to the excellent play of its offensive line, San Francisco dominated time of possession 38:27-21:33, pounding the ball 47 times and getting a boost from its suffocating defense, which held the Vikings to 2 of 12 on third down.
"I was pumped for the defense," Shanahan said. "We had a goal going into this game. We thought the team that got over 30 runs would win this game. We truly look at that as a team goal and we ended up getting 47 on offense. It's a lot easier to do when the other team goes 2-of-12 on third down. I think we were 45 percent. I think they only ended up being able to get 10 [runs] and when you just see the way the defense is playing, it makes it so much easier to stay with that and I think our whole team kind of fed off it."