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The call: Vikings vs. San Francisco

  • September 22, 2012 - 7:16 PM

MANO-A-MANO:

A MATCHUP TO WATCH

Vikings left guard Charlie Johnson vs. 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith

About Johnson

Will be making his 73rd career NFL start and 19th straight with the Vikings.

About Smith

Three-time Pro Bowl player has started every game since Week 6 of 2001.

Who has the edge?

Smith (6-4, 285 pounds) uses his hands well in the trenches and has an incredibly high motor. Johnson will need help at times from left tackle Matt Kalil.

Advantage: Smith

8.3 Passing yards per attempt this season by Christian Ponder, which ranks fifth in the NFL. For all the talk that the Vikings' haven't thrown deep enough, Ponder's league-best .758 completion percentage has helped. Ponder's 11.0 yards-per-completion average, however, ranks 21st.

Randy Moss, 49ers: Against a green and vulnerable secondary, "The Freak" will have a chance to use his veteran savvy to get loose. For what it's worth, Moss has 27 career 100-yard receiving days inside the Metrodome. The last (four catches, 104 yards, one TD) came in Week 14 of 2004 vs. Seattle.

One man's prediction: There's nothing about this matchup that seems to favor the Vikings -- in any way. Which probably means they have a decent shot at an upset. But San Francisco, with a sturdy defense and an efficient run-heavy offense, just doesn't make many foolish mistakes. The 49ers' NFC North victory parade continues. 49ers 27, Vikings 16

Nowhere to run

A week ago in Indianapolis, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson never could get to the second level. His longest run of a 16-carry, 60-yard day was a 6-yard burst early in the first quarter. Now, Peterson and Toby Gerhart go up against a 49ers defense that has been incredibly effective against the run. San Francisco has surrendered only 127 rushing yards through two games. And opposing backs have had just three runs of longer than 5 yards - and none longer than 10 - in 32 attempts.

Sir Alex

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith hasn't thrown an interception since Week 12 of last season - 216 turnover-free pass attempts and counting. Of course, Smith doesn't have to take many chances with tight end Vernon Davis playing at an elite level. Davis really seemed to figure out offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system late last season. In his past seven games, including postseason, Davis has 36 catches for 652 yards with eight touchdowns. He has also been on the receiving end of 29 of Smith's 72 career TD tosses.

Gore-y truth

The 49ers lead the NFL in rushing, thanks to the continued if underrated power running of Frank Gore. He's San Francisco's all-time leading rusher and has more than 10,000 career yards from scrimmage. Vikings end Jared Allen knows the defense will have its hands full with the 49ers' ground attack. "They want to run downhill, in the 'A' gaps and pick up 5 [yards] to whatever they can get. Gore does it great. He runs low behind his pads. He's patient."

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