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12 Takeaways as 49ers Advance to NFC Conference Championship

The San Francisco 49ers are advancing to their 16th Conference Championship game in franchise history following their 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Saturday's win marked the team's first postseason victory since 2013. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense delivered, while the 49ers defense continued its success with the return of several reinforcements. Take a look at 12 takeaways from Saturday's NFC Divisional Round matchup against the Vikings.

1. San Francisco won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Vikings offense was a non-factor as the 49ers defense forced a quick three and out. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense came out hot with the quarterback completing 5-of-6 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Garoppolo threw 11-plus yard completions to Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle before connecting with Kendrick Bourne in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown to put points on the board first.

2. Minnesota struck back with a 7-play, 79-yard drive of their own that culminated in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs. Ahkello Witherspoon got spun around while covering the wideout and Diggs waltzed into the end zone. Spoiler alert, that was the final time the Vikings would find the end zone.

3. Mitch Wishnowsky pinned the Vikings inside their own 10 yard line after a muffed punt by cornerback Marcus Sherels. With no success in the run game and a sack by Arik Armstead, a Vikings punt gave the 49ers offense the ball midfield. Tevin Coleman highlighted the drive with four carries including a 1-yard touchdown run to put the 49ers up 14-7. Joe Staley, Kyle Juszczyk and Levine Toilolo were all in on blocks that opened the lane for Coleman into the end zone.

It's worth noting Garoppolo's highlight play during that drive. On an end around, Samuel cut upfield where he was led by Garoppolo on the block. San Francisco's quarterback drove Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr into the ground as Samuel picked up 6 yards on the play.

"Sometimes you have to remember you're not just a quarterback. You're a football player," Garoppolo said postgame.

4. On the 49ers ensuing drive, Garoppolo was intercepted on a pass intended for Samuel putting Minnesota at the 49ers 29-yard line. San Francisco's defense was able to hold Minnesota to a field goal by the way of a sack by Ford. On 3rd-and-11 at the 49ers 17, Cousins' pocket collapsed as the quarterback fell right into the arms of the pass rusher.

5. Richard Sherman is continuing his All-Pro, Pro Bowl season, this time with an interception off of Cousins. The quarterback was looking for Adam Thielen when the cornerback jumped the route for the pick. Sherman's interception marked his fourth on the year and 36th of his career.

"We were in man (coverage). It was third down, he gave me an inside release," Sherman said. "He gave me a little too much at the top of his route. I knew what the route was. I beat him to the spot. Kirk threw a very catchable ball - appreciate it. I was able to make the play."

6. Sherman's interception helped set the 49ers up with their third touchdown of the game. The 49ers ran seven-straight run plays to move San Francisco to the 2-yard line. Coleman shot through the middle for his second touchdown of the game. Coleman finished the game with 105 yards rushing on 22 carries and two scores.

"He looked good out there today," Shanahan said of his running back. "I know his numbers haven't been as great. Raheem (Mostert) has had some real good runs. I think Tevin has had some unfortunate looks, just the luck of the draw a little bit. I think he got some better looks today and took advantage of them. When you do that, I think it got him in a little bit of momentum. He was able to stay out there a little bit longer. I think he got some extra carries at the end, didn't have to split them as much with Raheem cramping and stuff. That's why we haven't changed much. We've been excited about Tevin."

7. Bourne made two impressive third down conversions on the day. The first, Garoppolo was hit in a collapsing pocket while releasing the ball on 3rd-and-10. Bourne made a diving catch on the bobbled pass to extend the 49ers drive. The second was a 21-yard reception on 3-and-6 coming out of the second half. Bourne's reception eventually resulted in a field goal.

8. San Francisco's host of first rounders, Armstead, Ford, Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa all registered a sack on the day. Bosa was down on the field momentarily after his second sack in the fourth quarter. Levi's® Stadium erupted in a Bosa chant as the pass rusher got up to his feet and ran to the sideline. Bosa returned to the game on the following series.

9. Raheem Mostert left the game with cramps. Linebacker Mark Nzeocha dealt with a stinger but later returned. Coleman suffered an elbow injury in the fourth quarter of the game. There's no word on the extent of his injury. He will be further evaluated on Sunday.

10. The 49ers allowed just seven first downs on the day. Minnesota was 2-of-12 on third down and averaged a mere 3.3 yards per play. Cook, who put up 130 yards against the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round, totaled just 26 yards on 15 touches.

Cook tied for the fewest carries in his NFL career (9), the second-fewest rush yards in his NFL career (18) and the fewest carries in a game since November of his freshman season at FSU, according to CBS Sports.

The Vikings have only once put up fewer rushing yards in a single playoff game in franchise history, 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl IX.

"We knew they were going to attack us with the run game," Buckner said. "We knew they were going to attack us early, so we had to shut them down early. It's a testament to the guys up front and the guys on the backend."

11. San Francisco allowed 147 total yards to the Vikings on Saturday, the fewest allowed by the 49ers in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era, according to NFL Research.

12. The 49ers will host the winner of Sunday's matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at Levi's® Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:40 p.m PT. For tickets, visit here.

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