Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has led his team to two big second-half performances this season.
The 49ers continue their tour through the NFC North Sunday with a trip to Minnesota, where they haven’t won since 1992
After beating Green Bay on the road and Detroit at home this past Sunday night, the Niners are taking on a 1-1 Vikings team and hoping to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 1998.
In winning their first two games, the 49ers offense has been incredibly efficient with quarterback Alex Smith, who has yet to throw an interception, distributing the ball to several receivers, and Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter powering a strong ground game. Defensively, the 49ers are No. 6 against the run in the NFL, and know they’ll be challenged by Minnesota, which relies on running back Adrian Peterson, one of the best in the league.
Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier – whose team lost to the Colts last week -- looks at the 49ers and knows his team faces a challenge Sunday.
“The way Alex is playing, he’s so efficient with the football, he knows exactly where to go,” Frazier told reporters in Minnesota this week. “He has the capability as well so that creates a lot of problems for any defense that lines up to play them. We’ll have our hands full defending the run game and not giving up big plays in the passing game.”
In that passing game, one of Smith’s targets will be Randy Moss, the 35-year-old wide receiver who will be playing against the team with which he was first a star.
In two games, Moss hasn’t had a breakout performance yet for the Niners, with five catches for 61 yards so far. But Frazier says Moss still looks good on film, and is dangerous.
Moss, meanwhile, is eager to play his former team which, he never has played against.
“I’m just fortunate to go back where it all started at,” he told reporters this week. “We had some great times in Minnesota. I’m looking forward to just hearing the Metrodome rock. Now I’m on with the away team and I look forward to a good game.”
The Vikings will have to put the clamps not only on Moss and his fellow wideouts, but tight end Vernon Davis. In two games, Davis has eight catches for 116 yards, with three of those catches going for touchdowns. In the playoffs last season, and early in 2012, Davis has become Smith’s most effective target.
On defense, San Francisco will have to shut down Peterson and force quarterback Christian Ponder to beat them. Ponder leads the NFL with a 75.8 percent completion percentage, and he’s been clicking with wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin has 18 catches in two games, including a career-high 12 last week.
Minnesota has played very well the first two weeks in the second half of its games, rallying to beat Jacksonville in Game 1 and coming back to tie the Colts last week before falling on a late field goal.
Frazier says his team needs to play well early if it wants to beat the 49ers.
“You like the fact that we’re finding our groove as the game goes on,” Frazier told The Sports Network. “But we’d like to get started earlier. We’re going to be playing at home. We want to get off to a fast start on offense and defense along with special teams and have our fans in the game early.”
Oddsmakers have made the 49ers a 6½ -to 7½-point favorite Sunday.