San Francisco's defense is as imposing as they get on paper, but just how good are they?
- Points: 19.4/game (8th)
- Yards: 281.1/game (2nd)
- Pass yards: 169.2/game (1st)
- Rush yards: 112.6/game (17th)
Most of those numbers are impressive, and they posted those totals despite pass-rushing specialist Dee Ford and inside linebacker Kwon Alexander missing a bunch of games in the second half of the season. And it's no coincidence that San Francisco's defense faltered in the final month of the regular season without them.
Ford's injury, a hamstring strain, followed a similar path that Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen took. Both tried to return shortly after their injuries only to aggravate them and miss more time. Now Ford is supposedly closer to 100 percent.
Either way, just how good is the 49er defense? Minnesota will find out Saturday, but the quality of offenses they faced during the regular season raises doubts about how great they are, and we're not the first to question them.
On Halloween, after San Francisco's blistering start to the season in which they limited opposing quarterbacks to pass for 100 or fewer yards in four straight games, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu tweeted: "Who the hell they been playing against?"
It's a fair question, especially since they went 5-3 in the second half – against tougher competition – after starting 8-0.
Look at the teams they faced:
Week 1: Buccaneers, with QB Jameis Winston throwing 3 of his NFL-high 30 interceptions.
Week 2: Bengals, the worst team in the NFL.
Week 3: Steelers, with backup QB Mason Rudolph starting.
Week 5: Browns, with QB Baker Mayfield, who finished 31st in the NFL in passer rating.
Week 6: Rams, who were in an early slump with three straight losses.
Week 7: Redskins, a bad team in a game played in heavy rain.
Week 8: Panthers, a game played at home against backup QB Kyle Allen.
Week 9: Cardinals, a 3-point win over a team led by a rookie QB, Kyler Murray.
Week 10: Seahawks, an overtime home loss for the 'Niners.
Week 11: Cardinals, this time at home and they still allowed 26 points.
Week 12: Packers, a dominating 37-8 victory over Aaron Rodgers and company.
Week 13: Ravens, a 20-17 road loss in a defensive battle.
Week 14: Saints, a 48-46 road victory, but they gave up 46 (!) points.
Week 15: Falcons, a 29-22 home loss to a bad team.
Week 16: Rams, a 34-31 win but they gave up 21 first-half points.
Week 17: Seahawks, the 49ers held on to win by an inch. A good win, nonetheless.
The wins over the Packers and Seahawks were solid, while a three-point loss at Baltimore is nothing to scoff at. But their 8-0 start is largely attributable to the lack of quality offenses they faced. That cannot be denied.
At the same time, Minnesota really didn't have a great win during the regular season, but they did just win at New Orleans in the playoffs, so that means quite a bit.
Like we said, the Vikings will find out how good the 49ers' defense is on Saturday, but there's no question that Minnesota's offense will be among the best the 'Niners have faced this season.