SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There was no big upset this time, just an upsetting loss.
The Vikings had hoped to dial the clock back to the 1987 season, when they stunned San Francisco on the road in a divisional playoff after being an 11-point underdog.
The Vikings were seven-point underdogs in Saturday’s divisional playoff at Levi’s Stadium, but it should have been a lot more. They were outclassed 27-10 by the superior 49ers.
The 49ers, the top seed in the NFC, overwhelmed No. 6 Minnesota in every phase. They ran over the Vikings’ vaunted defense. With the exception of Kirk Cousins throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs in the first quarter, the Vikings did next to nothing on offense.
The Vikings were coming off a dramatic 26-20 overtime wild-card playoff win last Sunday at New Orleans. They were trying to pull off what the 1987 team had done in upsetting New Orleans 44-10 on the road before the stunning 36-24 win at San Francisco.
But it wasn’t even close.
“It was kind of a complete debacle on all sides of the ball,’’ said Vikings defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo. “You can’t do that in the playoffs, especially going against a great team like San Fran, so kudos to those guys.’’
San Francisco will play host next Sunday in the NFC championship game to the winner of Sunday’s Seahawks-Packers game in Green Bay.
The 49ers outgained the Vikings 308-147, including 186-21 on the ground, and won the time of possession battle, 38:27 to 21:33. Tevin Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and Raheem Mostert added 58 yards.
“We didn’t stop the run,’’ said defensive end Everson Griffen, who can become a free agent and might have played his last Vikings game. “We just didn’t do good enough to win. They were the better team and they should have won. When we come out and play that way, that’s going to be the end result. Is it frustrating? Yes.’’
Meanwhile, the 49ers shut down Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook. He had a meager 18 yards on nine carries.
“It looked like they got off blocks well, and extra guys at the point of attack,’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings hung in for a while. After San Francisco took a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Kendrick Bourne on the first drive, Minnesota came right back with Cousins’ 41-yard toss to Diggs to tie the score 7-7.
Over the rest of the game, Minnesota was outscored 20-3. The only other points by the Vikings came after Garoppolo threw an ill-advised pass that Eric Kendricks picked off and returned four yards to the San Francisco 29 with 2:41 left in the first half. That led to a 39-yard field goal by Dan Bailey that cut the deficit to 14-10 with 36 seconds left in the half.
That remained the score at halftime, and Vikings did little in the second half. Coleman, who had scored on 1-yard run in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead, scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter for a 24-10 lead. That was sandwiched around a pair of second-half field goals by Robbie Gould.
“The 49ers I felt were the better team today,’’ Cousins said. “We didn’t do enough offensively to give ourselves a chance to win the game. It hurts right now.’’
Cousins completed 21 of 29 passes for 172 yards with an interception and was sacked six times. A pass intended for Adam Thielen was intercepted early in the third quarter by Richard Sherman. Afterward, Thielen took the blame for not finishing his route.
On that play, San Francisco defensive lineman Nick Bosa was penalized for unnecessary roughness for a hit on tackle Brian O’Neill that forced him out for the rest of the game with a concussion. Zimmer called it a “cheap shot.’’
Thielen played despite suffering a cut ankle Wednesday in practice that required four stitches and kept him out of practice Thursday. Thielen, who had five catches for 50 yards, said the injury did not limit him.
“Good enough to do my job but I didn’t do that at high enough of a level,’’ he said.
Diggs had missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday due to the flu before returning Thursday. Diggs, who finished with two catches for 57 yards, said he felt “fine’’ Saturday.
The Vikings sure didn’t look fine.
“They took it to us, they punched us in the mouth and we didn’t help ourselves when there were plays there to be made.,’’ Thielen said.
The Vikings, fifth in the NFL in turnover margin during the regular season at plus-11, had two turnovers to one for the 49ers. With Zimmer saying the wind was a factor, normally sure-handed Marcus Sherels lost the ball on a muffed a punt with 1:05 left in the third quarter at his 10. It was his second muff of the game, although he recovered the first one.
That led to Gould kicking his second field goal, a 21-yarder with 14:17 left to all but lock up the game.
After that, the 49ers defense had its way with Cousins. He was sacked four times in the fourth quarter.
“Later in the game, they were starting to jaw at each other,’’ Bosa said of the Vikings’ defense. “Yeah, we were bringing it on them. … They started to have some frustration. We just kept bringing it.’’
The frustration figures to continue for awhile on both sides of the ball for the Vikings. But Cook remained hopeful about moving forward.
“We started this thing back in (spring drills) and the ultimate goal was to win the Super Bowl and get to the big dance,’’ Cook said. “We fell short of that and it’s a big building block and a start of what we can accomplish next season. We just have to put this one in our back pocket and keep it there for a couple of months until we get this thing back going.’’