Anyone still pondering how good the 49ers are, can just ask Adrian Peterson.
“It’s a heck of defense, bro,” said Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ premiere running back who suffered a torn ACL last Christmas Eve. “I’m not scared. I’m excited. I’m accepting that challenge.”
After pillaging and outdueling the high-powered offenses of the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions in back-to-back weeks, San Francisco will again set to conquer another NFC North foe in the Vikings today, which kicks off a two-week road trip that will end in New Jersey against the Jets on Sept. 30.
But despite not seizing a road win at the berserk Metrodome since 1992, some are calling San Francisco’s weekend matchup against the 1-1 Vikes — who labored against both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts — a step down in competition.
Jim Harbaugh isn’t one of those people.
“You know how we feel about a few nasty words. We don’t take ’em all that seriously,” the 49ers coach said.
“You’re not better than anybody else unless you prove it. And you get that chance once a week.”
But what the 49ers have proven thus far this young season is that they’ve forced elite teams into a physical style of play. And that seemingly suits San Francisco.
“We have a lot of respect for those teams that they beat, Green Bay and Detroit,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
“They took it to both of ’em.”
The 49ers have proven capable of thwarting an opponent’s air attack, but have had major success in recent weeks against the opposing run. San Francisco’s defense limited the Lions to a mere 82 rushing yards last week, and the Packers to a mere 45 yards the Sunday before.
“We can’t just get away from trying to run the football,” Frazier said.
But neither of those two rosters had Peterson, who despite only 33 carries this season for 144 yards for fear of repeated injury, appears to be a threat on the ground with his two touchdown scores.
“That guy’s a miraculous healer, I think,” 49ers defensive end Justin Smith said. “He’s out there making cuts, looks just as fast as he ever has. Hats off to him. I know all the work he put in in the offseason. It must have been ridiculous to get to where he’s at right now. It’ll be a good challenge.”
But as vaunted as the 49ers’ defense may be, quarterback Alex Smith will have to watch for the Vikings’ pass rush up front.
“Thing that jumps out at you is obviously the defensive line, especially at home,” Alex Smith said, who has passed for four touchdowns, despite being already sacked seven times in two weeks.
He was sacked 44 times last year, the most of any passer in the league.
“Jared Allen almost broke the sack record last year,” Smith said. “He plays really good at home with the crowd noise.”