The Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers will meet under the bright lights of primetime on Monday night. Several things need to happen if Minnesota is to produce the upset victory. One of them is the Vikings need a big day from TE1. Since signing a big-money contract extension, T.J. Hockenson has been in the spotlight this season. It’s time for him to produce a big-money performance.
Vikings Need A Big Day From TE1
The start of the season for Hockenson has been plagued with missed opportunities. There have been some routine catches dropped and more difficult ones he failed to haul in. Under the spotlight of being the highest-paid tight end in the league, disappointment has been expressed in the direction of Hockenson — some of it warranted, some of it over the top. Hockenson has 36 catches for 304 yards and two touchdowns, which is in line with his production last season that saw calls for his extension.
Hockenson dropped catches last season, but winning games sees such indiscretions glossed over. What we haven’t seen from Hockenson is a “big game.” He has been consistently involved in the offense, as you’d expect, but 78 yards is the most he’s managed in a game. ‘
A 100+ yards game and a touchdown or two is just what’s needed to remind people of the talent he possesses. What better time to do it than in primetime and on the weekend of National Tight Ends Day?
Hockenson will face his former tight end university (Iowa) teammate, George Kittle, who started the national tight end day phenomenon. With Christian McCaffery questionable with an oblique injury and Deebo Samuel already ruled out, the tight end who has the better night could prove pivotal to the result. In these games against the best teams, the Vikings would usually look to Justin Jefferson to produce something special. That option is currently off the table, and that responsibility falls on the shoulders of Hockenson.
Showdown With The 49ers
On Monday night, the Vikings could snap a four-game losing streak at US Bank Stadium and win back-to-back games for the first time since last December’s unconvincing wins over the Colts and Giants. The San Francisco team looked like an unstoppable juggernaut before a missed field goal as time expired left them on the wrong side of a 19-17 score line with the Cleveland Browns. A low-scoring affair with dominance by the two teams’ defenses is Minnesota’s only chance to win.
I can not see a Jefferson-less Vikings team piling on points against this 49ers defense. In truth, I would struggle to see it even with Jefferson playing. They need to find a way to sustain some drives, which Minnesota has often found difficult this season. The Vikings average time of possession this season is 26:14 per game — that ranks dead last in the league.
It’s not an exact science, but generally speaking, good teams who are doing well rank high on this stat — San Francisco averages 32:46. If the 49ers dominate the time of possession in this game, they will win.
Minnesota needs to even things up, and the best way to do that is to establish the run. Hockenson will have his part to play blocking against a formidable San Francisco defense. Handing the ball off to Alexander Mattison and running up the gut won’t get it done. Kevin O’Connell will need to get inventive and use all of his options, which should include a heavy dose of Hockenson in the short passing game.
The Vikings need to produce a huge performance to get a win and move 3-4, igniting the season in the process. Hockenson will lead that charge on offense.