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49ers dominate Vikings to secure a berth in NFC championship game

One team had a bye week, leading to what could best be described as a goodbye week for its opponent.

Rested and increasingly healthy, the San Francisco 49ers used a pounding running game and pressuring defense to bid farewell to the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 on Saturday in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

By finishing as the conference’s No. 1 seed, the 49ers had last weekend off, while the sixth-seeded Vikings had to travel to New Orleans and produce a stirring overtime victory to advance.

The paths to Levi’s Stadium and this game were as markedly different as the performances of both offenses Saturday.

San Francisco finished with 308 yards, 186 of which came on the ground. Tevin Coleman carried 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

The ground effort meant Jimmy Garoppolo, in his NFL playoff debut, eased into the latest phase of his career by going 11 of 19 for 131 yards and a score. No 49ers receiver had more than three catches.

Minnesota finished with only 147 total yards and seven first downs. Star running back Dalvin Cook had 18 yards in nine carries. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times while going 21 for 29 for 172 yards.

The Vikings didn’t get a first down in the second half until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

The 49ers now will host the conference title game Jan. 19. They will play the winner of Sunday’s Green Bay-Seattle game.

All of that San Francisco offense, however, didn’t immediately translate into anything special on the scoreboard.

The 49ers produced 16 of the game’s first 20 first downs. After the opening possession of the second half, they had a 205-83 advantage in total yards and a 41-21 edge in offensive plays and had possessed the ball for 10 more minutes.

Yet San Francisco led only 17-10. But then Minnesota’s first series of the third quarter ended abruptly after only three plays when Richard Sherman intercepted a Cousins pass intended for receiver Adam Thielen.

Because of an unnecessary roughness penalty on Nick Bosa during Sherman’s 13-yard return, San Francisco was pushed back to its 44-yard line.

Given the direction the game had been leaning, the extra 15 yards Bosa cost his offense didn’t matter. And what happened next cemented the Vikings’ fate.

Behind the running of Coleman and Raheem Mostert, the 49ers needed eight plays to cover those 44 yards. Coleman scored on a two-yard run to make it 24-10 with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter.

The lead grew by three more points after another Minnesota miscue. Returner Marcus Sherels muffed a punt, and Mostert recovered at the Vikings’ 10-yard line. San Francisco settled for a 21-yard Robbie Gould field goal and an even more comfortable cushion.

Garoppolo looked nothing like a postseason newbie right after the start. He hit four different receivers and completed five of six attempts as the 49ers devoured 61 yards in eight plays.

Barely five minutes into the game, he connected with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne for a three-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Cousins answered by going five for five for 65 yards on the Vikings’ second possession — after a three-and-out on their opening series. He hit Stefon Diggs on a 41-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-7.

San Francisco reclaimed the lead with a 10-play, 53-yard drive that included a converted third and 12 and a replay reversal of what was originally ruled to be a lost fumble by Samuel.

Coleman scored from a one out to make it 14-7 midway through the second quarter.

Garoppolo’s only glaring mistake — an interception by Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks late in the first half — gave Minnesota the ball at the San Francisco 29-yard line.

Dee Ford sacks Cousins to force a 39-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, making it 14-10 with 31 seconds left in the second quarter. Ford hadn’t played since Dec. 8 because of a hamstring injury.

The extra week of rest he was afforded by his team finishing atop the NFC no doubt aided in his return.

It also just as clearly made a difference in Saturday’s outcome.

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