Look closely at the Kirk Cousins interception Sunday.
Yes, the 49ers’ linebackers made a midgame adjustment to take away the short slant to receiver Adam Thielen. Cousins completed it early on, and as soon as he did Fred Warner jumped up and down in frustration like he’d known what was coming but was just a hand’s length out of position. It was a you’re-not-gonna-get-us-again type of display by Warner.
And he was right. When Cousins tried the same play in the third quarter, the other linebacker, Azeez Al-Shaair, stepped in front of Thielen and reached up for the interception. Al-Shaair returned the ball to the 2-yard line, then the defense gathered around him for their glamour moment in the end zone.
If you rewind the play you’ll see there was another key contributor. Defensive tackle D.J. Jones, the heaviest 49ers defender, fired out of his stance faster than Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and anyone else on the defensive line. Then he drove the Vikings center back toward Cousins and raised his arm when Cousins first wound up to throw to Thielen. The quarterback had to double-clutch, and when he let go of the ball, Al-Shaair knew exactly what was coming.
“If he doesn’t do what he did, with getting his hands up, Kirk is able to make a clean throw there,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said this week. “It was a tough catch, but all credit goes to D.J. with him getting his hands up, affecting the quarterback — something we’ve been trying to instill in our guys more.”