Well, the new regime got off with a bang yesterday as the 49ers wore down and dismantled the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. Tales of the 49ers demise may just be a little premature. Then again, it was only the Vikings. The 49ers defense does what they usually do to AP, and that’s shut him down. Mangini and company disguised coverages, and blitzed from off angles to confuse and befuddle sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater.
The offense was nigh unstoppable, except by themselves. The 1st half saw a lot of yards, but a lot of penalties. The opening drive was thwarted by a holding penalty deep, and the rest were done in by various other problems. Carlos Hyde pretty much stamped his entry into the NFL as one of the top backs in the league (for a week anyway) by gaining 168 yards on 26 carries for gaudy 6.5 yards a carry and 2 touchdowns.
Yes, we are a running team. But this run game is vastly different than last year as Greg Foerster, master of the zone blocking scheme ran very well against some stacked lines when we had 3 TEs in there, and also when we had 2 WRs in there. Cutback lanes were wide open, and Hyde took big advantage of that.
The passing game, and Colin Kaepernick especially, looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket this year as compared to last, and made most of the plays he needed to. He read through his progressions very well, and made the correct calls to run when he needed to. As I’ve been saying all offseason, we moved Kappy around in the pocket, and even ran play action (!) on 3rd and 1 for an easy toss to Hyde for a 1st down. Kappy’s numbers weren’t gaudy, but they were efficient. 17/26 for 165, 0 picks, 0 TDs. The difference being the Niners converted some tough 3rd downs (5-12 ain’t great, but it beats 1-9). An issue in previous seasons. Red zone offense was 2-5, but 2 drives were killed by holding penalties.
What can you say about the defense? What I saw as a strength for the team was pretty much dead on. Bethea, Tartt, Bowman, Carradine, and Lynch all had sacks. Tremaine Brock had a pick, and the defensive backfield played a very solid game all around. Even though Bridgewater is very mobile, the Niners contained him well, and the coverage was solid even as Teddy broke contain to buy time.
The problems? Well, Special teams were an early disaster. Blocked FG, muffed punt, and a punt return TD called back by 2 blocks in the back. However, Pinion boomed all his punts, and mashed all his kickoffs deep or out of the end zone. Penalties were a big problem early as well. They had 6 penalties in the first half, but only 1 in the 2nd half. So whatever Tomsula said to ST coach McGaughey and the players seemed to get them in focus.
All in all a solid game by the new coaching staff and team. Certainly you have to think this team at least for now looks pretty good.
Irish Kevin, our intrepid man-on-the-scene, shot this opening ceremonies video. Thanks, Kev!