Injuries, drops, missed tackles, and red-zone issues plagued the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener, as they lost 24-16 on the road to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings.
After waiting all off season to see how Jimmy Garoppolo would perform as the face of the franchise, the 26-year-old QB struggled in Week 1, taking the first loss of his career. Garoppolo never really found his footing as the ferocious Vikings defense pestered him all day. He ended the day going 15-of-33 for 261 yards and one touchdown to three interceptions.
Although there aren’t many excuses for Garoppolo’s play, injuries to a few key offensive players might be one. The 49ers lost Marquise Goodwin early in the game, with both right guards Mike Person and Josh Garnett following soon after. This forced rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey to kick inside to right guard and Gary Gilliam to fill in at right tackle for the remainder of the game.
Last year, Goodwin was Garoppolo’s security blanket, and without him there to both threaten the deep ball and help the offense, the unit suffered. The rest of the pass catchers also didn’t do their QB any favors. Pierre Garçon and George Kittle both dropped big passes that could have possibly gone for touchdowns, and Kendrick Bourne slipped on a pass that turned into a pick-six for the Vikings defense.
After starting slow, rookie Dante Pettis really stepped up and caught two passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Jerick McKinnon was sorely missed, as the running game struggled to get going. Alfred Morris got the start and began well, but ended up losing a fumble on the goal line. After coughing the ball up, Matt Breida stepped in and saw most of the carries for the rest of the game. Breida had a decent game, carrying the ball 11 times for 46 yards.
The red zone woes continued, as the offense was able to get into the red zone five times, but was only able to come out with one touchdown. The other trips resulted in three field goals and a fumble.
On the other hand, the defense played a very good game. Save for one bone-headed play by Solomon Thomas where he jumped offsides on 4th down with two minutes left in the game, the defense held strong despite the offense turning the ball over four times.
They had one turnover of their own, when Fred Warner stripped Dalvin Cook from behind early in the game. Warner really stepped up this game and played great. He led the team with 11 tackles and also had a crucial pass break up at the end of the game. He and Reuben Foster will be a force to be reckoned with once Foster returns from suspension.
The defensive line initially did a good job punishing the Vikings beat-up offensive line. DeForest Buckner got his potential breakout season started right by sacking Kirk Cousins 2.5 times. Besides some great throws by Cousins, the secondary also played well. The defense was able to hold Cook and Latavius Murray to just 82 yards on 27 carries.
Overall the team showed great toughness by playing hard despite being down on the road most of the game. Even though he struggled, Garoppolo was able to come back after each mistake and keep up his confidence. The defense showed great poise, and the team had multiple chances to tie or even win at the end of the game.
It’s a young team so there will be growing pains, but they showed they had the toughness to stay with one of the best teams in the NFL in a hostile environment. Despite this loss, there are some positives to take from this game.
Media courtesy USA Today Sports Images, NFL