US Bank Stadium, MN – The Minnesota Vikings began their “Super Bowl or bust” tour in a somewhat expected fashion, beating the San Francisco 49ers, 24-16.
The game was tightly contested for much of the day as the defenses were front and center. Both offenses struggled for differing reasons: the Vikings’ from offensive line issues, the 49ers from injuries and limited options in the passing game.
The Vikings got big contributions from three of their newest acquisitions. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to play through mostly poor pass protection in going 20 of 36 for 244 yards and two touchdowns. New defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson, was as good as advertised as he had six tackles while splitting a sack, and was a constant presence in the 49ers’ backfield. 2018 first round pick, Mike Hughes, made two splash plays that were crucial in keeping the Vikings in front. Hughes stepped in to pick off 49ers quarterback, Jimmy Garappolo, and take it for a 28-yard touchdown. On the very next series after San Francisco had driven into the red zone, Hughes broke up what should have been a touchdown pass intended for receiver Pierre Garcon on third down, forcing them to settle for a field goal.
- The Vikings’ defense picked up where they left off last season. They forced the 49ers into four turnovers (fumble recovery, three interceptions) while keeping the pressure on Garappolo throughout the day.
- Cousins provided glimpses of what the Vikings paid him for. Despite the less than ideal completion rate, he made a number of impressive throws that have to be pleasing to the fan base. If the team can stabilize the offensive line some time during the season, watch out.
- Harrison Smith is simply the best safety in the game today. Period. Whether Mike Zimmer has him in the box or in coverage, he can do it all. His stat line: eight tackles (two for losses), a sack and the game-sealing interception.
- The offensive line is the one unit on this roster that is of concern, and unfortunately it’s worrisome enough that it can hurt their chances in getting to the Big Game in February. They got by today because the 49ers are a team still in the early stages of a rebuild. As the year goes on, they may not fair as well against opponents who are on their level as contenders.
- The offense as a whole looked sluggish at times, especially in the passing game, though this was to be expected. It’s going to take some time for this group to find it’s footing with breaking in a new scheme, but the potential to be a top offense is there. For now, it looks like this team will be heavily reliant on their defense and running game to hold on to small leads.
- The defense had a few hiccups in pass coverage, helping to make the game closer than it possibly should’ve been. They were fooled multiple times with misdirection plays and were beaten by the tight ends and backs. Expect Zimmer to address that in practice this week before their trip to Green Bay next weekend.