Santa Clara – It’s no surprise the 49ers claimed victory tonight, especially when it’s their home opener. They have won seven games on Monday Night Football, five consecutive being their home opener. First year head coach Jim Tomsula became the seventh coach in the franchise history to win the season opener in his first year as head coach.
“I think we came out and executed pretty well,” Colin Kaepernick said. “We had some penalties that we shot ourselves in the foot with. But, we were able to run the ball well. Offense line played great and we made plays when we needed to.”
Despite a rocky start for both teams, the 49ers cruised past the Minnesota Vikings 20-3. They looked like they had everything under control on opening drive. Kaepernick moved the offense down field with ease but a few penalties pushed them back setting up Phil Dawson’s 28-yard field goal. Andrew Sandejo blocked the kick, Marcus Sherels picked up the ball and rushed it back for 44 yards.
Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t capitalize off the 49ers misfortune. He struggled finding receivers, overthrew passes and even bumped into his own teammate. Blair Walsh went wide right missing a 44-yard field goal. And if the 49ers troubles didn’t get worse, Reggie Bush was carted off the field in the first with a calf injury and former Aussie star Jarryd Hayne fumbled his first catch a punt return.
“I think that was obvious that there were some easy throws out there that were across the field and overthrown,” said Bridgewater. “But, like I said, we had poor execution.”
“Ok, obviously we didn’t play very well tonight,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “San Francisco was much more physical. They played faster, they executed better, and like I told the team afterwards that the two years here and seventeen ballgames I’ve been here that did not look like the football team that I know.”
After a sloppy first quarter, the 49ers offense found their rhythm again late in the second. They went back to their rushing game, with Carlos Hyde at the helm.
With an amazing stat line in the first half alone, Hyde did a spin move away from his defenders. That move alone created enough space for him to leap into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead.
This was only the beginning, he carried the offense and recorded 168 yards on the ground including two touchdowns.
Hyde replaces the franchise rushing leader Frank Gore, in his first career start. His 168 yards is the most by a running back since Gore’s 207 in week 2 of 2009. Hyde had 12 carries for 83 yards in the first half.
“I watched film this week and I watched the Washington [Redskins] game when they played the Vikings last year,” said Hyde regrind his spin move. “So, I saw one play, the running back had a run similar to what I had tonight and 99’s [Vikings DE Danielle Hunter] hips are pretty stiff. So, I said, when I get that chance in the game, I’ve got a move for him. And he was that guy back there. And that spin move killed him.”
“We knew that he was a good back,” Captain Munnerlyn said of Hyde. “We knew that he was a powerful back that can make the cuts and everything. He didn’t do anything that we didn’t think that he can do. He came out and executed and we didn’t.”
The 49ers still had trouble getting into the end zone, in the third quarter. They settled for a 30-yard field goal by Dawson extending their lead 10-0. But by the fourth it was Hyde again as the “go-to” man. With his second touchdown of the night, he rushed for a 17-yard touchdown securing a 17-3. Bridgewater’s INT by Tramaine Brock set up Dawson’s 25-yard field goal making it a 20-3 game in the fourth.
NaVorro Bowman made his debut after a 20-month hiatus due to a left knee injury during the NFC Championship game at Seattle back in 2014.
Tonight, he had one of five sacks against Bridgewater and recorded seven tackles. The 49ers defense kept the Vikings off the board and in the end zone. Bowman looked more than ready to a full game.
“It felt great. Going through practice this week, I was trying to time it up to see which day I wanted to take a break and I didn’t get to take a whole day,” said Bowman. “And, I think that led up to me just getting the knee ready for a complete game to play at that high level. So, I felt great throughout the whole game. Confident, just worried about the game plan and not my knee.”
“That’s what it’s about. It’s about 11 guys flying to the ball. I think everybody did that, defensive line turning around and getting to the ball, LB NaVorro Bowman, LB Michael Wilhoite, secondary just running to the ball. Whatever it is and whoever is coming in, everyone knows the motto, ‘get to the ball.’ As long as we can put that on film and let opposing offenses see what we have they’ll be thinking about that.”