By: Joe Lami
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—
Week one of the 2015 NFL season was capped off Monday night as the San Francisco 49ers defended Levi’s Stadium with a 20-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. After a first half that was as ugly as the black uniforms the Niners introduced , the second half was a lot better for San Francisco, as they were able to put together three scoring drives to put the Vikings away. The win marks the fifth straight opening week victory for the Niners and the second time in franchise history they’ve accomplished the streak.
Carlos Hyde was the key factor for the 49ers, as he ended the night with 168 yards on 26 carries for two scores. Hyde’s performance was good enough to make him the NFL rushing leader after week one, as Matt Forte ran for 141 yards in Chicago’s 31-10 loss to Green Bay.
Hyde showed why the 49ers decided to let Frank Gore go via free agency in the offseason. “Carlos did an awesome job running the football” said, 49ers’ coach, Jim Tomsula, who earned his second career victory as a head coach in the National Football League, and his first since being an interim head coach in 2010.
Hyde made the play of the game on his first score, as he showed a beautiful spin move with :47 seconds left in the half on his way to the 10-yard touchdown run. He also broke to the outside on his second score, as he reverse the field cutting back to the left side, eventually getting in from 17-yards out.
The offensive line played a huge role in Monday night’s win. After being highly criticized in the offseason, the line showed waves of improvement allowing only one sack for zero yards. The line also dominating the line, allowing Hyde to have the day he had. San Francisco kept going to the left on the zone read, something like Hyde especially likes. “It’s up to me to make the read. My offensive line did a great job zone blocking and making it easy to hit those cut-backs,” added Hyde.
Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick had a mediocre night, finishing 17 of 26 for 165 yards totaling an 83 passer rating. The good news for 49er fans was he found Vernon Davis three times on six targets for a total of 47 yards. It was a good bounce-back game for Davis after his disappointing season last year.
Reggie Bush suited up for the red and gold for the first time on Monday night. He finished the night carrying the ball just twice for eight yards before he injured his left calf, taking him out of the game. Tomsula reported after the game that it was a strained left calf. “We don’t think it’s real serious, but we’re going to look into it”, he added.
Monday night marked Jarryd Hayne’s first NFL game. However, the Hayne Plane was shut down quite well. He ended the night with 13 yards from scrimmage on four carries. The former Australian rugby star coughed up his first fumble for the Niners’ only turnover. It came on a muffed catch when he was back on the return. The ball went right through his hands and the Vikings’ Audie Cole was there to jump on the ball giving Minnesota great field position at their own 43. However, Minnesota was unable to capitalize, eventually turning the ball over on downs. “I was disappointed with that first drop. Other than that, I felt it was smooth,” commented Hayne on his first game.
After losing more than half of their starters from last season, the 49ers defense didn’t miss a beat. Led by Antonie Bethea and NaVorro Bowman with eight and seven tackles respectively, they made it hell for the Vikings offense that combined for only 248 yards. The biggest surprise was how they were able to shut down star runningback, Adrian Peterson, who finished the night with 31 yards on 10 carries. It was Peterson’s first time in a regular-season game since last year and it was a disappointing one at that. Peterson didn’t blame rustiness though, “I didn’t really feel rusty. I felt a little hesitant a couple of time coming out of the shotgun. A couple of them were pretty decent. Once I look at the film, I’ll be able to evaluate myself and see the thing I could’ve done a lot better”.
The defense also did a great job of getting to quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, sacking him a total of five times with two of them coming from middle linebackers. Bridgewater finished the night 23 of 32 for 177 yards and one interception caught by Tramaine Brock, his 19th career pick starting his ninth year in the NFL.
Phil Dawson started his 2015 campaign knocking down two of three fields goals, with a 37-yarder being the long. His first attempt of the night came on the opening drive from 28, but it was blocked and returned all the way down to the 26-yard line. The Vikings once again couldn’t capitalize on the position, as Blair Walsh missed the 44-yard field goal to the right.
San Francisco definitely impressed the doubters of the off-season with the victory but have to keep the momentum going. They have a short week this week, as they will travel to Pittsburg to take on the Steelers on Sunday.