49ers 17, Vikings 6
Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers picked up right where
they left off last season.
So much for an NFC title game hangover.
Smith tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brett Swain on the
opening possession, backup Colin Kaepernick ran 78 yards for a
score on the next and the 49ers breezed past the Minnesota Vikings
17-6 Friday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
”I thought they were on top of their business,” 49ers coach
Jim Harbaugh said.
Sure looked like it all the way around.
Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and Rock Cartwright combined for
69 yards rushing on the first drive to lead a reloaded running back
group for San Francisco (No. 4 in the AP Pro32 rankings) on a night
three-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore rested. Smith finished 3 for 3
passing for 16 yards.
San Francisco had 260 yards rushing to Minnesota’s 82 yards.
”We ran the ball really well that opening drive and all game,”
Smith said. ”Anytime you can do that it just makes our jobs a lot
The only real shortcoming for the Vikings’ regulars came on the
Christian Ponder completed 4 of 9 passes for 80 yards, and Toby
Gerhart ran for 31 yards for Minnesota (No. 29) in place of
rehabbing starter Adrian Peterson. The Vikings offense showed
promise, moving the ball with ease until settling for field goals
of 39 and 26 yards by new kicker Blair Walsh in Candlestick Park’s
”We would have liked to have come out with touchdowns rather
than two field goals,” Ponder said. ”But it was a pretty good
start. There were a lot of positives. We moved the ball well
against a really good defense.”
Randy Moss made his 49ers debut after sitting out last season,
though it was hard to notice. The 35-year-old wide receiver, who
signed a one-year deal with San Francisco, played sparingly and was
In the first game at Candlestick since the overtime loss in the
NFC championship to the New York Giants on Jan. 22, the new-look
49ers started strong.
Jacobs, who signed a one-year deal with San Francisco after
winning his second Super Bowl with New York, showed his strength in
short-yardage situations – a missing element for the 49ers last
season – by running for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from San
Francisco’s 47 to extend the opening drive. He added a 23-yard
sprint and finished with 31 yards on the ground. All four of his
rushes led to a San Francisco first down.
The big, burly running back’s transition seemed seamless.
”It’s always the first question,” Harbaugh said. ”Just human
nature, you’re trying to find out what’s in another man’s heart. Is
he about us? Is he about himself? It has been a great group, from
first-year guys to 10-plus year guys. I think it’s been a good
San Francisco also received rushes of 19 yards by Cartwright and
14 by Hunter to set up Smith’s short fade to Swain that finished
off the first-team’s only possession. The 12-play, 84-yard drive
lasted 7:21 and resembled the kind of grind-it-out fight that
helped the 49ers to a 13-3 regular season last year and the
franchise’s first playoff appearance in a decade.
For a team that relied so much on defense a year ago, the
offensive blitz – even for the preseason – could go a long way to
lift San Francisco’s spirits.
Kaepernick, the former Nevada quarterback drafted 36th overall
last year, kept a read-option on his second play from scrimmage for
a 78-yard touchdown, sprinting down the right side almost
uncontested. He stiff-armed cornerback Chris Cook the final 20
yards, tossed the ball when he reached the end zone and flung his
arms wildly in celebration after giving San Francisco a 14-6 lead.
He threw for 40 yards on 5-for-9 passing and had 90 yards
”I felt very much at home when I saw that hole open up,”
Kaepernick said. ”I had a flashback there.”
Not a bad opening act.
Maybe the only major blemish for the 49ers came when linebacker
Aldon Smith, the runner-up for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year,
left in the first quarter with what the team called a bruised hip.
Harbaugh said he was still waiting to hear from team doctor, but
”preliminary (results) looks like we’ll be all right, looks like
we’ll dodge a bullet there.” Smith walked out of the locker room
without talking to reporters.
The other hiccup came when Carlos Rogers bit on an outside fake
by Stephen Burton and thought he had safety help over the middle on
Minnesota’s first possession. Burton sliced back inside and caught
a 52-yard pass from Ponder to put Minnesota at San Francisco’s
While the Vikings starters moved the ball often, they never
found the end zone.
Gerhart, the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up under Harbaugh at
Stanford, carried the bulk of the offense, including a 16-yard
scamper to San Francisco’s 12-yard line. But drives for Minnesota’s
regulars ended in field goals by Walsh, who is replacing longtime
veteran Ryan Longwell.
”If we can turn this 3s into 7s, that’s really going to be a
big thing for us,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. ”That’s
something we talked about all offseason. We need to get those
NOTES: Vikings DT Letroy Guion left in the first quarter because
of a strained knee and will be out 1-2 weeks, said Frazier, who
didn’t know which knee was injured. … Former 49ers coach Mike
Singletary handed out hugs and handshakes during pregame warm-ups.
The game marked the first time Singletary – now the Vikings
linebackers coach and special assistant to Frazier – was back at
Candlestick since San Francisco fired the Hall of Fame linebacker
after a 5-10 start in 2010. … Vikings WR Percy Harvin, CB Antoine
Winfield and DL Kevin Williams and Jared Allen were not in uniform.
… DL Justin Smith and Will Tukuafu and WR Mario Manningham were
among the San Francisco notables given the game off, which is
typical for veterans in the preseason opener.
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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and