Brandon Jacobs, RBs lead 49ers past Vikings 17-6

So much for all those questions about how Brandon Jacobs and San

Francisco’s retooled running back group might fit behind three-time

Pro Bowler Frank Gore this season.

Sure seemed seamless in the preseason opener.

Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and Co. helped the 49ers pile up 260

yards rushing, sprinting past the Minnesota Vikings 17-6 Friday

night in an impressive debut.

”It’s always the first question,” 49ers coach Jim 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 fit.”

So much for an NFC title game hangover, too.

Alex 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 San Francisco’s season was off and running –

literally.

Jacobs, Hunter and Rock Cartwright combined for 69 yards rushing

on the first drive for San Francisco (No. 4 in the AP Pro32

rankings) while Gore watched from the sideline. Minnesota had only

82 yards rushing.

”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

easier.”

The only real shortcoming for the Vikings’ regulars came on the

scoreboard.

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 whipping winds.

”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

never targeted.

In the first game at Candlestick since the overtime loss in the

NFC championship game 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 has gone well.

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.

Anthony Dixon (46 yards) and rookie LaMichael James (15 yards)

also chipped in late, too.

”I don’t think they really need me to bounce outside here, we

have other backs to do that,” Jacobs said. ”I’m coming to play

the ground game, the tough game, the 1970s-type game. That’s the

kind of football I want to play.”

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 rushing.

”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 the 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

24-yard line.

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 run

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 these 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

7s.”

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