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49ers vs. Vikings: Final Report Cards, Game Grades for 49ers

Michael ErlerCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2016

49ers vs. Vikings: Final Report Cards, Game Grades for 49ers

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    The 49ers got upset, to put it mildly, 24-13 at Minnesota, playing poorly on defense for the first three quarters and on offense in the fourth, with three turnovers, which ruined their chances of a comeback.

    The defense allowed two 80-plus yard touchdown drives to the Vikings in the first half, with the first culminating in a fourth-down touchdown pass from Vikings QB Christian Ponder to TE Kyle Rudolph and the second finishing with a 23-yard Ponder scramble up the middle for a score.

    Down 17-3 at half the 49ers mounted a comeback, spurred by Kyle Williams 94-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter to set up a field goal and Alex Smith going 6-of-6 for 86 yards and a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis on their next drive to pull to within 17-13.

    However, that was as close as they got. The Vikings marched 86 yards on their next drive, helped by several penalties by the 49ers' defense, and Rudolph scored his second touchdown of the game to seal it.

    The two teams combined for five turnovers in a sloppy fourth quarter, but it didn't affect the final score.  

Quarterbacks

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    Alex Smith: C-

    Smith only played one good quarter —one drive really— the whole game, when he went 6-of-6 for 68 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the third quarter to bring the 49ers within four, down 17-13.

    Other than that, it was a slog for Smith, who just couldn't make enough big plays in the first half and faded badly in the fourth, with two turnovers.

    He couldn't convert any third downs, couldn't move the team down the field and couldn't even perform his specialty, not giving the ball away, as he had two turnovers in the period.

    A fumble on a sack is not something he can be blamed for, but his interception was lousy, it was way overthrown and his intended target, Kyle Williams, didn't have a chance to catch it. 

    The interception was Smith's first since last Thanksgiving, a streak of 249 regular season pass attempts and 317 overall, counting the playoffs. 

    For the game he was 24-of-35, for just 204 yards and a passer rating of 81.1, as he was thoroughly outplayed by counterpart Christian Ponder.

Running Backs

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    Frank Gore: C-

    Gore had a solid game on paper, with 63 yards on 12 carries (a 5.3-yard average), but he was hampered somewhat by the Vikings getting out to a quick start, which reduced his opportunities as the offense was in catch-up mode. 

    The 12 carries were enough for Gore to set a new franchise record for career carries, as he's toted the rock 1,696 times in his career for the 49ers.

    Gore did lose a fumble in the fourth quarter, which didn't help the teams' comeback hopes any. 

    Kendall Hunter: D-

    Hunter didn't have many chances, with just five touches in the game, but he was stymied at every turn and couldn't find any running room. Worse, the Niners seemed to telegraph their carries to him every time. 

    Bruce Miller: C-

    A solid game as a lead blocker, but he didn't get too many opportunities to affect the outcome one way or the other.

    Will Tukuafu: C+

    Had some crunching blocks out of the team's jumbo formation and was more patient with his assignment than the past two games.

Wide Receivers

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    Michael Crabtree: B-

    It's well known throughout the league that Crabtree is not a burner, but this is ridiculous. Just 40 yards on six receptions? A "long" of nine yards? When it's just nine yards shouldn't it be referred to as "a short" of nine yards? 

    Crabtree converted a pair of third downs, but he's taking being a possession receiver to an ominous extreme.

    Randy Moss: C-

    Moss had three receptions for 27 yards in his first regular game at Minnesota as a visitor, but he dropped one high pass from Alex Smith that would've gone for good yardage in the first quarter and Smith missed him a couple of other times he was open.

    The meager yardage total was enough for Moss to move into fourth all-time in receiving yards with 14,946, with only three former 49ers; Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce, in front of him. 

    Gotta wonder how long Moss' tenure in San Francisco will last though, as he was visibly unhappy on the sidelines at the end, sitting on his helmet far away from his teammates. One would have to speculate that he can't be thrilled with his role, where he's only playing a third of the snaps, losing playing time to guys like Kyle Williams. 

    Mario Manningam: B

    Manningham had his most productive game of the season with five receptions for 56 yards, and he wiggled his way free for a 17-yard gain and a late 22-yarder. He got by far the most snaps he's had to date in the offense, though playing from behind all game probably contributed to that.

    Kyle Williams: C

    Williams had his first two receptions of the season, for 16 yards, but made most of his impact on special teams. It's a safe guess that his name will be mentioned often in the coming week in relation to Moss' playing time in the aftermath of this loss.

Tight Ends

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    Vernon Davis: B-

    Davis had five receptions for 53 yards and scored his fourth touchdown in three games, but he faltered in the fourth quarter, running the wrong route on a key third down play and dropping a pass that hit him in between the numbers.

    He was never really able to get open deep.

    Delanie Walker: D

    Walker caught just one pass for one yard and has not been a factor in the passing game at all this season. He's lost some playing time in the team's three receiver packages, but he's still playing plenty of snaps and simply not seeing the ball come much his way.

    His blocking wasn't anything strong either, unlike his past couple of outings.  

Offensive Line

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    Joe Staley: B

    Staley did well most of the game, with help at times, in keeping Vikings DE Jared Allen at bay, though Allen did wiggle free to pressure Alex Smith a few times and force scrambles.

    In the fourth quarter though Allen zoomed past him for a strip sack of Smith, and Staley showed poor awareness in not seeing a loose ball on the turf literally a foot away from him, before Vikings DE Brian Robison dove on it.

    Alex Boone: B+

    Boone did a good job in holding his ground most of the time, but was pushed back quite a bit on a blocked field goal and let his man get his arms up to deflect an Alex Smith pass in the game. He was okay as a run blocker.  

    Jonathan Goodwin: B+

    The 49ers' most consistent blocker on the afternoon, but having to play from behind all game hurt his effectiveness, as run blocking is his specialty. 

    Mike Iupati: B-

    Opened up a couple of holes for Frank Gore early, but he seemed to fatigue late in the game. The Vikings had some success blitzing in his lane.

    Anthony Davis: B

    Did a solid job against Robison, but curiously the 49ers didn't run to his side very much.

    Daniel Kilgore: C-

    Played a few snaps in the jumbo package and was either thrown around or blocking air. 

    Leonard Davis: D

    Mostly responsible for allowing the blocked field goal, it can be argued that Davis has been the worst 49er through three games of any who've received playing time from scrimmage.

Defensive Line

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    Justin Smith: C-

    Had three tackles and did the hard part in taking on blockers to free up Aldon Smith on a few stunts, but was pretty quiet, overall. 

    Ray McDonald: C-

    Two tackles, not much pressure for McDonald, who had to bare the brunt of the Vikings rushing attack, as they ran his way more often than not. 

    Isaac Sopoaga: B+

    Sopoaga received his most playing time of the season and proved worthy of it, as he was superb in holding the point for the run defense against Adrian Peterson and was in on three tackles as well. Did leave the game with an apparent leg injury.

    Ricky Jean Francois: B-

    Saw some action after Sopoaga got hurt and had a couple of tackles. Not surprisingly, he couldn't anchor as well as the bigger Sopoaga.

    Demarcus Dobbs: C-

    Saw him on the field for one snap, and it was Christian Ponder's 23-yard touchdown scramble. Not sure if he played more than that.

     

Linebackers

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    Patrick Willis: B

    In on 10 tackles and laid a couple of licks on Adrian Peterson, but Willis had his share of struggles in zone coverage against Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph. Recovered a late Toby Gerhart fumble. Seemed to suffer a lower leg injury late, but it didn't look too serious.

    NaVorro Bowman: A-

    Was credited for an absurd 18 tackles (7 solo), and Bowman seemed to have his helmet in every pile. He's been the team's best defender through three games, and it's not even close. 

    Ahmad Brooks: B

    Very active early in the game, as he was pretty much the only defensive starter who was ready for the 10 a.m. PST starting time. Had a couple pressures on Christian Ponder but was more effective as a run stopper than a pass rusher. Had a late forced fumble. Left the game briefly with a foot injury.

    Aldon Smith: C

    He was the only 49ers' defender to sniff Ponder all game, but always seemed to be a step or two away. Had a nice tackle on Peterson in space. 

    Eric Bakhtiari: Inc.

    The new 49ers linebacker played a couple of snaps in Brooks' place when Brooks looked to have suffered a foot injury.

Defensive Backs

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    Carlos Rogers: C

    Was beaten on one corner route by Percy Harvin and couple of other times in the slot. Got called for a holding penalty in the red zone. Recovered a late fumble. 

    Tarell Brown: C-

    Allowed a couple of receptions to Devin Aromashodu during the second Vikings touchdown drive and a couple to Harvin in the second half. The front seven's lack of pressure didn't help him at all.

    Chris Culliver: B

    Dropped what would've been a tough over-the-shoulder interception but didn't see many other balls come his way. 

    Dashon Goldson: D

    Had a very poor afternoon. Couldn't cover Harvin, couldn't cover TE Kyle Rudolph, and had a pair of costly personal foul penalties on the Vikings third touchdown drive that pretty much put the game to bed. It looked like he had a chance for an interception, but he chose to pop Rudolph late instead and got called for the penalty.

    Donte Whitner: D

    Dropped what could've been a game-turning "pick six," and allowed a touchdown to Rudolph. Did force a late fumble though.

    C.J. Spillman: Inc.

    Saw a couple of snaps in the goal-line package.

Special Teams

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    David Akers: B

    Converted 2-of-3 field goals, with his only miss being blocked. Didn't appear that Akers hit it low or took too long to step to it.

    Andy Lee: A

    Strong game, averaged 48.7 yards on three punts and none of them were returned. 

    Brian Jennings: A-

    Flawless in his snaps, but a couple of fellas to his left didn't block too well on Akers' field goal try.

    Kendall Hunter: B

    Averaged a fine 24.5 yards on two kickoff returns, but the coaching staff went in a different direction in the second half.

    Kyle Williams: A+

    Averaged 72 yards on two second-half kickoff returns, including a 94-yarder he almost took back all the way, and 12 yards on two punt returns. 

Coaching

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    Grade: F

    As incredible as it sounds, a Vikings coaching staff that was out-schemed by Indianapolis the week before just handed the 49ers coaching staff its collective lunch.

    The 49ers played lazy, unfocused, undisciplined football on both sides of the ball, and the blame with that has to go to the coaches for not having the team prepared to play. Either the time zone change was too difficult for the players to adapt or they just didn't have the proper respect for the Vikings.

    The highlight of the game for Jim Harbaugh was winning a review challenge on a Toby Gerhart fumble even though the team was out of time outs when he asked for it. Also, he might have mentally lost Randy Moss, who looked clearly displased about not being involved in the offense enough with his body language on the sidelines. 

    Moss was clearly looking forward to having a big game in his return to Minnesota. 

    Maybe the players heard too much throughout the week about how they were No. 1 on everybody's power poll, but like Harbaugh is fond of saying, he'd rather have everything written about his team be negative because he doesn't like "honeyed words of praise." 

    Defensively the coaches just couldn't account for Percy Harvin on every play, as he hurt them on swing passes or from the slot over and over. The staff couldn't scheme a way to put any pressure on Christian Ponder, and didn't sack him all game. 

    Offensively, there was a disturbing lack of urgency, even in the fourth quarter and trailing by 11 points, as the team still used the 40-second play-clock on all three downs and ran on 1st-and-10 and 2nd-and-10, which was bizarre. 

    Delanie Walker had to be told where to line up on one play and fellow tight end Vernon Davis ran the wrong route on a crucial third down play.

    The penalties have been lopsided as well, with the Niners flagged six times for 60 yards compared to one infraction on Minnesota. The Niners effectively lost the game with three defensive penalties on Minnesota's third touchdown drive, which ruined what had been an impressive comeback.

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