Carlos Hyde gained 168 yards and scored two touchdowns on 26 carries in a breakout performance that quieted any kvetching about the San Francisco 49ers' offseason. Jim Tomsula's 49ers are now 1-0 after beating the Minnesota Vikings 20-3 to cap Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season on Monday Night Football.
It was hardly a pristine game. The two teams traded special teams' gaffes in the first half. All told, there were two missed field goals (one blocked), one muffed punt return and another shanked. The mistakes only barely masked both teams' offensive struggles. Teddy Bridgewater looked flustered behind heavy pressure, and Adrian Peterson's re-introduction lacked fireworks.
Only the 49ers' running game worked consistently, even after losing Reggie Bush as a change-of-pace back. Hyde was complemented nicely by another 41 yards from Colin Kaepernick on scrambles. Jarryd Hayne gained 13 yards on four carries after being thrust into a backup role. The 49ers rode their backs to the opening score of the game on a gorgeous run by Hyde.
The Vikings finally gained some offensive momentum late in the third quarter, just after the 49ers faltered in the red zone and settled for a field goal. Bridgewater completed all five of his pass attempts to help move his unit just inside the 49ers' 20-yard line, putting the Vikings in the red zone for the first (and final) time. A desperate third down attempt to Jarius Wright between bracket coverage fell harmlessly out of the end zone, however, and the Vikings' had to settle for a field goal on what would be their best drive of the game.
Then the 49ers promptly nipped the Vikings' small insurgence. Even after a long possession by its offense, the Vikings' defense looked gassed as the 49ers marched 80 yards for another touchdown. Hyde took advantage of a massive hole through the right side of the offensive line for a 17-yard touchdown run to effectively seal the game, up 17-3 with 10 minutes remaining.
Three things we learned:
NFL kickers are all too human
Monday night was not good to kickers. First, the Eagles lost, in part, due to a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter. Then the second game of the Monday night doubleheader got off to a concerning start. First veteran Phil Dawson had his short field goal attempt blocked after an impressive opening drive by the 49ers ...
Then Blair Walsh pushed a field goal wide right on the Vikings' next possession.
Both punters also struggled with a fairly stiff breeze at Levi's Stadium. Here's another reminder that the NFL moved the extra point back and it was probably a bad idea.
Adrian Peterson is still good, but he wasn't the best running back
The Vikings did not give the ball to Adrian Peterson once on their opening offensive possession. They quickly rectified that. The fact that he didn't pile up yardage in the first half was more a problem for the offensive line. He hauled two teams on his back on one reception.
All told, Peterson had 31 yards on a 10 carries. It wasn't a great effort, but one can forgive him for a bit of rust.
There's no question that Carlos Hyde was the better player on the night, however. After a rather innocuous rookie campaign behind Frank Gore in 2014, he busted out against the Vikings, gaining 168 yards with two touchdowns. His pièce de résistance was a gorgeous spin move that you should watch again and again.
The 49ers lost a lot during the offseason. The 49ers should feel much more confident that at least the running game hasn't suffered a setback.
Teddy Bridgewater is still young
The Vikings are bullish on Teddy Bridgewater for good reason. He turned in an encouraging rookie campaign in which he completed 64.4 percent of his passes for nearly 3,000 yards. Another step forward could have made a defensive-minded Vikings team a sneaky good team.
Bridgewater looked very much like his rookie self, however. He completed his passes more often than not, but he was rarely comfortable in the pocket (the 49ers had five sacks), and did not seem to have the confidence to look downfield for Mike Wallace. While going 23-for-32 for 231 yards and one pick looks serviceable on paper, if the Vikings are going to get to the playoffs they'll need more inspiring efforts.