Vikings vs 49ers Recap
After months of fan anticipation, national optimism and even a Super Bowl prediction by NFL Network’s Heath Evans, the Minnesota Vikings (0-1) fell flat on their face in Monday night’s sloppy season opener against the San Francisco 49ers (1-0).
In the first regular season game in their new stadium, San Francisco outperformed the Vikings in almost every aspect of the game en route to a 20-3 victory. The win silenced a lot of doubters of a 49ers team that saw a massive overhaul of players this off-season.
After the key defensive losses of Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Culliver and Chris Borland, many questioned if they would be able to contain the likes of Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Wallace, and Kyle Rudolph. Not only did San Francisco contain the former MVP running back and his supporting cast, they embarrassed them.
Peterson saw a workload of 13 touches (10 rushes and 3 receptions) for a total of 52 yards in his return to football after a 15-game absence for child abuse charges a season ago. Although these numbers are surprising in terms Peterson’s career averages, the 49ers have proven to be the Achilles heel of the future hall of famer. According to ESPN Stats and information, Peterson has averaged a pedestrian three yards per carry and 51 yards per game against the Niners in four career starts. For reference, the man they call “All Day” averages roughly 97 rushing yards and 110 all-purpose yards per game since he entered the league in 2007.
Despite his underwhelming stat line, Peterson’s lack of production can largely be attributed to the painfully repetitious play calling of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and a depleted offensive line. A team that prides itself on being balanced, if not run-first, had 15 more passing plays than running plays on offense. Even as the game progressed into the second half, before the game had gotten out of hand, Turner continued to stick with a shotgun formation that simply wasn’t working for the passing game nor the running game. Monday was also the first regular season game without right tackle Phil Loadholt (out for the season) and center John Sullivan (IR designated to return). The combination of youthful replacements and lack of chemistry was a recipe for disaster. Frankly, five sacks and three total points later, the Vikings are lucky to have escaped the Bay Area without injuries to other offensive focal points such as Bridgewater and Peterson.
Adrian Peterson’s counterpart, Carlos Hyde, stole the show as he racked up a whopping 168 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The second-year running back, who also wears a No. 28 jersey, ran decisively and looked impossibly elusive at times. His video game-esk spin move on this 10-yard touchdown run was a sight to see for everyone except the Minnesota faithful.
The Vikings defensive front seven struggled with the physicality of the 49ers offensive line, and the backfield took advantage with nearly six yards per carry and 230 total yards rushing. After posting the worst statistics in the league two years ago, Mike Zimmer seemingly had this defensive unit on the right track after last season. A defensive scheme that relies on pressure from the front four produced only one sack and minimal penetration on running plays. That 14th ranked defense looks to have drastically regressed.
Yes, this is only Week 1 of the NFL season. No, it isn’t time to hit the panic button quite yet. Glaring protection issues on the offensive line, questionable play-calling, youthful inexperience, and an inability to get off the field on defensive 3rd & long situations are fixable. However, it may take some time, especially with the impactful injuries up front. Perhaps it is time to pump the brakes on the expectations of the 2015 Minnesota Vikings.