LIVE game blog: 49ers vs. Vikings
(12:45) It's a gorgeous and sunny day at Monster Park, not exactly the kind of conditions you expect for football here in November. I just talked to some Minnesota writers who cover the Vikings, and they can't believe it. They're usually looking at the onset of winter at home already at this time of year, even though they don't have to worry about that when they go to work because their team plays in a dome. Well, at the least, nobody can complain about fighting the elements today … (12:52) The Vikings just trotted onto the field, and you've got to figure this is the place they want to be after flopping in front of a national audience against the Patriots on Monday. They need a win here to remain in the thick of the NFC playoff chase, but doesn't everybody? In fact, after what's gone down since the middle of October, the team they're playing today probably can use a victory even worse … (12:54) And here come the 49ers, being introduced out of that big inflatable golden helmet from the south end zone, and today they're resplendent in throwback uniforms from the 1989 season. Man, how that brings back memories. This San Francisco outfit bears no resemblance to that team, but when they're wearing these outfits, it at least makes you dream a little bit. Dream about that past, that is … (12:59) A gigantic American flag spread over 30 yards at midfield, the national anthem ringing throughout the stadium, and a trio of jets flying over Monster Park at blaring warp speed. Yes, it doesn't get any better than that to get you ready for some American football … (1:03) The Vikings call heads, the coin comes up tails. The 49ers get the ball first, and that's a good thing. It at least means Minnesota can't score first on the game's opening drive. We think … (1:06) Rookie Brandon Williams receives the opening kickoff for the 49ers, and he gets it out a few inches short of the 20-yard line without fumbling. After last week, that's progress, folks … (1:08) Frank Gore nets zero yards on two carries, then Antonio Bryant picks up two yards on a short pass on third down. Three and out for the 49ers. Not a very good way to start, and you already can hear a few boos … (1:14) As the Vikings march right down the field on their opening possession, cornerback Walt Harris - one of the few San Francisco defenders you could say is having a good season - gets shaken up on a running play, and comes off the field very slowly. That's not good, not good at all. The early report is he has a hip pointer - he missed the Week 6 loss to the Chargers with a hamstring injury - and the good news is he's probable to return to the game … (1:22) The Vikings keep converting third downs, and it looks like they will roll right into the end zone with only token resistance. But there's a big play the 49ers needed as linebacker T.J. Slaughter catches Mewelde Moore in the backfield for a loss. On third-and-8, the Vikings get only six yards, and they settle for a gimmee 21-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell. That only seems like a consolation prize as Minnesota works for nine minutes to go 69 yards in 16 plays for just three points. It's 3-0 Minnesota, and it certainly could be worse … (1:24) Williams again returning the kickoff, and he turns the corner for a nice 36-yard return that is his best of the year so far. The 49ers are in business … (1:28) And, finally, some movement on offense. Facing another third-and-8, quarterback Alex Smith connects with Bryant over the middle for a 22-yard gain. San Francisco is in Minnesota territory, and it took the 49ers a whole lot longer to do that for the first time last week in Chicago … (1:30) Third-and-1, and the 49ers call a pitch to rookie Michael Robinson that fools nobody. It looks like a three-yard loss in the flat as Robinson is swarmed by defenders in the open field. But then he bounces off one tackler … Then bounces of another … Then lunges down the sideline for a two-yard gain to keep the drive alive … (1:34) Get this: On third-and-15, the 49ers are called for not one but two penalties - an illegal formation and an illegal man down field on a botched pass play. The Vikings refuse the penalties. But on third down, Smith throws a strike to Arnaz Battle for an 18-yard gain that takes the ball to the Minnesota 13-yard line. And that, folks, is where the first quarter ends … (1:40) Like the Vikings before them, the 49ers can't make the most of the opportunity. Gore is shirt-tackled for a two-yard loss on first down, and Smith throws incomplete to Battle into tight coverage at the goal line. Joe Nedney comes in and splits the uprights with a routine 25-yard field goal to complete a 13-play, 54-yard drive - one of the longer drives - by number of plays - the 49ers have assembled this entire season. So that a move in the right direction against a good defense, and minutes into the second quarter, it's a 3-3 game … (1:47) The Vikings are feeding the football to Chester Taylor, and they're just going to keep right on doing it until the 49ers do something about it. Taylor rushes for 32 yards on seven carries in the first quarter - all on Minnesota's opening possession - and there he goes again, churning out yardage the next time the Vikings have the ball … (1:48) And there it is! Big play by the 49ers! Even bigger, it came from the defense. Defensive end Marques Douglas splits two offensive linemen and blindsides quarterback Brad Johnson as he's cocking his arm to throw. The ball goes bouncing in the opposite direction, and cornerback Shawntae Spencer picks it up and takes it to the Minnesota 21. That's the biggest play - maybe the only big play - the 49ers have got from their defense since mid-October … (1:51) Alas, the 49ers can only turn it into three points as Smith's completions to tight end Eric Johnson on second and third down leave the 49ers a yard short on fourth down. Actually, it's a few inches short of a yard, and Mike Nolan thinks about going for it for a moment before thinking better and sending out Nedney for a 30-yard field goal. It's not what the 49ers wanted out of such a prime opportunity, but if you're a NFL team that doesn't know what it feels like to lead in a game since Oct. 8, you're not complaining. The scoreboard says: 49ers, 6-3 … (1:53) And look at this! An onside kick by Nedney, the master of onside kicks, and the 49ers recover easily, with Bryan Gilmore plucking the ball out of the air with no Viking around him. The momentum clearly has swung to the home team, and the crowd is finally getting into it … (1:59) Nothing like another three-and-out to deflate that momentum. Smith scrambles for nine yards on second down, but goes out of bounds before passing the first-down marker. That sets up third-and-1 at the Minnesota 48, and the 49ers bring in Robinson, their short-yardage back. How predictable! Robinson gets stuffed for no gain on a slow-developing play, and Andy Lee drops his punt into the end zone. So much for that red-and-golden opportunity … (2:04) Third-and-4 for the Vikings, and the crowd is getting into it again. Johnson steps back and twirls a pass down the left side intended for his favorite target, Travis Taylor. Harris, who came back into the game on San Francisco's next defensive series after he was hurt, is right there and has excellent coverage. But he gets spun around as the ball arrives, and Taylor tries to climb over him for the ball, which lands well beyond both players. And here comes a flag. What? The San Francisco sideline - which saw the play develop a few feet away - goes berserk. Yep, after a huddle by the officials, it's pass interference on Harris, giving the Vikes a first down at the San Francisco 42. What a horrible call … (2:12) But the 49ers definitely are on to something here. They push the Vikings back and stop an inside shuttle pass on third-and-16 for a short gain, forcing Minnesota to punt from near midfield. It's a great punt by Chris Kluwe, however, and - as the clock hits the two-minute warning - the Niners must dig their way out from their own 1-yard line … (2:17) False start by Smith on first down. Half the distance to the goal, and now the ball is practically touching the goal line as the 49ers line up for the snap. The 49ers are playing it as safe as you can get, and Gore grinds out a yard on first down and another on second down as Minnesota burns timeouts after each play. It's a pass to Gilmore on third down, but he's two yards short of the first and steps out of bounds to stop the clock for the Vikings. But Andy Lee sails a beautiful 48-yard punt, and the Vikings must begin their final drive of the half at their own 46 … (2:22) Nice third-down stop by the 49ers, and they get the ball back at their own 16 with 51 seconds remaining in the half. Time to take a few shots down the field? We didn't think so. The 49ers stand around after Gore gains seven yards on first down, letting seconds tick off the clock, then call timeout with 18 seconds left. Huh? Gore then goes up the middle and - as the 49ers trot off the field with one timeout still remaining - the crowd lets loose with a chorus that sounds like a combination of boos and groans … (2:23) But, hey, this is actually something to cheer about. It's halftime, and the 49ers lead the Vikings 6-3. And that lead could actually be more. Nobody's celebrating or anything like that, but the 49ers have demonstrated they can stay with a good team when they avoid making mistakes. Time for your editor in chief to see what the halftime chili dogs look like … (2:29) It's Alumni Day here at Monster Park, and a line of 49ers old-timers spreads across the field as the members of the 1956 team are introduced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that team. Astonishingly, that team had six future Hall of Famers - tackle Leo Nomellini, fullback Joe Perry, halfback Hugh McElhenny, quarterback Y.A. Tittle, halfback John Henry Johnson, and offensive tackle Bob St. Clair - but it finished as an also-ran with a 5-6-1 record … (2:31) Memories are Super, and the scoreboard begins playing a video of the dramatic drive from the 1981 NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Cowboys. As Dwight Clark pulls down "The Catch" that began a dynasty 25 years ago, Clark and Joe Montana - the contemporary versions - are introduced to an adoring crowd … (2:33) So how about a re-enactment from the leading characters in one of the greatest moments in sports history? Clark and Montana - still looking pretty good for middle-agers - dutifully trot through the motions in the same corner of the same north end zone where they made history. And Clark again catches the lazy spiral from Montana, this time without the memorable leap into the sky. It's all hand-slaps and high-fives between two of the greatest 49ers ever … (2:41) But now it's back to reality, and the 49ers are doing their best to chaperone the Vikings down the field on the opening possession of the second half. Melvin Oliver and Ronnie Fields both are called for roughing the passer a few plays apart, but the drive stalls as the San Francisco pass rush keeps coming after Johnson and he sends several of his passes off-target to relatively well-covered receivers. A San Francisco defense that held the Vikings to just 106 yards in the first half continues to play well, and now the 49ers get the ball back … (2:48) But it's another three-and-out for the 49ers, despite a nice run on second down by Gore, who was limited to 16 yards on 11 carries in the first half by one of the NFL's best rushing defenses. Gore fails to pick up blitzing linebacker Dontarrious Thomas on third down, and he sacks Smith, forcing the 49ers to punt … (2:54) The 49ers stuff Chester Taylor - who had 61 yards on 13 carries in the first half - twice at the line of scrimmage, forcing third-and-long. But the third-down blues hit the 49ers again as they give up the necessary yardage through the air to keep the Vikings driving … (2:56) Here's another third down … and another big play! Cornerback Sammy Davis, who has made a few plays today, gets the jump on a quick slant and pops the ball into the air - right where Walt Harris is waiting for it. The sure-handed Harris makes the pick - his team-leading fourth of the year - and that San Francisco defense, finally showing some resiliency, gets another stop … (3:01) But the 49ers give it right back. After Smith dances from pressure and dumps the ball off for Gore, who turns it into a nice first-down gain, Smith tries to go over the middle and telegraphs a pass on a skinny post to Bryant. Antoine Winfield looks like the receiver on this play, and he cuts in front of Bryant to make the interception, putting the Vikings back in business at their own 38 … (3:04) Third-and-long again for the Vikings. This time, Brandon Moore and Anthony Adams meet at the quarterback and drill Johnson for a big loss. Where has this San Francisco defense been all season? … (3:14) After another series of going nowhere for the San Francisco offense, the 49ers get a huge break. Chester Taylor takes a dump-off pass from Johnson in the left flat, blows past a few missed tackles, then scoots down the sideline to complete a 65-yard touchdown play. Well, no. The flag came out when Taylor was only about 10 yards into his jaunt. Travis Taylor was flagged for blocking in the back on Moore, who might not have been able to bring Chester down in the open field had he not been touched. It looks sort of like a weak call, but Travis did push Moore in the back, so it's legitimate. And the 49ers certainly will take it … (3:16) The third quarter ends with Artose Pinner shooting up the middle for a 16-yard gain that puts the ball at the San Francisco 46. It's 6-3 49ers heading into the fourth quarter. Can they hold on? … (3:20) Third-and-4 from the San Francisco 32 for Minnesota. The Vikings are driving, the San Francisco defense appears to be tiring, and Minnesota seems poised to both take the lead and control of the game. Johnson back to pass in shotgun formation. The pocket quickly collapses around him. And there goes the ball popping in the air! Bryant Young gets a big closing hit on Johnson, and Manny Lawson falls on the resulting fumble. Another big play by the beleaguered 49ers defense, and the three-point lead stands with 12 minutes to play… (3:27) Gore has been held in check most of the day, but he rips off a nice run, then makes a tremendous fingertip grab on a roll-out pass from Smith, sidesteps a defender who has him dead in the open field, then turns the corner for a big gain to get the 49ers near midfield. The drive stalls - isn't that beginning to sound familiar? - but the Niners get another break on third down when the Vikings pile on Robinson with a late hit, giving the Niners a first down at the Minnesota 35 … (3:34) The drive goes nowhere, and Nolan has a decision to make: A long Joe Nedney field goal? Yes. And yes! It's good from 51 yards. But no. The officials blow the whistle for delay of game. No kick. But there was a problem with the play clock. So, after discussing the situation, the officials rule no play. Huh? Nedney gets another chance to make the kick he just made. This time, he doesn't drill it like before. But he hits it long enough - and true enough - and it falls a few feet beyond the goal posts. That makes it 9-3 49ers with 7:15 remaining … (3:37) Nedney, obviously inspired, booms the ensuing kickoff to the goal line. Bethel Johnson brings it out to the 28, where the Vikings go on offense with 7:09 remaining … (3:41) Third-and-3 for Minnesota from its own 35. Johnson back to pass. His first option is covered, and he gets happy feet. He tries to avoid the pressure, but Moore, Young and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich are on him. He gets rid of the ball, but it falls short in the flat. The Niners hold again. They start at their own 22 with 5:45 remaining. A couple of first downs - heck, one first down - would be awfully big here … (3:45) But forget about it. It's another three-and-out, and the 49ers only take 85 seconds off the clock. It's up to the defense - again - as Minnesota starts at its own 39 with 4:09 left … (3:50) This looks like it could be Minnesota's final chance. Chester Taylor goes ripping off big gains, and takes the ball first to midfield, then down to the 30 at the two-minute warning. This one is going down to the end, folks … (3:54) Mike Adams makes a big play over the middle on first down to knock the ball away from Travis Taylor. Chester Taylor is stopped for a three-yard gain on second down. Troy Williamson is wide open on a delayed slant on third down … But he drops it! The play easily would have went for a first down. Now it's fourth-and-7, and this one is for the game. The Vikings go for it all, sending Bethel Johnson down the right sideline. Brad Johnson's pass is on the money, but Shawntae Spencer is right with Bethel and safety Mark Roman comes over to tip the ball away at the goal line. That's it! Can you say victory? And a surprising one at that … (3:58) The 49ers still must run out the clock, but they do it as Gore pops away for a first down, forcing Minnesota to burn all its timeouts. It's 9-3 49ers, and that's a final. The Niners reach midseason with a 3-5 record, and now their entire season takes on a whole new dimension after holding a decent Minnesota team to three measly points … Check back with SFI later this afternoon and evening for complete post-game coverage and comments.
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