The Vikings made the score look close, but the statistics revealed a night of struggles in many areas, from offense to defense to special teams. Plus, get more than a dozen notes on individual performances and more.
When coaches are asked about the value of preseason, the standard answer is that the games provide a chance to see young talent and get live action for their starters to build toward when the games count.
If that's the case, the Vikings have plenty to look at on the game film from Sunday night – if they can resist the temptation to burn it after gleaning what information could be taken from it.
Where does one begin with the things that weren't good with the Vikings?
The offense had just 12 first downs and converted just 4 of 14 third-down opportunities. They were outgained 271-193 despite the 49ers sitting out offensive stars Frank Gore
, Michael Crabtree
and Vernon Davis
. The Vikings gained more yardage on 49ers penalties (92) than they did passing (79). Vikings quarterbacks got sacked four times and knocked down more than a dozen times. The 49ers quarterbacks got sacked just once.
It doesn't get any better. The Vikings' quarterbacks had just one more completion (17) than incompletions (16). The Minnesota QBs dropped to pass 37 times and netted 79 yards – slightly more than two yards per pass play.
The punt coverage team looked clueless and four players ran to the 5-yard line to try to pin the 49ers deep and nobody appeared to attempt to locate the ball, which bounced on the 10 and rolled in the end zone. Return man Asher Allen
let consecutive punts deep in his own territory bounce and get downed inside the 10-yard line and, when he did field a punt, did so with his fingertips at his shoetops.
In their two series on the field, the starting Vikings defense allowed the 49ers junior varsity offense to convert on three of four third downs. The backups allowed just three of 12 to be converted. The first time the Vikings got in the red zone, with a first down on the 19-yard line, a six-yard run by Adrian Peterson
was negated by a holding call on Chris DeGeare
and the Vikings settled for a field goal. Peterson averaged less than three yards a carry – he had 13 yards on one carry and three yards on the other five combined. The team's two leading rushers were quarterbacks scrambling for their livelihoods. Toby Gerhart
had four carries for 10 yards. The Vikings didn't have a reception of more than 15 yards. The 49ers had four different players with a catch of 15 yards or more.
Offense, defense and special teams. They all shared in Sunday night's loss and, if there is something to be learned from this, expect a tough week of practice … and then burn the game tape.
As expected, Brett Favre's initial appearance was a short one, but few thought it would last just four plays. He completed his only pass of the game on a screen to Peterson on the first play. After getting sacked, head coach Brad Childress pulled the plug.
After having a tremendous game against St. Louis, Sage Rosenfels struggled badly, completing just two of seven passes for 11 yards. While Tarvaris Jackson had a decent outing, completing seven of 11 passes, but they covered just 43 yards.
Joe Webb made the biggest play of the game for the Vikings offense with his 48-yard touchdown run. Webb finished the game leading the team in both passing and rushing – completing seven of 14 passes for 47 yards and rushing three times for 53 yards and a TD.
While the Vikings used all four of their quarterbacks, the 49ers had a simple plan – Alex Smith in the first half and Nate Davis in the second half.
49ers rookie Anthony Dixon has become Mr. Preseason for the 49ers. Allowed to carry the load in the first preseason games of the year for the Niners – rushing 21 times for 100 yards and a touchdown in a 37-17 pounding of the Colts – he was at it again Sunday, rushing 20 times for 51 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers completed 16 passes, while the Vikings completed 17 passes. Only six players caught passes for the Niners and all of them caught two or more. Of the Vikings 17 completions, they went to 12 different receivers and only one player (Peterson) had more than two. He caught three passes for 25 yards in his short tour of duty.
The touchdown allowed by the Vikings on the opening drive of the game remains the only TD allowed by the defense in two games.
It was a big night for the Henderson family. E.J. played in the first couple of series and had a hand in seven tackles (three solo, four assists). Brother Erin Henderson led the team with five solo tackles.
Neither team had a turnover in Sunday's game.
From the time he started speaking, it took play-by-play announcer Al Michaels only seven seconds to mention Favre's name – primarily because he used the first six seconds to set up that he was talking about Favre.
The 49ers started two rookies on the offensive line Sunday night and will be heading into the season with two first-year O-line starters. Don't think it can't work. The Vikings did it last year with Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan and finished 12-4.
Aside from the usual missing players Sunday, including Sullivan, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin sitting out, Pat Williams was also given the night off.
There were a couple of changes in the starting lineup. Asher Allen and Jamarca Sanford, part of the strong rookie class of 2009, got the starts over Lito Sheppard and Tyrell Johnson, respectively. Johnson played in the second half and made one of the lights-out hits of the night on rookie tight end Nate Byham.
Favre was greeted with a loud chorus of boos when he took the field.
Both teams had seven first downs in the first half. San Francisco had seven in the third quarter, while the Vikings managed none.
Of the Vikings' 11 drives during the game, seven of them went four plays or fewer.
It was another tough night for offensive tackle Chris Clark, who got beaten badly on more than a couple of plays.
Cook thought he had a touchdown when he recovered a fumble that was ruled live on the field and returned it about 85 yards for a touchdown. However, instant replay clearly showed that Dixon was down before the ball came loose and the touchdown was negated.
There were people some would call gamblers – I prefer the term degenerate gamblers – who saw money change hands on the game's final play. As with most preseason games, the 49ers (as the home team) were a three-point favorite over the Vikings. Until Webb was tackled for a safety on the final play, the bet would have been a "push" – nobody wins. But, with the safety and a 15-10 final, the 49ers covered the point spread.