In Week 1 of the 2018 NFL regular season, the San Francisco 49ers lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 24-16. Niner Noise has your full game recap, including highlights, scores and analysis.
The San Francisco 49ers’ first game of the regular season felt more like a preseason game, as mistakes, injuries and missed opportunities by the Niners helped hand the Minnesota Vikings the 24-16 victory.
While 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s play wasn’t as abysmal as his stat line would indicate, the Niners’ QB deserved the first loss of his NFL career after throwing three interceptions in the contest, including a pick-6 to Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes.
An early injury to top wideout Marquise Goodwin didn’t help Garoppolo, nor did injuries to right guards Mike Person and Joshua Garnett. Garoppolo was under pressure for most of the day, with the Vikings forcing three sacks and nine quarterback hits over the course of the matchup.
The game nearly ended when 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas was drawn offsides on a late fourth-down play, but Garoppolo received one final chance to lead his team down the field to tie the game with time expiring. Unfortunately, two plays later, pressure forced a poor pass by Garoppolo, which was intercepted by Vikings safety Harrison Smith, sealing the victory for Minnesota.
After trading punts to start the game, the Vikings got on the board first with a 48-yard field goal by rookie kicker Daniel Carlson.
After the 49ers punted again from deep in their own territory, Minnesota drove down the field, and capped their drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass from QB Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was in good position to make a play on the ball, but a veteran push-off by Diggs, and Witherspoon’s failure to recognize that the ball was in the air, put the Vikings up by two scores:
San Francisco responded with a field goal by kicker Robbie Gould, which brought the Niners back within a score of the Vikings. On Minnesota’s following drive, rookie linebacker Fred Warner forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Richard Sherman, after a nice run by Vikings running back Dalvin Cook:
The 49ers drove down the field with a meticulous 16-play drive, although they should have scored on a beautiful 50-yard toss from Garoppolo that Pettis failed to attack at its highest point, which caused the ball to be knocked out of his hands for an incomplete pass. Adding to the missed opportunity, running back Alfred Morris fumbled the ball on the Vikings’ 1-yard line 10 plays later, thus ending the 49ers’ drive.
San Francisco went three-and-out to start the second half, but the Niners’ defense quickly stopped Minnesota after defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Ronald Blair sacked Cousins to end the Vikings’ drive. After logging two sacks in the first half, Buckner nearly completed the sack hat-trick on this play:
Unfortunately for San Francisco, three plays later, Garoppolo recognized a Vikings blitz and threw into the direction of the pressure, but when when wideout Kendrick Bourne slipped after running the wrong route, it turned the play into six points for the defense:
But on the next play by the 49ers’ offense, Garoppolo — like a franchise quarterback should — put his team back in scoring range by tossing a 56-yard pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk:
San Francisco ended the drive three plays later with another Gould field goal. The Vikings answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive that put the team up 24-6, and the game nearly out of reach for the Niners. But Garoppolo responded with a 36-yard pass to tight end George Kittle, who had an earlier drop on a well thrown deep pass. Five plays later, Garoppolo avoided pressure and hit rookie wideout Dante Pettis in the back of the end zone for a toe-tapping touchdown reception:
The 49ers’ defense showed heart over the next 15 minutes of the game, forcing Minnesota to punt on four straight possessions. However, the 49ers managed positive yardage on just one of their four final possessions — a 12-play drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Gould, which put the Niners within one score of Minnesota.
Unfortunately, San Francisco failed to muster any additional offense, as the Vikings’ star safety Smith ended the following drive with a sack on a safety blitz, before finishing the Niners’ final possession with a game-ending interception.
While it was a disappointing loss for the visiting team, the San Francisco 49ers showed heart throughout the game, and demonstrated that they can compete with one of the best teams in the league. The Niners need to focus on minimizing mistakes and capitalizing on opportunities if they plan on becoming a playoff team in 2018.