Even though the 49ers did lose this game in painstaking fashion, there are plenty of positives to take away from this game. Nick Wagoner of ESPN said it best when he wrote that:
"The 49ers made mistake after mistake in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings and still they had multiple end-of-game possessions with a chance to tie it against a 2017 NFC finalist on the road … The lesson from this one: the Niners have enough on the roster to hang with a legitimate Super Bowl contender on the road but until they minimize mistakes and focus in on the details, they aren’t yet ready to make a leap to full-blown contender status."
Let’s look at some of these players who managed to shine.
DT DeForest Buckner
As is often the case with the 49ers defense, even when other aspects of the team can struggle, DeForest Buckner is always there and always reliable. He did not disappoint this game.
The supposed “breakout” year for Buckner was supposed to happen this year, even though many 49ers fans already know how good he is. The only problem with Buckner has been his sack count.
Well, check this out:
That was one half of Buckner’s 2.5 sacks, leaving him just another half a sack away from his total last year. He was an absolute monster and was everywhere in the football game, finishing with seven total tackles.
That’s unheard of from a defensive tackle.
Every week, Buckner keeps on showing us how good he can be.
MLB Fred Warner
You’re going to see a lot of defensive players on the good this week because the defense played very well, considering that the offense was practically handing the ball off to the Vikings. And one of the shining stars of this defensive performance was Fred Warner.
When Warner was announced as the starter, people were a little surprised and skeptical. I wrote that Warner needed to be poised and under control. Well, he was WAY more than that. I mean, he was outstanding.
Finishing with 12 total tackles and one key pass defense is great and all, but this is something else:
The pursuit on the play, his awareness to go for the ball, that was incredible right there. He played so well that I’m positive that he’ll be playing Week 3 versus the Kansas City Chiefs alongside Reuben Foster. He was that good.
The Coaching Staff
Even though the 49ers did lose the game, Kyle Shanahan and his crew had an incredible game plan prepared. On the defensive side of the ball, Robert Saleh had his pass rush running at a great level, and he managed to have his players play at the best of their abilities.
You can’t blame Solomon Thomas’s mistake (more on that later) on the defensive coordinator. The 49ers defense allowed only 17 points to a very good Vikings offense, plus they were missing arguably their best linebacker (Reuben Foster) and their most experienced/third best linebacker (Malcolm Smith).
Offensively, fans are complaining about the miscues and the turnovers, but keep in mind that you can’t mess up golden opportunities without scheming for them in the first place. Shanahan was getting players open quite frequently and had potential touchdowns written all over the game.
We do dock points for giving the ball to Alfred Morris after he had already fumbled (he then fumbled and was unable to recover), but all in all, the offense was put in positions to win the game. The 49ers had more first downs and only 16 less yards than the Vikings. Coaches can put players in the best position, but players have to execute.
WR Dante Pettis
This is more of a shoutout for the only 49ers touchdown so far this season. Take a look:
Pettis did drop a touchdown earlier, but after being pressed into action due to Marquise Goodwin’s injuries, he did fairly well for a rookie playing against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. On five targets, he had two catches for 61 yards and the only touchdown.
Pettis still needs to get better at making the contested catches, but it was a good start for the rookie player.
K Robbie Gould
At least the kicker’s perfect to start off the year.