49ers must work on catching passes after preseason win vs. Vikings

Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) breaks up a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) breaks up a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

42. 7. 60. Final. 17

While there were plenty of takeaways from the 49ers’ second preseason game of 2022, the bout against the Vikings showed catching the ball was an issue.

The stats for San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Brock Purdy won’t tell the entire story behind their preseason Week 2 win against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.

Sudfeld and Purdy rotated drives throughout the game, each quarterback getting two series before giving way to the other in the wake of sitting starting quarterback Trey Lance, who didn’t play the game.

The two backups’ final lines in the 17-7 exhibition victory for the Niners are nevertheless a bit misleading:

  • Nate Sudfeld: 13-of-17 for 102 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 110.4 passer rating
  • Brock Purdy: 14-of-23 for 128 yards, 0 TSs, 0 INTs, 76.0 passer rating

San Francisco had all kinds of issues converting on third and fourth downs during the game, and dropped passes proved to be a massive issue. Among the guilty parties were wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who couldn’t hang onto the ball despite a nice defensive play by Vikings safety Josh Metellus, running back Trey Sermon had a pass from Purdy hit him squarely in the hands only to be dropped, and then tight end Tanner Hudson simply bobbled and dropped a pass despite being wide open.

Even standout rookie wideout Danny Gray dropped a wide-open pass early in the third quarter with no one around him.

Likewise, some shaky offensive line play didn’t help the 49ers’ preseason cause much either.

As a net result, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense went 7-of-16 on third-down tries throughout the game, at one point being 0-of-7, and converted none of their two fourth-down attempts, too. And a missed call on a should-have-been Vikings encroachment at the goal line on Purdy’s opening second-half drive resulted in a fumble that thwarted what easily could have been the Niners’ first touchdown of the game.

While there’s no scheming in exhibition games, typically, it’s safe to say Shanahan will need to put some of his offensive reserves through catching drills when the Niners get back to Levi’s Stadium.

49ers defense flashes its depth vs. Vikings

Some of the expected issues San Francisco had entering training camp on offense were on display against the Vikings, many of those revealing themselves in the two-day practices between the two teams earlier in the week such as the offensive line and running back depth.

False starts were an issue, too.

Yet the 49ers defense, starting only one first-team player in defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, was a menace for much of the game.

Kinlaw, clearly the best defender on the field for the Niners, managed a sack late in the first quarter:

Kinlaw, who only saw a little over a quarter of action, wasn’t the only defensive standout, though, as rookie EDGE Drake Jackson helped force pressure on Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond, who tossed a gift of an interception to safety George Odum.

Jackson’s day consisted of three tackles and another tipped pass after recording one in Week 1 of the preseason.

However, as is usually the case, preseason games are about evaluating players on the fringes of the roster. There were certainly some fallers during the game, yet cornerback Deommodore Lenoir arguably made an exceptionally strong case to earn a back-end spot on the depth chart.

Read More: Deommodore Lenoir can earn a roster spot with strong outing vs. Vikings

A handful of technique open-field tackles, along with key pass breakups on two separate third-down conversion attempts, should help improve his roster stock value.

Lenoir and a number of other reserve defensive backs will be under the microscope heading into San Francisco’s final preseason game of the year against the Houston Texans on Thursday, Aug. 25.

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