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49ers Fall 24-13 in Minnesota

Posted Sep 23, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Vikings outgained the 49ers, out-executed the visiting team and produced more touchdowns on scoring drives in a 24-13 victory.

San Francisco committed more penalties and had more turnovers in the team’s first loss of the 2012 regular season, too.

“The Vikings did a better job all the way around,” Jim Harbaugh said after his team fell to 2-1 on the season. “We didn’t get it done.”

Red zone production told the story, but not exactly all of it.

The 49ers were 1 for 3 in red zone opportunities, while the Vikings scored on both of their two red zone possessions. As a result, San Francisco must rally together while spending a week in Youngstown, Ohio, as they prepare for next Sunday’s road game against the New York Jets.

“I know this team, we’re a fighting team and we’ll continue to fight,” said tight end Vernon Davis, who caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith, giving him at least one receiving score in all three games this year and four on the season.

Davis’ score was one of the few highlights on the day for the visiting club.

In the early stages of the game, it seemed like Christian Ponder came to steal the show in Randy Moss’ return to Minnesota. In the first half alone, the second-year quarterback completed 15 of 23 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. He also added 33 rushing yards, including a 23-yard scramble for a score and was not sacked on the afternoon.

By game’s end, Ponder had completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers.

“He had a fine game,” Harbaugh said of Ponder. “He played well, did some good things with his feet.”

By comparison, Smith was 24 of 35 with 204 yards and two turnovers, a fumble and an interception.

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson picked off a fourth-quarter Smith pass with the 49ers looking to make a late comeback while trailing by 11.

It was Smith’s first interception in 249 pass attempts, ending his franchise record of most passes without throwing a pick. Smith also lost a fumble on a Jared Allen sack, giving him his first lost fumble since last a road loss last Thanksgiving against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I threw it early,” Smith said of the intercepted pass intended for Crabtree. “Obviously, would like to have that one back.”

Undoubtedly, the 49ers would love to have many plays back.

In total, Minnesota ran 18 more offensive plays (76 to 58), outgained the 49ers (344 to 280), recorded five fewer penalties and had one fewer turnover.

“There’s going to be good, there’s going to be bad,” Harbaugh explained, “today was a bad day. We will not sulk a bit, complain a bit, can’t complain, point fingers, just have to suck it up and we’ll do that.”

It was hard for San Francisco to seize momentum early, not when Ponder led the Vikings on three first-half scoring drives to give Minnesota a 17-3 halftime lead.

The second half, however, started with a bang when Kyle Williams fielded the opening kick-off deep in his end zone and brought it out all the way to Minnesota 14-yard line.

“We felt he was someone who could give us a spark there,” Harbaugh said of the decision to insert Williams as a kickoff returner for Kendall Hunter.

The 49ers, however, could not pick up a first down, nor did they score a touchdown with quality field position. As a result, David Akers connected on a 29-yard field goal to make it a 17-6 game.

San Francisco kept the momentum by forcing Minnesota to a three-and-out. Smith led the team on a 9-play, 86-yard scoring drive capped by his 1-yard touchdown to Davis touchdown.

On the drive, Smith completed all six of his passes for 70 yards.

“It’s not like us to go out and lose like that,” Davis said after the game. “I have to watch the film and see the mistakes we made before I critique the game. ... They came out to play, they came out to win. All we can do is respect that, get back in the office and get better.”

Davis finished the game with five catches for 53 yards. Crabtree added six catches for 40 yards and Mario Maningham caught five passes for 56 yards. On the ground, Frank Gore picked up 63 yards on 12 carries, but lost a crucial fumble midway through the fourth quarter.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was mostly contained on the day, rushing 25 times for 86 yards. His backup, Toby Gerhart, fumbled twice in the fourth quarter with Minnesota looking to run down the clock.

The 49ers had opportunities, but gave the ball right back with Smith’s interception and fumble late in the game.

Despite the setback, the 49ers did see Moss move up the NFL record books.

On Davis’ scoring drive, Moss also caught a 12-yard pass which moved him into fourth place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list (14,946), behind Issac Bruce (15,208), Terrell Owens (15,934) and Jerry Rice (22,895). All four players spent parts of their career with the 49ers, too.

“I know the Vikings always play teams tough, especially when they’re an underdog,” Moss said after the game, wearing his 49ers-issued blue-collared shirt. “We got the Jets coming up, we’ll clean it up and see where we can go from there.”

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