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49ers Race to 17-6 Win over Vikings

Posted Aug 10, 2012



Both first and second-team offenses marched their way to first-half scoring drives Friday night in the San Francisco 49ers’ 17-6 preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings.

The impressive drives looked vastly different but still yielded the desired result. As it turned out, it was all the 49ers needed to defeat the visiting Vikings.

Alex Smith engineered a 12-play scoring drive with the first unit, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brett Swain. The drive saw the offense move the ball mostly on the ground despite being without the services of Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore who was given the night off. Reserve runners Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs combined for 50 rushing yards on an 84-yard scoring drive that took 7:21 off the clock.

“We ran the ball really well on the opening drive and for the whole game,” Smith said. “Obviously, the offensive line did really well… I don’t know what the yards per rush was, but I’m sure it was pretty high.”

Not just a power back, Jacobs picked up a 23-yard run on the opening drive, following starting fullback Bruce Miller’s lead block to break loose around the right side of Minnesota’s first-team defense. The free-agent addition also converted first downs on all four of his carries, including ones on fourth-and-one at midfield and a second-and-one in the red zone.

“Brandon Jacobs looked really light on his feet,” Jim Harbaugh said. “He got the big run, was able to bounce it outside. I thought he did a great job – very encouraged, very happy with the way that he has assimilated into the team… I think it has been a good fit. He certainly is one guy that really had a highlight night tonight.”

After Hunter and Jacobs moved the team inside the 5-yard line, Smith finished the drive with a short touchdown pass to Swain, who got behind the coverage of Vikings cornerback Chris Carr in the back left corner of the end zone.

“I didn’t throw that great of a ball,” said Smith, who completed all three of his passes on the night for 16 yards. “Brett did a great job outside, won with his release and it was good enough.”

The 49ers running trend continued with second-team quarterback Colin Kaepernick at the helm. The second-team offense, however, scored its touchdown much differently than the starters. This scoring drive lasted just two plays thanks to Kaepernick’s highlight-worthy 78-yard touchdown run at start of the second quarter.

“I was on the other side, blocking my dude and heard the crowd go crazy,” said Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley who remained in the game along with the entire starting offensive line. “I looked up and he was already on the 10-yard line. I was blocking my guy that long, or that short, depending on how fast he was running.”

Kaepernick entered the game to start the second quarter. Two plays later, the second-year quarterback dashed off to his impressive rushing score while leading a no-huddle attack. Kaepernick faked a hand-off to rookie LaMichael James and then followed Swain’s block around the right edge to find daylight.

“I look up and I see 11 defenders, so I look over and he’s gone,” James said. “Credit to him, he’s a fast runner, he made the right read and took off.”

Kaepernick played the entire second quarter, completing 5-of-9 passes for 40 yards to go with 92 rushing yards.

Defensively, much was the same for San Francisco’s first-string defense as it was last season when Vic Fangio’s unit finished as the league’s second-best scoring unit. Though Minnesota’s second-year quarterback Christian Ponder connected with wide receiver Stephen Burton on a 52-yard passing play on Minnesota’s first offensive series, the unit toughened up in the red zone holding the Vikings to a 39-yard field goal from Blair Walsh.

Justin Smith, like Gore, sat out of the game as a precaution, and still, the defense remained stout. The unit held up the second time around in the red zone, limiting the Vikings to a 26-yard field goal.

“It was good to finally go up against another team,” said fourth-year defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois who started in Smith’s place. “We did a good job for this first preseason game. I almost feel like we gave up more yards than we usually do, but for a first preseason game you have to work out the kinks. We’ll go in on Sunday and look at what we need to correct.”

The 49ers held the Vikings to 12 first downs, 82 rushing yards, recorded a fourth-quarter interception and totaled four sacks, led by reserve linebacker Eric Bakhtiari’s two-sack performance.

The only setback for the defense was second-year linebacker Aldon Smith, who made the start at right outside linebacker, exiting the second series with a bruised hip. Harbaugh said the early prognosis was positive and the team might have “dodged a bullet.”

This year’s first-round pick, A.J. Jenkins, recorded his first professional catch on a 15-yard, deep sideline hookup with Kaepernick.  The play helped the offense set up rookie kicker Giorgio Tavecchio’s 29-yard field goal to cap the 12-play, 47-yard scoring drive to close out the first half.

At the half, the 49ers led 17-6, racking up 198 rushing yards on the ground. Conversely, the defense excelled, holding the Vikings to just 59 rushing yards.

No points were scored in the second half, but third-team quarterback Scott Tolzien looked strong in relief completing 10-of-13 passes for a team-high 84 passing yards.

Tolzien led the 49ers into the red zone late in the third quarter, but was intercepted by Vikings linebacker Solomon Elimimian at the start of the fourth. As a result, Minnesota took over at San Francisco’s 17-yard line but couldn’t move the ball down the field.

Vikings reserve quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who was with the 49ers last training camp, threw an interception in front of the visitor’s sideline late in the fourth quarter. New 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox continued his impressive play by making a low diving catch with 2:38 left in the game.

Josh Johnson, who entered the game in the fourth quarter, drove the 49ers down to the 1-yard line. Instead of tacking on more points, the team kneeled three teams to end the game.

“They want to score, they want to keep playing,” Harbaugh admitted, “But elected to be prudent, and not see anybody get hurt on the last three plays of the game if we don’t have to. We take a knee and the game’s over, so chose that option.”