Jim Harbaugh and everyone else at Candlestick Park on Sunday night saw two encouraging events: a Colin Kaepernick-led offense moving the ball with ease and a defense that created two turnovers against the oppositions's first-team offense.
Both were the storylines of the 49ers' 34-14 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings on national TV.
Yes, football fans all around the country saw the defending NFC Champion in action.
"Saw a lot of good football," Harbaugh said. "Pleased with the way the guys worked, practiced all week and then came out and played in the game."
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks helped to provide the first highlight of the night. He caused a fumble on the Vikings’ opening series – he caught the right arm of quarterback Christian Ponder – and fellow outside ‘backer Aldon Smith recovered it, handing their offense the ball at Minnesota’s 11-yard line.
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Four plays later, Phil Dawson connected on a 30-yard field goal to give the home team an early 3-0 edge.
Dawson, who also converted a 50-yard attempt less than a minute before halftime, is now 7-for-8 on kicks through three preseason games.
Running back Kendall Hunter burst through the 49ers offensive line for a 15-yard gain midway through the first quarter. Hunter, who was making his preseason debut coming back from surgery on his Achilles heel,ran for 13 yards overall on three carries.
Three plays after Hunter’s big run, on a 3rd-and-10 play, Kaepernick connected with rookie reveiver Quinton Patton for a 19-yard gain.
Kaepernick, who played just one series in the 49ers first two preseason games, completed each of his next five passes. The fifth found Patton on a drag route along the back of the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.
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The 11-play, 84-yard drive gave the 49ers a 10-0 advantage.
Kaepernick – and Frank Gore – left the game after playing three series. Kaepernick finished the game 7-for-13 for 72 yards and the score. He gave way to the first of four reserve quarterbacks, Colt McCoy.
McCoy was looking for Patton when Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway jumped in front of the wideout’s intermediate route and snatched the ball. It was McCoy’s third interception in as many exhibition games.
Five plays later, including an end-zone pass interference on reserve 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox, Ponder completed a 1-yard touchdown toss in the flat to fullback Zach Line. That cut the Vikings’ deficit to three points.
Lavelle Hawkins’ 105-yard touchdown return on Minnesota’s ensuing kickoff recouped the 10-point advantage. Hawkins, who benefited from both his teammates’ blocking and his own athleticism, was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – the offseason free-agent addition pointed the football at his Vikings pursuers as he high-stepped the within their 10-yard line before taking his helmet off in the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, safety C.J. Spillman recorded the 49ers’ second turnover. Spillman grabbed a Ponder pass that was initially intended for toward wideout Stephen Burton and deflected off the hands of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
San Francisco’s newest player Jon Baldwin – he was acquired this week from the Kansas City Chiefs –made his first catch on a four-yard pass thrown slightly behind him on the 49ers first drive of the third quarter.
McCoy connected with Baldwin again for a 19-yard gain on the team’s final series in the third quarter. Running back Jewel Hampton finished the drive on the first play of the fourth, jogging four yards into the right side of the end zone.
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The 10-play, 91-yard trip down the field stretched the 49ers lead to two touchdowns.
Hampton, who spelled Gore and entered the game after Hunter and LaMichael James, carried the ball eight times for a game-high 45 rushing yards. James left the game with what the team called an elbow injury and did not return.
McCoy went 11-for-15 passing for 109 yards and his earlier interception. He was relieved by rookie B.J. Daniels with about 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Daniels led the team on its final scoring drive, which culminated with Anthony Dixon's one-yard touchdown run on 4th down.
Dixon leapt into the end zone to secure the largest lead of the night: 20 points.
With the win, San Francisco pushed its preseason record to 2-1. The team finishes its four-game preseason slate on Thursday in San Diego against the Chargers.