In just about every way the team could have been challenged – red zone, short-yardage, two-minute drills, you name it – the San Francisco 49ers responded with strong situational play in a 17-6 preseason win over the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
“It was a good game for that,” Jim Harbaugh said. “There was good situations in the ball game and our guys handled them very well.”
Harbaugh and the 49ers found themselves having to respond early, when he decided to go for a fourth-and-one at San Francisco’s own 47-yard line on the offense’s opening drive.
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The early conversion was a great sign according to Pro Bowl left tackle
“It was something we’ve put a lot of emphasis on this offseason, just converting on those third-and-shorts, and third downs in general,” Staley said. “I was happy with our conversions there; it’s something to build on.”
The team’s 260 rushing yards certainly bodes well for the coming season. But more importantly, the team finished out its opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass. After watching All-Pro kicker
“It felt good just to get out there playing,” said second-year running back
“It was a good start,” Staley added. “You want to come out in the first game, first series, set the tempo, something to build on. Obviously it wasn’t perfect, but it’s good to get a first-drive, scoring-drive in there. I thought we did some good things. We’ll go back watch some film and see what we can improve on.”
Defensively, the 49ers found themselves in training camp-like scenarios. With Jim Harbaugh leading several situational-based periods of practice last week, members of the defense felt supremely prepared for the preseason opener and its challenging moments.
“I tip my hat to the coaching staff for putting us in all different situations in practice,” defensive tackle
When the Vikings connected on a 52-yard pass play on their opening drive, the visiting team almost found its way into the 49ers red zone. Key word: almost.
Minnesota got down to the 21-yard line, but was turned away after Christian Ponder’s big passing play and settled for its first of two field goals.
“We may bend as a defense but as long as we don’t break and keep a team from scoring, that’s our main focus,” All-Pro linebacker
The Vikings picked up 12 first downs on the day and used many of them to move into San Francisco’s red zone on their second drive of the game.
Not to worry, Bowman and the 49ers defense held them to a second field goal.
“Winning the first game is always a good step,” Bowman said. “The young guys got out there and competed. That’s exactly what the coaches wanted to see. For us, it was a stepping stone. We’ll go back, see where we made mistakes and try to get better.”
When the first-team defense sat for the rest of the game, it was still heavily involved in the action. Bowman was overjoyed seeing the backup defenders lock down Minnesota’s reserves.
“In practice, the young guys don’t get a chance to get as many reps, but today they took advantage of it and put some good tape out there,” said Bowman, who recorded three tackles in brief action. “They got a chance to show the coaches what they can do.”
Harbaugh was pleased with the performance and said his team walked away from the game with great “data points” to review.
“No fumbled snaps, penalties were the false-start variety, some things to clean up there,” he said. “Overall, I thought our guys did a good job. I thought they were on top of their business.”
The young players will get another chance to shine this Sunday when the team returns to Candlestick Park to practice in front of the team’s Faithful Fans at 49ers Fan Fest.
Bowman enjoyed their presence in the preseason opener and will be glad to see them Sunday.
“It felt great to see the fans and get back into the atmosphere,” Bowman said. “It came back around so fast, I’m excited, I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Jean Francois agrees.
“It was good to have the fans out here. To come out here back on Sunday and see them again, that’s a double-plus.”