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Game Preview: 5 Things to Watch When 49ers Host Vikings

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Dec. 28, 2014. That was the last time the San Francisco 49ers took the field in a regular season game.

That 261-day wait is now finally over as the 49ers are set to host the Minnesota Vikings on "Monday Night Football" in Week 1 of the 2015 season. The game marks the first Monday night contest held at Levi's® Stadium as well as the start of the Jim Tomsula coaching era for the franchise.

A San Francisco win on Monday would end Minnesota's current three-game winning streak against the 49ers and break the 22-22-1 tie in the all-time series.

This is the first matchup since 2012, a game the Vikings won, 24-13, in Minnesota.

The 49ers will greet the Vikings with a blacked out stadium featuring brand new alternate uniforms, freshly-painted end zones and a sold out crowd wearing Faithful t-shirts.

It should be a raucous affair on Monday night for the 65,000-plus on hand as well as the national TV audience watching from home.

Milestones on the horizon

  • With a win, San Francisco would extend its winning streak in season openers to five games for just the second time in franchise history (1992-96 was the other streak).
  • A win would also extend the 49ers NFL record for most wins on Monday night with 47. The team is currently 46-25 on "Monday Night Football."
  • Anquan Boldin, who currently has 940 career catches, needs three receptions on Monday night to tie Derrick Mason (943) for 13th all-time.
  • An interception for Eric Reid would give the safety a pick in each of his first three season openers.
  • A Vernon Davis touchdown catch would extend the tight end's streak to four consecutive season openers with a touchdown.

5 things to watch 1. "All-Pro Bo" vs. "All-Day AP"

The game is headlined by the return of two superstars. It's not just that NaVorro Bowman and Adrian Peterson will be active, but that they'll be seeing a lot of each other Monday night.

Minnesota has always been a team that prides itself in establishing a running game and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that his superstar running back will not be on a rep count against the 49ers.

The same goes for Bowman, who will likely play nearly every snap.

On Friday, Bowman called the matchup against Peterson the perfect challenge for his first regular season game since 2013, saying, "This is the 'back that you want to face just to see if I'm back to the level that I was at."

Everyone will be anticipating the certain clashes between the ball carrier and middle linebacker.

  1. 49ers front seven vs. Vikings o-line

If there's a "weakness" that the 49ers will be able to exploit, it may be the Vikings o-line. Minnesota will be down two starters on Monday as right tackle Phil Loadholt (Achillis) is on injured reserve and center John Sullivan (back) is on the PUP list.

That bodes well for San Francisco's defensive line, which is arguably the deepest position group on the roster. Ian Williams will have opportunities to make plays in the running game and stop Peterson against backup center Joe Berger.

Outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch will look to take advantage of rookie offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings in his first professional start at right tackle.

With a running back the caliber of Peterson and weapons in the passing game like Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Kyle Rudolph, winning at the point of attack will be crucial for the 49ers.

  1. Kaepernick and Co. in Chryst's offense

The 49ers didn't open up the playbook much in the preseason, and they didn't allow the quarterbacks to have the luxury of calling an audible. That makes it very tough to glean much of anything from the exhibition games from an offensive perspective.

That's what makes Monday night so intriguing. Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is sure to open up the playbook and unleash Colin Kaepernick against the Vikings. The 49ers quarterback has a track record of success on Monday night games, owning a 4-0 record with 1,018 passing yards, nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a 125.8 passer rating.

The game also serves as our first glimpses of Pierre Garçon as a featured back as well as Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush making their 49ers regular season debut.

  1. Who starts opposite Brock at CB?

Mum has been the word on this topic around the SAP Performance Facility. Neither Tomsula, defensive coordinator Eric Mangini nor the players themselves have shed any light on who will get the starting nod at cornerback.

Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker are the most likely candidates to run out when the defense takes the field for the first time. Regardless of who starts, both figure to see plenty of snaps against the Vikings. It will be the first regular season playing time for both second-year corners.

As for Tramaine Brock (hamstring), the team's top cornerback was a full participant in Saturday's practice and is listed as probable for the game.

  1. Will Hayne be active?

Not much to add here, but you can bet that when the inactive list comes out, all eyes will be immediately scanning for Jarryd Hayne's name. If the running back is active, it will be his first official game as an NFL player.

Similarly to the cornerback question, there hasn't been any clarity provided as to who will be returning kicks and punts against the Vikings. That decision will be a determining factor whether or not Hayne suits up.

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