Sports 49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 24-16 loss to Vikings

Sports

The 49ers dropped their season opener, 24-16 to the Vikings, and since Sunday was the first day in the school that is the NFL season, it’s time to pass out some grades.

Sports Rushing Offense

The 49ers had to play all seven of their active offensive linemen after starting right guard Mike Person and backup Joshua Garnett exited with foot injuries. So it’s probably not a big surprise that the 49ers struggled to gain consistency on the ground.

Matt Breida gained 46 yards on 11 attempts, and Alfred Morris added 38 yards on 12 carries. The big mistake was Morris’ first-half fumble at the goal line.

Grade: D

Sports Passing Offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 261 yards, but he completed less than 50 percent of his attempts and was charged with three interceptions. Kendrick Bourne admitted to running a wrong route, which contributed to one of Garoppolo’s passes going for a pick six.

Many other chances got away, including Dante Pettis and Pierre Garçon failing to come up with possible touchdown receptions. George Kittle dropped a deep pass that could’ve gone for a TD, and Garoppolo overthrew him when he was open in the end zone another time. Pettis’ first NFL reception was a 22-yard TD at the end of a Garoppolo scramble drill.

Grade: D-minus

Sports Rushing Defense

Explosive Vikings running back Dalvin Cook managed just 2.5 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts, and Latavius Murry was held under 4 yards per carry, too. So, although the 49ers had some tackling issues, the run defense was tight.

Linebacker Fred Warner covered up a mistake on defense when he punched the ball out of Cook’s grasp. Richard Sherman recovered the fumble for the 49ers’ only takeaway of the game.

Grade: B-plus

Sports Passing Defense

Kirk Cousins threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns — both on plays when defenders Ahkello Witherspoon and Jaquiski Tartt didn’t look back for the ball in the air. DeForest Buckner had a huge game with 2 ½ sacks. He had just three sacks all of last season.

Linebacker Brock Coyle did not have a great day in coverage (and later left the game with a concussion), and the secondary had too many mixups.

Grade: B-minus

Sports Special Teams

Robbie Gould connected on field goals of 42, 33 and 22 yards, as he was forced to take over when the offense stalled. Punter Bradley Pinion averaged a solid 41.8 yards net on his four punts. Pettis muffed a punt, but the 49ers recovered the ball, and he averaged 7 yards on two returns.

Grade: B

Sports Overall

Sure, the 49ers hung in the game until the final minute against a Vikings team that has Super Bowl aspirations. But this was a sloppy performance with some bright spots mixed in. The four turnovers were costly. And when the 49ers had opportunities to make game-changing plays, they did not come through. The defensive effort was good, but there also were a lot of missed tackles.

There’s no shame in losing to the Vikings, but the 49ers let this one get away from them.

Grade: C-minus

The first week of the fantasy football season is all but over, so it’s time to start thinking about Week 2. 

Whether you need to replace a stud who suffered an injury, or just want to keep a player out of your opponent’s hands, it’s vital to stay active on the waiver wire. Here are four flex-eligible players to keep in mind for waiver claims Tuesday morning, all of whom have plenty of upside and are owned in fewer than 15 percent of Yahoo and ESPN fantasy leagues. 

Sports T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars RB (14 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, 7.9 percent owned in ESPN)

Yeldon was pressed into action when Leonard Fournette went down with an injury to his right hamstring in the second quarter, and filled in admirably. He rushed for 51 yards, added 18 receiving, and caught three passes, including a touchdown against the New York Giants. The running back led Jacksonville with seven targets, to boot. 

The severity of Fournette’s injury is still not known, but Yeldon is worth claiming just in case, especially if you’re playing in a PPR league and/or have Fournette. He averaged 47.7 total yards and three catches per game last season as the No. 2 back, and those numbers are sure to increase if he’s once again Jacksonville’s top option out of the backfield. 

Sports Phillip Dorsett, New England Patriots WR (4 percent owned in Yahoo, 4.6 percent owned in ESPN)

With Julian Edelman still out for three more games due to his suspension, Dorsett emerged as an early favorite for Tom Brady in Week 1. He hauled in all seven of his targets for 66 yards against the Houston Texans, and added a receiving touchdown. 

You’re throwing darts at a board with any of the Patriots receivers this early in the season, but there’s some sustainability to Dorsett’s game. He finished third behind tight end Rob Gronkowski (nine) and running back James White (eight) in targets, and those two were second and fourth, respectively, last season. At the very least, Dorsett looks like a frontrunner for the No. 2 spot behind Edelman. 

Sports Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos RB (3 percent owned in Yahoo, 1.9 percent owned in ESPN)

Lindsay finished with the same exact rushing line (15 carries, 71 yards, no touchdowns) Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks as preseason darling Royce Freeman. The first-year back edged fellow rookie Freeman in the receiving game, grabbing two catches on three targets for 31 yards and a touchdown.

You don’t want to read too much into a rookie’s first game, but consider the following: the Minnesota Vikings targeted running backs 129 times from Week 2 onward last season. Week 2, of course, was when current Broncos starter Case Keenum took over as signal-caller. As long as Lindsay and Freeman are splitting carries, the former’s upside in the passing game may ultimately make him a superior option.

Sports Dante Pettis, San Francisco 49ers WR (1% owned in Yahoo, 0.8 owned in ESPN)

Consider Pettis a fallback, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 49ers rookie. Pettis became the first 49er since Vernon Davis in 2006 to catch a touchdown pass in his NFL debut. Plus, his five targets were fourth-most on the day, and the second-most by a rookie receiver in franchise history.

Marquise Goodwin left the 24-16 loss to the Vikings early with a quad injury, and his absence would seemingly keep the door open for Pettis. His big-play ability makes him worth a flyer, especially for Goodwin owners in need of insurance. 

MINNEAPOLIS — While most of the disappointment in the 49ers’ locker room Sunday stemmed from the team’s offensive struggles, coach Kyle Shanahan believed his team’s defense generally played well enough to win.

The 49ers opened the season with a 24-16 loss to the Vikings in which the defense got off to an encouraging start.

“I thought our pass rush was good,” Shanahan said. “We held them to 17 points [on offense]. Holding that team to 17 points, I thought that would be good enough for us to win.

“I thought we could have tackled a little bit better, from what I saw, but I thought they played good enough to win.”

The Vikings outgained the 49ers 343 yards to 327. Minnesota ran 10 more plays from scrimmage than the 49ers, who had 20 first downs to the Vikings’ 19.

“I think we played all right,” said 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who recorded 2½ of the 49ers’ three sacks of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

“We have to clean up a lot of stuff on defense, especially tackle. We had a lot of missed tackles. We just have to stay more disciplined.”

Rookie linebacker Fred Warner had a strong NFL debut, checking in with a team-high 12 tackles and one forced fumble.

“Middle linebacker is one of the toughest positions to come in as a rookie and play and be effective,” 49ers veteran cornerback Richard Sherman said. “I think he did an admirable job.”

Warner certainly appears to be capable of becoming a fixture in the 49ers’ defense for a long time. The 49ers have yet to see veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith, who signed a contract on the first day of free agency in 2017 and still hasn’t stepped onto the field for a regular-season game.

Smith was inactive Sunday with a hamstring injury after missing all of last season with a torn pectoral. Smith’s replacement, Brock Coyle, was diagnosed with a concussion. Coyle now must pass through the NFL’s return-to-play protocol in order to be eligible to play next week against the Lions. Reuben Foster is serving a two-game suspension and isn’t eligible to return until the Week 3 game at the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sunday’s game featured the return of Sherman, whose final season with the Seahawks ended in early November because of an Achilles tear.

“I felt fine,” Sherman said. “It’s a mental game just as much as it’s a physical game, and the concepts they were running were relatively simple. I put myself in position to be successful. I took my risks here and there where I had the opportunity to figure the plays out.”

Cousins completed 20 of 36 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Most of his big plays appeared to come on busted coverage, where the 49ers’ secondary left Vikings receivers all alone. Cousins delivered his TD passes to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph before 49ers defenders Ahkello Witherspoon and Jaquiski Tartt could turn to look for the ball.

“Of course you want guys to look back and make that play,” Shanahan said. “I definitely think there were some we could have, but when you get beat off the line early in a play, then those are the ones you can’t.”

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