Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs. Vikings Preview: Quite Soon, We’ll Be Well Upon Our Way

Bret Rumbeck
Sep 6, 2018 at 7:32 PM


San Francisco 49er fans across the globe have suffered an arduous nine months. The team finished the 2017 season winning five straight games, giving the Faithful an injection of pure hope into the main arterial.

The 49ers made a series of moves to improve on offense and defense, with the goal of extending last year's winning streak, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's undefeated record, well into the 2018 season. Indeed, this year's team has the tools and talent to post a winning record.

The group that's been overlooked is the men who make up the defensive line. After the roster moves, it's clear the 49ers do not have a weak link among these warriors. I'm also happy to see rookie Mike linebacker Fred Warner get his first NFL start this Sunday. With the defensive line, Warner and second-year linebacker Reuben Foster, I would not be surprised to see the 49ers have a top-ten ranked run defense by the end of the season.

Unfortunately, the 49ers lost starting running back Jerick McKinnon to a season-ending knee injury. The new holy trinity of Alfred Morris, Matt Breida, and Kyle Juszczyk will undergo a trial by fire and must find a way to bring balance to the offense.

Currently, the 49ers are six-and-a-half point underdogs to the Vikings. Here are two ways the 49ers can win and two ways the 49ers could lose the opening game of the 2018 season.

The 49ers Win If…


They Score Fast and Exploit Weaknesses
I have always championed a team opening the first offense with a series of explosive plays. Think of the first play of the season like the initial question to a job interview. You want to start with your best stuff immediately to make an impression; entering with a shoe-gaze attitude doesn't move the needle.

This year's 49ers need to set the tone on Sunday; opening with a few outside zone runs, a quick out route, and slant-flat combination doesn't cut the mustard. It's time to get on the board twice in the first quarter and keep gas pedal floored for the remainder of the game.

I'd like to see head coach Kyle Shanahan open with a deep play-action pass, or a play with just a small amount of trickery to put the Vikings' defense on its heels for the afternoon.

Moreover, the 49ers need to exploit the weak links in the Vikings defense. If the Vikings send rookie defensive back Mike Hughes on the field for a series, the offense needs to call a route combination that forces the rookie to be indecisive.

The Secondary Intercepts Kirk Cousins Twice
I have no doubt the defensive line can sack Vikings' quarterback Kirk Cousins a few times on Sunday. But the 49ers' secondary feels primed for a big game, and it is emanating the vibrations of a volatile red giant star that is ready to explode into the ethos.

Why not channel that fury and put the fear of failure and piercing sliver of nagging doubt in Cousins' brain with at least two interceptions?

In fact, there is nothing I'd like more than to see veteran cornerback Richard Sherman intercept Cousins early in the game. Cousins is not the quarterback some think he is, and nothing would make me happier than to see the 49ers' secondary put the quarterback's soft play on the evening highlight reel.

The 49ers Lose If…


Special Teams Fails to Score A Touchdown
Fun fact: The last time the 49ers returned a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown was in 2011. Wide receiver Ted Ginn ran a kickoff 102-yards for a touchdown and followed it up a sixty seconds later with a 55-yard punt return for six points. (Pro Football Reference)

Since then, the 49ers have played 111 regular season games, Congress has reformed the nation's tax code and the Chicago Cubs won a World Series.

For all the talk of an upgraded roster – which is accurate – there is no talk of the 49ers improving the return game.

Punt and kickoff touchdowns are the plays that can stop momentum or put a game out of reach. The 49ers cannot skimp on touchdowns this season. With an unknown run game, the special teams unit must score points and shift the game back in favor of the 49ers.

The Interior Line Regresses
On Tuesday, September 4, the 49ers released an unofficial depth chart. Eight-year veteran Mike Person won the job to start at right guard.

I applaud Shanahan for allowing a fair and open competition for right guard. Person had a solid preseason, playing in three preseason games, allowed one hit, one hurry, and two pressures (Pro Football Focus). He certainly earned the right to run with the first squad.

Left guard Laken Tomlinson also had a positive preseason, allowing just two hurries and two pressures.

Person is an underrated guard. According to Pro Football Focus, he's had 1,337 career snaps and has not allowed a single sack. Over that time, he's only allowed two quarterback hits, 23 hurries, and 25 pressures.

Entering his fourth season, Tomlinson has twice as many career snaps as Person – 2,675 to be exact – but allowed 11 sacks, 14 hits, 64 hurries and 89 pressures. Last year, he allowed four sacks, 29 hurries and 39 pressures. (Pro Football Focus)

Like it or not, the guard position is the soft underbelly of the 49ers' offense. Tomlinson played well at the end of last season but was unreliable for ten straight games. Person has put up impressive career numbers but lacks the experience typically seen in an eight-year veteran. The 49ers' offense will only go as far as its interior offensive line can carry it. If neither guard can hold off the Vikings' attack, then do not expect the 49ers to leave Minnesota with a victory.

Final Prediction

I've gone back and forth with the final score, and believe the 49ers will cover the spread, but will fall by three points on Sunday. The injury to McKinnon leaves the 49ers without a solid running attack and a reliable back to include in the passing game.

Final score: Minnesota 27 San Francisco 24
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers-Vikings Injury Report: Elijah Mitchell returns to practice, reinforcements could be on the way

By David Bonilla
Nov 24

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for their Week 12 contest against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. A look at new 49ers practice squad WR Devin Funchess, No. 14. (He missed his first target in an SF uniform, though the throw seemed a tad off) pic.twitter.com/iCf0TaZYrg— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) November 24,



'We needed our playmakers to make plays': Fred Warner shares details of 49ers' players-only meeting

By David Bonilla
Nov 18

The San Francisco 49ers defense knew it had to step up after an embarrassing performance in Week 9 against an injury-depleted Arizona Cardinals team. No one was giving them a chance against a potent Los Angeles Rams offense, but the entire team stepped up, and the 49ers routed their division rival 31-10. Linebacker Fred Warner, defensive lineman Arik Armstead, and safety Jimmie Ward, the 49ers' team captains on defense, met the night before the primetime matchup to discuss what needed to change. Later, they addressed the rest of the defense. "Sunday night before the Monday game, [defensive coordinator] DeMeco [Ryans] had asked for us three captains on the defense, me, Jimmie, and Arik, to just speak to the defense," Warner told NBC Sports Bay Area. "And I asked



49ers' Kyle Shanahan says surgeries for Mike McGlinchey, Javon Kinlaw 'went real well'

By David Bonilla
Nov 26

The season ended prematurely for offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. McGlinchey suffered a torn quad in the San Francisco 49ers' November 7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Kinlaw has been dealing with a knee injury that was initially sustained at the end of last season. He recently underwent ACL reconstruction. "Evaluation of the knee in surgery confirmed suspicions that the ACL had chronic changes that would be best treated with ACL reconstruction," read a joint statement from the 49ers medical staff, Dr. Tim McAdams, and Dr. Neal ElAttrache. "This procedure gives him the best opportunity to make a full recovery and return to



49ers set tone of dominance with long opening drive against Jaguars, even if it didn't end the way they wanted

By Kirk Larrabee
Nov 21

As was the case against the Los Angeles Rams last week, the San Francisco 49ers sent a loud, and clear message right off the bat in their 30-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday with a long opening drive that quickly established their dominance and set the tone for what would take place the rest of the game—even if what happened at the end of the drive felt somewhat disappointing. Whereas last week's opening drive in the 49ers' 31-10 win over the Rams came off a turnover and ended in a touchdown after lasting 18 plays, 93 yards, and eleven minutes and three seconds, this week's opening drive came after the opening kickoff and took up thirteen minutes and five seconds while spanning 20 plays and 87 yards before the 49ers took a 3-0 lead on a 20-yard Robbie


Featured

More by Bret Rumbeck

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone