The San Francisco 49ers started off their 2018 regular-season campaign with a 24-16 loss on the road to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the defeat, there are some positive takeaways for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.


If the 2015 or 2016 San Francisco 49ers had played this Week 1 bout against a Super Bowl-contending Minnesota Vikings squad with the same context, the Niners would have been blown out by 20-plus points by halftime.

So the fact head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad was within one score in the waning minutes of their eventual 24-16 loss to Minnesota to kick off the 2018 campaign has to be a good thing, right? After all, despite the Vikings seemingly dominating the action at the line of scrimmage and within the secondary, the 49ers were able to hang around and stay in the game well into the fourth quarter.

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That's a positive, especially considering the differences in talent between San Francisco and Minnesota.

The Bad


Good things can wait, bad things can't. Let's start there.

Interestingly enough, it was the Niners offensive playmakers who mostly let the team down on Sunday. Wide receivers Dante Pettis and Pierre Garçon each dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone, while tight end George Kittle had a costly drop that would have gone for a touchdown had he held onto the ball and was able to outrun his Vikings defender -- which he had beat.

Those drops, along with a 1-of-4 mark in the red zone, sure will make Shanahan frustrated on the flight back to Santa Clara. And when paired with how close this contest ended up being, it could easily wind up being one of those "what if?" games by season's end.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't good, by any account. But his less-than-50-percent completion mark, along with his three-interception game, isn't entirely on him. On Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes' pick-six touchdown off Garoppolo, second-year Niners wide receiver Kendrick Bourne later admitted he had ran the wrong route and Garoppolo threw the pass exactly where it needed to be:


"Anytime you throw an interception, it's always on the quarterback," Garoppolo said after the game. "With all the things that went bad, we still had a shot at the end there."

Still, Garoppolo isn't the only one to blame. San Francisco's defense, while mostly doing its job and holding the Vikings to fewer than 350 all-purpose yards, missed more than a few tackles and had difficulty containing Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins on a number of third-down scrambles that went for first downs.

And Niners defensive backs could have done a better job turning their heads around on passes intended for their receivers in coverage. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jaquiski Tartt and K'Waun Williams were all guilty of not getting their heads around. Two of those passes went for touchdowns too, hurting a little more.

Plus injuries. They're never good. Offensive guards Joshua Garnett and Mike Person both suffered foot injuries, while Brock Coyle appeared to suffer a head injury. None of the three returned to action. Meanwhile, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin suffered a quad injury but managed to return to action later.

The Good


Wins and losses are the ultimate determining factor, but Garoppolo was still able to outpass Cousins -- 261 yards against 244 -- doing so against the Vikings' top-ranked defense from a year ago.

One of those Niners drives was particularly impressive -- a 14-play, 69-yard drive that ultimately led to running back Alfred Morris' costly fumble on the 1-yard line, which the Vikings recovered. Still, that drive ate up over eight minutes of clock time and helped save the 49ers defense from being on the field for a longer period of time.

Now, just to find pay dirt in the red zone...

Perhaps a red-zone weapon emerges, however, particularly after Pettis logged one of the more impressive touchdown catches seen around the league in Week 1. And credit to Garoppolo for evading pressure and finding his target in the end zone:


Definitely impressive from the rookie, who had a few early jitters but finished with this positive.

Perhaps the 49ers' biggest and best standouts, however, came on the defensive side of the ball between third-year defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and the rookie, linebacker Fred Warner.

Buckner was a wrecking ball up the middle right away, finishing the contest with 2.5 sacks, which is a mere half a sack behind his entire 2017 total. Pretty sure Buckner surpasses that here soon.

Meanwhile, Warner ended up with a team-leading 12 tackles, one for a loss, along with a quarterback hit and a forced fumble. He got the start at MIKE linebacker in the wake of Malcolm Smith's hamstring injury, and it's safe to say the rookie won't likely give it back anytime soon.

A loss is frustrating, for sure. But the reality is San Francisco is quite a ways behind the level Minnesota is right now, both in terms of talent and cohesion. Add on the fact the Niners played in a very hostile environment at U.S. Bank Stadium and kept it within one score is also worth pointing out.

The 49ers have a chance to get back to the .500 mark in Week 2 at home against the Detroit Lions at Levi's Stadium.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.