Jimmy Garoppolo experienced his first loss as an NFL starting quarterback on Sunday against a team expected to be in Super Bowl contention.
The 49ers battled injuries against the Minnesota Vikings and failed to take advantage of some prime opportunities in a 24-16 loss during the opening week of the NFL regular season.
Garoppolo had a rough day. He made some errant throws and also did not receive a lot of help from his teammates. Garoppolo completed 15 of his 33 pass attempts for 261 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.
Too many mistakes
The Vikings’ defense was the best in the league last season in yards and points allowed. It’s a difficult unit to crack, and the 49ers helped them out on Sunday.
Running back Alfred Morris fumbled at the goal line in the first half as the 49ers appeared ready to tie the game at 10-10. And there were other critical mistakes, too. The 49ers’ offense had issues in the red zone, settling for Robbie Gould field goals.
Wide receivers Dante Pettis and Pierre Garçon failed to catch passes in the end zone that were in their hands. A deep pass from Garoppolo was in Pettis’ hands before cornerback Trae Waynes broke it up in the first half. (Pettis later caught a 22-yard touchdown pass.) In the third quarter, Garçon could not hold on as he made a leaping attempt in traffic.
Another potential big play was not finished, as tight end Gorge Kittle could not haul in a deep over-the-shoulder pass from Garoppolo in the third quarter. One play later, Garoppolo’s pass for Kendrick Bourne went directly into the hands of rookie cornerback Mike Hughes, who returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. Garoppolo also missed Kittle high in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the 49ers had tackling issues, and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins made some big-time throws against defensive backs who did not look back for the ball.
Warner is for real
The 49ers opened the season without the two inside linebacker who were slated to start this season. Rookie Fred Warner got the start, and there appears to be no reason to ever replace him.
Warner handled the communication duties for the 49ers’ defense. He also handled most of the tackling, too. Warner recorded nine tackles in the first half alone and forced a fumble that cornerback Richard Sherman recovered in the second quarter.
Warner’s strength at BYU was his coverage skills. But since coming to the 49ers, he has impressed with his physical play. It is easy to envision Warner and Reuben Foster lining up together for a long time.
Foster served the first game of his two-week suspension for violations of the league’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct.
Veteran Malcolm Smith was not active for the game due to a hamstring condition that has lingered since he sustained an injury on Aug. 9 in the first preseason game of the summer.
Morris, Breida share load
In the absence of Jerick McKinnon, who sustained a season-ending knee injury a week before the opener, the 49ers started Morris and mixed in Matt Breida at running back.
Morris experienced an up-and-down day as he made the 70th NFL start in his seven-year career. The veteran rushed for 38 yards on 12 carries. Breida totaled 46 yards on 11 carries.
The biggest disappointment of the day for Morris was a fumble at the goal line. Morris tried ill-advisedly to reach the ball over the goal line, but Vikings safety Harrison Smith stripped him of the ball and recovered at the 1-yard line to bring an end to a 14-play drive.