A lot went wrong for the 49ers Sunday in the loss to the Vikings. San Francisco turned the ball over four times, suffered key injuries and receivers dropped a few passes that could have resulted in big plays or scores.
But one thing that went right was improved play by a defensive unit that had big holes in 2017. The 49ers held the Vikings’ potent offense to 17 points in a 24-16 loss and, even without star linebacker Reuben Foster, looked much more active.
One thing that definitely went right was the debut of rookie linebacker Fred Warner of BYU. Playing in Foster’s middle linebacker spot, Warner had 12 tackles (including one for loss), a forced fumble, a quarterback hit and a batted pass. Warner will continue to start on the inside until Foster’s return in Game 4. His play against the Vikings showed that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will need to find a spot for him when Foster and veteran Malcolm Smith (out with an injury) are back.
Warner called plays in the defensive huddle as well as handling his own responsibilities. The fumble he forced from Vikings running back Dalvin Cook came after a long run by Cook, and was recovered by cornerback Richard Sherman.
Niners defensive tackle DeForest Buckner liked what he saw of Warner.
“Fred did an amazing job today,” Buckner told Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. “He really communicated well with everybody.”
Added Sherman: “(Warner) was fine. Middle linebacker is one of the toughest positions to come in as a rookie and play and be effective. And I think he did an admirable job.”
Warner was encouraged by his experience, and also by what he saw from his defensive mates.
As the 49ers get ready to play host to the Detroit Lions in Week 2, Warner is optimistic.
“I feel like we have an outstanding team,” Warner told reporters. “We have all the guys. We have the mindset. We just need to make sure we go out and do it on Sundays.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium is set for 1:05 p.m.