Maiocco's Instant Replay: Vikings 24, 49ers 13


Maiocco's Instant Replay: Vikings 24, 49ers 13

MINNEAPOLIS -- The 49ers opened the season with strong showings against teams expected to be atop the NFC North.But their romp through the division came to an end Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings thoroughly out-performed the 49ers in a 24-13 victory in their home dome.Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder made the 49ers' defense look ordinary, and the 49ers' offense could not string anything together against Minnesota.The 49ers (2-1) opened the season with outstanding performances against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions before falling to a team expected to again finish last in the NFC North. The Vikings were the only team in the division to finish with a losing record last season at 3-13.This was the kind of game in which no area of the 49ers won their battles . . . from coaching to offense, defense and special teams.Costly penalties: The Vikings took a 24-13 lead early in the fourth quarter with a lot of help from the 49ers' defense. The 49ers committed two unnecessary-roughness penalties, including a half-the-distance penalty on safety Dashon Goldson on an uncatchable pass with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on tight end Kyle Rudolph. Two plays later, Carlos Rogers was called for defensive holding in the end zone. The Vikings scored on Christian Ponder's 2-yard pass to Rudolph.Offensive turnovers: Down 11 points in the fourth quarter, 49ers running back Frank Gore fumbled and gave the Vikings the ball at midfield. The 49ers went 30 regular-season quarters without a turnover on offense, dating back to the second quarter of their Thanksgiving Day game last season against the Baltimore Ravens. The turnovers weren't over yet. Alex Smith, who set a franchise record with 249 straight passes without an interception, saw his streak come to an end as well, as his pass intended for a wide-open Michael Crabtree sailed high and into the hands of Vikings defensive back Josh Robinson. Plays later, after the 49ers recovered a Toby Gerhart fumble, Alex Smith was stripped of the ball on a sack by Jared Allen and the ball was recovered by the Vikings. Three turnovers in all...
Something to Ponder: Ponder made a fantastic 1-yard touchdown throw to Rudolph on a bootleg under pressure from Dashon Goldson in the first quarter on a fourth-down play. Then, Ponder scrambled 23 yards up the middle for a touchdown midway through the second quarter as the Vikings led 17-3 at halftime. Ponder made the vaunted 49ers' defense look ordinary. Ponder completed 15 of 23 passes for 143 yards in the first half.Moss connection: Quarterback Alex Smith tried to get the ball to Randy Moss in the first half, but overshot him high three times on incomplete passes. Moss was making his first appearance in Minnesota as a visiting player. He received a loud reaction -- mostly cheers -- when he was introduced as part of the 49ers' starting lineup. Moss got his first starting assignment with the 49ers on Sunday. Moss had two catches for 15 yards in the first half, but he could've had a lot more.Notes: Kyle Williams gave the 49ers a little life at the opening of the second half with a 94-yard kickoff return to the Vikings' 14-yard line. But the 49ers settled for David Akers' second 29-yard field-goal of the game. He had a 50-yard return at the start of the fourth quarter. . . The 49ers inactive players were QB Scott Tolzien, WRs A.J. Jenkins and Ted Ginn (right ankle), RBs Brandon Jacobs (left knee) and LaMichael James, OL Joe Looney and NT Ian Williams. . . Rookie TE Garrett Celek suited up for the first time, as did OLB Eric Bakhtiari.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.