That popular LL Cool J rap lyric is probably an accurate collective response the San Francisco 49ers could use to reply to the critiques and naysayers, the multitude of NFL analysts, self-proclaimed experts (fantasy bloggers) and off-season bandwagon-leapers after their 20-3 domination of the Minnesota Vikings in the second of two Monday Night Football games. Let them tell it, WE NEVER LEFT! …And yes, they’re in this writer’s NFC West basement as well, and I’m sticking to it.
So we waited and waited for the return of ex-NFL MVP, multi-Pro Bowler and future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. Heck, we can wait a little longer, can’t we? Throughout the last NFL game of Week 1 play, that’s exactly what the 49ers insisted that AP fans do as they held him to the mediocre status of mere humans with a 10-31-3.1(runs-yards-avg) stat line. In his defense, it had been 372 days since he last toted the rock, also a mortal display against St. Louis. I dare anyone to face the Rams’ D, then carry an industrial-size sack of drama, legal and social baggage on their back for a year and look as fresh as Farmer’s Market lettuce, especially with NaVorro Bowman returning healthy and hunting you down every chance he gets.
On the flip side, however, it was The Carlos Hyde Show as he racked up a total of 168 yards on 26 carries for an average of 6.5 yards per carry and two touchdowns in his NFL season debut behind an O-line that did an admirable job. It helped that RB Reggie Bush was carted off early in the game, but Carlos deserves credit for his instinctive moves and vision. Admittedly, he wanted to outplay the legend, Peterson, and he not only did that but made top billing while making one of the all-time greats an afterthought.
FIRST QUARTER: The 49ers’ ball-controlled opening drive used up nearly six minutes but ended in disappointment when Minnesota blocked kicker Phil Dawson’s 28-yard field goal attempt and CB Marcus Sherels, also a special teams player, returned it 44 yards. Four plays later, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 44-yard field goal attempt outright. Towards the end of the quarter, the popular Australian Pro Rugby star Jarryd Hayne dropped the ball, literally, in his first real punt return attempt. The Vikings then failed to pick up three yards on a 4th and 3 call. SCORE: 49ers 0, Vikings 0
SECOND QUARTER: Neither team could accomplish much throughout until a 20-yard pass play from Kaepernick to TE Garrett Celek eventually led to a 10-yard run for score by running back Carlos Hyde with 47 seconds left in a first half that, for the most part, was boring and at times compared to the other NFC West-related games. SCORE: 49ers 7, Vikings 0
THIRD QUARTER: The Vikings overcame a crucial Bridgewater sack and 2nd-and-20 position only to go 3-and-out on the next set of downs. The 49ers then drove methodically down the field with mostly varying plays of short passes and runs from Carlos Hyde (mostly) and Jarryd Hayne in a drive nearing six minutes that stalled inside the red zone, and settled for a 30-yard Phil Dawson field goal. SCORE: 49ers 10, Vikings 0
FOURTH QUARTER: The Vikings were finally able to get points on the board with a Blair Walsh 37-yard field goal, the end result of a drive that originated at their own 15-yard line the previous quarter and highlighted by passes to Mike Wallace, Kyle Rudolph and Charles Johnson. Adrian Peterson was a non-factor, carrying twice for a 1-yard total. Bridgewater also added a 10-yard scamper. San Francisco came right back on the running of Carlos Hyde (over 40 yards this drive) and passes to receivers (including two of 19 and 20 yards to TE Vernon Davis) before Hyde finalized things with a 17-yard run to the right. After two completions, Bridgewater’s next pass to Kyle Rudolph was picked off by ‘Niner CB Tramaine Brock and returned the Vikings’ 30, but a field goal of 25 yards was all they could accomplish. Minnesota then drove to the 49ers’ side of the field but two sacks (one, a 14-yard loss on a 4-and-8 call) put an end to the drive and their hopes approaching three minutes to play. San Francisco successfully ran out the remaining time. FINAL SCORE: 49ers 20, Vikings 3
Don’t look now, but the San Francisco 49ers just added fuel to the fire that is now the NFC West division of the NFL…and HOLY SMOKES, it’s a wild fire! The St. Louis Rams, by point differential, are sitting atop with the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers second and third, respectively. The Seattle Seahawks are the best divisional last place team in the league without a doubt…so enjoy the view now!
BONUS NOTE: Colin Kaepernick’s record on Monday Night Football is a somewhat head-scratching 5-0, a bit of knowledge to consider if you find yourself in Las Vegas the next time he plays in prime time.
IT MUST BE THE UNIFORMS! The 49ers, one of the last traditional teams in the NFL, unveiled new uniforms Monday night. If you didn’t catch the sneak peek during the 2015 draft, all black with red trim and numbers. Looked like an upgrade to me, but they are only alternative uniforms at this point. The NFL permits teams a third choice in unis twice a year. The next time they show off the goods will be the second match-up in late November—no doubt a meaningful one—with division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals.