San Francisco 49ers

Grading the 49ers’ season opener: Offense struggles, but defense looks decent in loss

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws a pass during the 49ers’ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws a pass during the 49ers’ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis. The Associated Press

The 49ers opened the season with a 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. It was the first loss for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who won the first seven games of his career, including a 5-0 mark for the 49ers last season. Here are the grades from the game:

Passing offense: D

Mistakes were the theme of the day for San Francisco through the air, highlighted by a key sequence in the third quarter. Tight end George Kittle (five receptions, 90 yards) mishandled a long pass from Garoppolo that might have resulted in an 80-yard touchdown. Instead, Garoppolo threw an interception to Mike Hughes he returned for a score to put the 49ers down 17-3 on the next snap. Garoppolo’s second pick came on a bad throw to Pettis, who appeared open on a slant route. Garoppolo finished completing 15 of 33 for 261 yards and a 45.1 passer rating. He was sacked three times. The game effectively ended when Garoppolo was picked by Harrison Smith inside the final two minutes. Marquise Goodwin missed a significant portion of the game with a quad injury, but later returned.

Rushing offense: C-

Alfred Morris logged 39 yards on his first five carries, looking like the stronger option initially than Matt Breida, who averaged just 3.0 yards per rush in the first half. But Morris’ goal-line fumble was one of the biggest plays of the game early on with the 49ers down by a touchdown. San Francisco had three plays prior inside the 4-yard line, but failed to score on Morris’ runs. San Francisco finished with 90 yards on 25 carries, good for a 3.6-yard average, and Morris ended up with just 46 yards.

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Passing defense: B-

Cousins was efficient, particularly against 49ers blitzes, in the first half when he completed 70 percent of his throws, including a well-placed touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs behind Ahkello Witherspoon for his first touchdown of the season. Cousins’ best throw made it an 18-point game in the third quarter, when he found Rudolph in the back of the end zone. DeForest Buckner (2 1/2 sacks) nearly batted the pass down, but Cousins threaded the needle anyway. Cousins’ final line: 20 of 35 for 224 yards, two touchdown passes and a 97.8 quarterback rating. San Francisco’s defense didn’t have much in response early, though the it kept the 49ers around in the second half.

Rushing defense: B+

Rookie linebacker Fred Warner had a positive debut, leading San Francisco with 12 tackles, including one for a loss, and forcing a key fumble in the first half. But the defense was clearly missing linebacker Reuben Foster who was serving the first of his two-game suspension. Missed tackles were a theme throughout, though Minnesota finished with just 116 yards on 32 carries, a 3.6-yard average.

Special teams: B

The 49ers forced just one punt in the first half. Robbie Gould made all three of his field goals. Pettis muffed his first punt return, then had a good-looking 14-yard return early in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: B-

Kyle Shanahan was forced to piece things together without his top two guards, Mike Person and Joshua Garnett, who left the game with injuries. The 49ers had open receivers throughout, but Garoppolo sailed a few throws that proved to be the difference. The key sequence might have been at the goal line in the second quarter, when Shanahan dialed up four running plays inside the 4-yard line which failed to net a touchdown.

Chris Biderman: @ChrisBiderman
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