The San Francisco 49ers played their third preseason game on Sunday, and the “dress rehearsal” game offered a lot of positives (and one stupid negative). The 49ers lost to the Minnesota Vikings by a final score of 32-31, after the Vikings scored a touchdown as time expired, and managed a two-point conversion to get the win. It was an ugly end to the game, but there were plenty of positives from the units that matter. The game was highlighted by quick work from the starting offense, strong defense in the first half, and a monster second half from running back Raheem Mostert.
With all that in mind, here is a look at ten things we learned from the team’s penultimate preseason game.
1. Marquise Goodwin is faaaaaaast
We knew Goodwin had Olympic-level speed, and we have heard reports of great things in training camp. But Sunday against the Vikings was the first time we got to really see the 49ers take advantage of his speed. On their opening drive, the 49ers offense ran a play action with a fake end around, and Goodwin just blew past the Vikings secondary for a 46-yard touchdown catch. He later burned Trae Waynes, but Brian Hoyer underthrew the ball and the pass was broken up.
2. The first team offense gets a confidence boost
The 49ers starting offense struggled the first two preseason games. In the dress rehearsal game, that changed for the better. Hoyer completed his first nine passes with two touchdown passes, and finished the game 12 of 17 for 176 yards. We saw a nice mix of short, intermediate, and deep passes, and all in all, it was a confidence-building night.
3. The interior line remains a problem
The 49ers offensive line did solid in pass protection, but the interior run blocking was less than stellar. The 49ers gave up one sack of Hoyer, but that was due to George Kittle not picking up a defender coming down the middle. That aside, the run blocking remains problematic. The 49ers won’t have Joshua Garnett back for potentially another couple weeks, and in the meantime, they have to figure something out.
4. We’re going to see a lot of blitzing
The 49ers managed a pair of sacks, and they brought all sorts of pressure against Sam Bradford. We saw defensive back blitzes, and we saw linebackers coming from different angles. We knew the defense would be more aggressive, and there was plenty of that on Sunday. It was fun to watch them
5. NaVorro Bowman is coming off the field in some sub packages.
The 49ers are still starting Bowman in their base defense, but his role saw some changes on Sunday. When the 49ers went to their nickel, Bowman was getting fairly regular playing time. However, when the 49ers went to their dime, with six defensive backs and one linebacker, Reuben Foster was the guy who remained on the field. They went with both Jaquiski Tartt and Lorenzo Jerome, and it seems like we could see more of Tartt in a Deone Bucannon hybrid role.
6. The free safety position is a question
The 49ers activated Jimmie Ward from the PUP list on Wednesday, but he did not play on Sunday. Instead, Jaquiski Tartt was the starting free safety. Lorenzo Jerome had started at free safety the first two preseason games, but in this game he was the backup and came on as a dime back. I’m not entirely sure what the plan is at this point.
7. Matt Breida seems to be securing a serious role
The 49ers are starting Carlos Hyde at running back, and there have been questions who might emerge as the backup. We might see a sizable rotation, but UDFA Matt Breida might be securing a bigger role. He was the first running back off the bench in Week 1, got no snaps in Week 2, and then was rotating with Hyde in Week 3. In fact, he was the only guys rotating with him through three quarters. I’m not really sure who ends up with the most work behind Hyde, but Breida will be in the mix.
8. Raheem Mostert is putting up a heck of a preseason
The 49ers running back situation seemed to be a competition between Tim Hightower, Joe Williams, and Matt Breida. However, we have seen Raheem Mostert state his own case for a roster spot. He led the team in rushing in Week 1, and then served primarily as a returner in Week 2. In Week 3, he got on the field after Hyde and Breida, but before Joe Williams. Mostert made the most of it, turning a screen pass into an 87-yard touchdown, adding another 15 on a screen pass, and breaking a nice 17-yard run. He is still facing an uphill climb for a roster spot, but if he is cut, he seems likely to land somewhere.
9. C.J. Beathard struggled in his big opportunity
Kyle Shanahan has said the backup QB battle will come down to the wire, and it appears that will be the case. Beathard got the No. 2 duties, but he struggled. The interception was not his fault, but on the other side of things, he benefitted from Raheem Mostert turning a short screen pass into an 87-yard touchdown. Beathard made some good plays, but overall it was not a great evening for the rookie QB.
10. The team was not messing around with injuries
The third preseason game is arguably the most important for starters, but that didn’t stop the 49ers from getting banged up players out of the game in a hurry. Joe Staley injured his knee, and K’Waun Williams suffered an arm bruise. Both were walking around find on the sideline and not getting medical treatment. The 49ers dealt with some injuries, but it appears they got out of Minnesota in fairly decent shape.