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4 things we learned following the 49ers loss to the Vikings (and 2 things I still think about)

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Turnovers, a decent defensive performance, and a defensive lineman who can’t stay still on 4th and 1. Let’s look at what we learned from the 49ers first game of 2018

I said the 49ers would need to have a flawless offensive game plan if they wanted to beat the Minnesota Vikings. Four turnovers is not a flawless offensive game plan. Not even close. Regardless, the 49ers showed us a lot of good things for their 2018 team. Last year in their loss against the Carolina Panthers, you had nothing to feel good about other than they were rebuilding. This year, against a far superior foe, and hanging in there despite the aforementioned turnovers, the 49ers actually were able to hang with a team who has a shot at the Super Bowl.

There’s still some things we learned, and there’s two things on my mind after this:

49ers guard competition is alive and well

In a move that didn’t help anyone, guard Mike Person went down and was replaced by Joshua Garnett. There is nothing else to give Garnett the ultimate opportunity to wrench the job from Person than to come in early in Week 1 and impress. It didn’t take long for Garnett to get an injury of his own. A foot injury resulting in him getting carted off the field.

This in turn forced some major shakeups on the line. Rookie offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey got moved to guard for the first time in his career. No, not NFL — his first time in football, period.

George Kittle is going to be a monster this year

No one else outside of Dante Pettis was doing Jimmy Garoppolo any favors catching the ball. Well there was the Kyle Juszczyk catch, but I’m sure if a Vikings defender was a yard closer to the area of the catch, Juszczyk would have dropped the ball as well. Kittle was just shy of a bill, with 90 yards for the day. He could have had a touchdown if Garoppolo could have thrown the ball just a bit lower. There was also another catch that would have left Kittle with nothing but green grass in front of him ... if only he had caught it.

The 49ers defense wasn’t all that bad despite what they were missing

Stats lie, tape doesn’t, except when it does. The 49ers were up against a much better team in the Vikings, but the defense, while it bent and broke at key spots, wasn’t horrible. I still have to remind myself they only got 17 points scored on them in a hostile stadium. 17 points despite injuries to the linebacking group, and a pass rush that is improved, but still needs work. Being how young the 49ers are, and how stacked the Vikings are, 17 points against that offense is pretty darn good. If only the offense could produce.

If the offense can execute, they are scary

This is a huge ‘if’ that we all want to have happen. The 49ers left far too many points on the field. Two touchdown passes to Kittle, one pass to Pettis (that was broken up by a great defensive play by the Vikings defenders, but still), a drop by Pierre Garçon in the end zone. There were several other would-be catches, dropped by receivers; great runs stopped by the running back getting tangled up with the offensive line. Offense needs to get their [site decorum] together and they will be filthy.

Of course that leads me to two things I’m still thinking about:

Why was Alfred Morris fumbling the ball on back-to-back plays?

Assuming Kyle Shanahan saw Morris fumble the ball at the goal line the first time, there was absolutely no reason to give him the rock and tell him to go through the middle after the first fumble. One fumble should have either meant play action or pulling him in favor of Matt Breida.

My guess is Shanahan didn’t see it due to how quick in succession the two plays happened. There’s no reason after that first fumble to put the ball into his hands on the very next play. Fumbles are a mental thing, I said the same thing after Kyle Williams muffed his first punt years ago in the NFC Championship game. You need to get them right in the head. Morris slipped a ball out, he should have had a play or two to get right before he does something like that again.

How does Solomon Thomas jump offsides?

Towards the end of the game on 4th and 1, with everyone and their MOTHER (yes, in caps) knowing the Vikings were not stupid enough to go for it on fourth down, Kirk Cousins draws Solomon Thomas offsides. While Thomas didn’t manage a sack the entire game, I don’t have anything negative to say on his play beyond the pass rush.

Well until this happened. The urgency may have cost the 49ers the game, but given the ugly, ugly, interception by Jimmy Garoppolo to seal the deal, he may have still thrown such a pick even if he had a few more seconds to his clock. Still, I think our own Oscar Aparicio can state things much more elegantly than I can: