The San Francisco 49ers lost a game against a less talented opponent on the road for the second consecutive week, falling to the Minnesota Vikings 22-17. Once again, the 49ers had an opportunity to win the game on their final offensive drive, but a cavalcade of unforced errors was too much to overcome.
Here are position-by-position grades from the loss:
I’ve written a few times this season that Purdy has had the worst performance of his NFL career, and it was true once again on Monday night. Purdy’s two interceptions were two of the ugliest throws in his young career, both going directly into the hands of Vikings defenders, several yards away from the closest 49ers player. They were just wildly inaccurate throws.
Purdy has simply not been very accurate this season, but Shanahan and the 49ers elite skill-position players have usually made up for it. With Deebo Samuel out and Brandon Aiyuk weirdly isolated from the gameplan in the second half, it was on full display.
Running backs: C+
Christian McCaffrey may have been responsible for the 49ers two touchdowns, racking up 96 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches, but he also had a costly fumble in the first half that cost San Francisco at least a field goal, and possibly a touchdown. McCaffrey was held to just three yards rushing on the day, with a long of just nine yards. While he had a 35-yard reception, he also only made three catches.
Tight ends: B+
George Kittle was the only consistent recipient of targets from Brock Purdy throughout the game. He led the Niners with five receptions for 78 yards on seven targets. It was a very good overall performance even if it lacked a signature highlight play.
Wide receivers: C
Brandon Aiyuk was invisible late in the game, and it seems like that was a function of play-calling and Purdy’s decision-making moreso than Aiyuk’s play. Nevertheless, he had five receptions for 57 yards on six targets. Jauan Jennings had five receptions for 54 yards, but mishandled one third-down throw from Purdy. Ray-Ray McCloud continues to be a non-factor as a receiver, catching two passes for 20 yards.
Offensive line: F
While it was not an insurmountable amount of pressure, Purdy was under duress more often than he should have been in the pocket. The inconsistent running lanes for McCaffrey also didn’t make things any easier for the offense. For good measure, Aaron Banks whiffed on recovering McCaffrey’s fumble even though he was the only other player immediately around the ball.
Defensive line: D
The 49ers were able to generate pressure against Kirk Cousins all night long, but not with a standard four-man front. Per PFF’s first run through, San Francisco’s defensive line registered their lowest pass-rush win rate since 2017. It’s even more inexcusable against a quarterback like Cousins, who is not a threat to run.
Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw continued adding to their highlight reels with some incredible plays, but they were uncharacteristically inconsistent over the course of the game. That’s not too surprising given that both of them were playing through an injury by the end of the game, but they both made some mistakes in coverage.
I debated giving the cornerbacks a C solely because of Charvarius Ward’s early game interception, but the fact that Jordan Addison ripped an interception out of Ward’s hands and turned it into a touchdown at the end of the first half cancelled it out from my perspective. The pass rush did not do them any favors, but Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, and Isaiah Oliver got torched in coverage all night by a Vikings’ receiver core that did not have Justin Jefferson.
Talanoa Hufanga made a massive impact around the line of scrimmage, but neither he nor Tashaun Gipson were able to stop the bleeding in coverage. In fact, a coverage bust by Gipson is what led to the Vikings first touchdown.
Special teams: B-
The 49ers special teams unit had an excellent performance with one exception. Mitch Wishnowsky’s only punt went 62 yards. Jake Moody made a 55-yard field goal, but Moody missed a 41-yarder in the first quarter. There’s reason to be very concerned about Moody going forward.