The 49ers hosted the Vikings and the newly un-retired Brett Favre on Sunday at Candlestick Park, and although they only faced the legend for 1 series, they looked pretty solid vs. the rest of the Vike's first string offense.
The Niners did allow just one Favre completion and Minnesota first during Favre's lone drive, but they were in his face multiple times and Patrick Willis sacked him for a 10-yard loss immediately after that one completion. The Niners defense looked very strong vs. the Vikings as a whole in the first half too. They allowed all-world back Adrian Peterson just 17 yards on 6 carries while keeping the Vikings passing attack from reaching 100 yards through the air. They kept back-up QB Tavaris Jackson in check, limiting him to just 47 yards passing, completing 7 of 11 passes. The way the Niners secondary played has to give the coaching staff some confidence. Granted, it's still early in the preseason, and the Vikings obviously weren't operating at full-strength, but the 49ers really shut down one of the better offenses in the league on Sunday. The only big play they gave up all afternoon was a 48-yard QB scramble to the dynamic Joe Webb with about a minute left in the game, otherwise the Niner's would have won 15-3 and would have smoked the NFL Spread for the game. Niner's 3rd round pick from April's draft, Navarro Bowman, made his debut and played very well as he tries to entrench himself into the middle linebacker rotation.
Offensively, Alex Smith was unspectacular, yet very efficient and accurate as he played the whole first half and lead the Niners to 7-3 halftime lead. Smith was 9-13 for 88 yards through the air and led the Niners on an impressive scoring drive on their first possession of the game. He did it without 2 of his favorite targets too, as both Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, as well as the likely #2 wideout Josh Morgan, all were in street clothes for the contest and none of them have suited up for a preseason game yet (I do expect all 3 back for next weeks game though). The Niners also didn't activate Brian Westbrook or Frank Gore for the game, meaning Anthony Dixon once again got the load at running back. He wasn't quite as impressive this time around though, going against one of the more stingy run-defenses in the league, but he still managed a few nice runs, including a nice 4-yard TD scamper on a pitch around the outside corner.
In the 2nd half, Nate Davis got all the action behind center, and looked pretty good himself. Davis connected with Ted Ginn Jr. on a beautiful 60-yard strike in the 3rd quarter, which eventually led to a Niner field goal. Ginn showed Niner's fans an element that the team has been sorely lacking in recent years on that play, and that is a receiver who can get down the field and stretch a defense. Becuase of Ginn's ability to do just that, I think he's going to be a nice surprise to the 49er passing game this year. Hopefully this offensive line gels together and can protect Alex Smith, because he's got some weapons to work with this year. Ginn joins Crabtree and Morgan in the receiving corps, to go along with speedy tight-ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker (both above average pass-catching TE's) and now Brian Westbrook along with Frank Gore as outlet options out of the backfield. Smith should have no shortage of options to go to this year, and he's really been put in a great situation to succeed. I'm really looking forward to next week as the Niners will probably treat the first 3 quarters like a regular season game. Still not sure if Gore will got, but we should get at least a glimpse of Davis, Crabtree and Westbrook.
Raiders Continue Strong Preseason: Across the bay, the Raiders have looked equally as strong, if not better than San Francisco through their first two practice games. Newly acquired Jason Campbell, sadly, is the best thing the Raiders have had at QB since the days of Rich Gannon, in my opinion at least. It's amazing watching him after watching the bone-headed play of guys like Daunte Cullpepper and JaMarcus Russell. Campbell isn't a spectacular NFL QB, but I'd say he's slightly above average, and will look like Joe Montana to Raiders fans compared to what they've been used to over the past 5-6 seasons. The former Redskin threw for 170 yards (he was picked once) and ran for a touchdown in only 1 half of play. He looks comfortable with Zach Miller and Louis Murphy, and should be a help towards Derrius Heyward-Bey's development. On the ground, the Raiders have gotten a few stand-out performances from veteran Michael Bennett in the first 2 games. Bennett has totaled 132 yards on 27 carries, good for nearly 5 yards per carry... Check out our next post for much more Raider talk!