The San Francisco 49ers (5-2) came into Minnesota for Monday Night Football looking to bounce back after an ugly Week 6 loss. Instead, it was ugly again, and the team that was once 5-0 on the verge of football domination, fell, 22-17, to the Minnesota Vikings (3-4).
“The NFL will humble you,” said 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa after the game. And it has, two weeks in a row.
The 49ers defense, which looked like the best in the league just two weeks ago, gave up a total of 425 yards to the Vikings, who were 8-of-13 on third down. The 49ers turned the ball over three times. The Vikings turned it over once. And therein lies the story of the game.
“I was really disappointed we couldn’t get them off the field,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “They had one punt today. We had one punt. They had one turnover. We had three turnovers. I think when both teams only punt once, it looks like it’s going to be a shootout. We ended up turning over two more times than them. It was a five-point game, so, it’s almost as simple as that.”
The game changed dramatically at the end of the second quarter. The 49ers had just scored to make it 10-7. With under a minute left in the half, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw to WR Jordan Addison, and it looked as if 49ers CB Charvarius Ward had his second interception of the game. Addison had other plans though, ripping the ball out of Ward’s hands and basically walking into the end zone. The Vikings missed the extra point to make it 16-7, but San Francisco never really recovered.
“We called an all-out blitz,” Shanahan said. “He’s got to get rid of it right away. He threw it up. Got a chance for a pick and didn’t come through with it, and they got a touchdown. Real bad play by us.” Shanahan went on to say that the 49ers will have to look at the call to blitz this week, as he “did not like the result.”
The first quarter had ghosts of Cleveland when after Ward’s first pick, the 49ers could not capitalize after Christian McCaffrey fumbled at the Minnesota 12-yard line.
“Anytime you lose, it’s a bad feeling,” McCaffrey said. “I think we have a team that’s hypercritical of each individual. We can’t just let it trickle down. Got to take a good, hard look in the mirror. I know I’ll do that. I made a bad mistake today that I believe cost us the game if I don’t fumble that ball. Put it on me. Go from there.”
The fumble was not ideal, but the loss was far from being entirely on McCaffrey. He did score two touchdowns, which made up 14 of the team’s 17 points, so there’s that.
Quarterback Brock Purdy finished the evening 21-of-30 for 272 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Both interceptions came in the fourth quarter. The first was happened with 5:36 left in the game on a deep pass over the middle that was intended for wide receiver Jauan Jennings. It was instead intercepted by Camryn Bynum.
“At the end of the day it was a bad ball,” Purdy said. “…There’s times where you got to push, but there’s a time you got to play. There’s a timing of routes, where guys are supposed to be, whatnot. That play, J.J. did his job, he ran the right route, right timing. I just sort of got pushed, lost sight of it. Anticipated it too far ahead of him.”
The second interception came with 0:34 left, on a pass intended for wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, but, again, Bynum had other plans.
“I thought he played really well,” Shanahan said of Purdy. “The one missed throw to Jauan was the one tough play that he didn’t make.”
It’s probably worth mentioning that rookie kicker Jake Moody missed a 40-yard field goal to start the second quarter. It was his third straight missed field goal. However, it is also worth mentioning that he later made a 55-yard field goal and that was a good thing.
So back to the 49ers defense, which really does not look like itself. That’s clear. The remaining question is how does it get fixed before Joe Burrow and the Bengals come to Levi’s Stadium next week.
“We have a lot of really good players on the D-line and, obviously, a lot invested in it,” Bosa said. “We have to make plays when they are there. We got lulled to sleep by some of the protections. When those opportunities come, you have to be ready for them. I’m not sure how it went for the other three guys, I can only focus on myself. There was definitely a couple opportunities there where I could have changed the game and I need to do that with the kind of player I’m supposed to be.”
Accountability. Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner were huddled up at Warner’s locker postgame talking it out.
“We’ve shown what we’re capable of, the best version of ourselves,” Warner said. “At the end of the day, I want our mental toughness to go up. I want to win in any form or fashion. I don’t care if it’s ugly. We’ll figure it out later on, but let’s find a way to get this done…We’ve got a big game coming up against the Bengals at home. It’s a must-win.”