The 49ers are making a major gamble this season in throwing not one, but two, rookies onto their starting offensive line. The 49ers felt that Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati were too talented to keep off the field this season and figured the smartest thing would be to throw them into the fire early so that there would be some semblance of chemistry before the regular season began.
Those rookies had some missteps Sunday against the Vikings, including a false start by Davis on the second play of the second drive and Iupati failing to pick up a blitzing linebacker on third down in the second quarter. The good news is that on the team's 12-play opening drive, the rookie duo was nearly flawless. In fact, with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree watching from the sideline, several rookies and newcomers were forced into action and played very well. The color commentator in the game, Cris Collinsworth, said the Vikings had the "best four-man front in football." But that front was on the field for nearly seven minutes to start the game.
Here's the play-by-play of the opening with special attention to Anthony Davis and Iupati:
1. 1-10-SF 30 Anthony Dixon 2-yard gain off left guard. That left guard, Iupati, had a great block, driving his man seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.
2. 2-8-SF 32 Short pass from Alex Smith to Dixon for six yards. Davis had a nice pass block against his opponent, Ray Edwards.
3. 3-2 SF 38 Short pass to Ted Ginn for five yards. Both rookie linemen blocked well on that play. Ginn, meanwhile, was brought in for his deep speed but made a gritty catch in traffic.
4. 1-10 SF 43 Dixon runs up the middle for 1 yard. Iupati blocks down on his man, Kevin Williams, but E.J. Henderson slips in to make the tackle.
5. 2-9 SF 44 Dixon off of right tackle for five yards. Davis blocks out on his man while right guard Chilo Rachal blocks down to create a big hole for Dixon.
6. 3-4 SF 49 Smith to Dominique Zeigler for 13 yards. Davis rides his man to the outside, and Smith does a good job of stepping up in the pocket away from the pass rush.
7. 1-10 MIN 38 Dixon up the middle for no gain. Davis gets a nice push on the left defensive tackle, but Henderson breaks through the line.
8. 2-10 MIN 38 Smith over the middle to Delanie Walker for 24 yards. This is perhaps the best play in the first half. The Vikings double blitz from their left side. One rookie, Nate Byham, picks up one of the blitzers while another rookie, Dixon, picks up the other.
9. 1-10 MIN 14 Dixon off of left guard for -1. The offensive line doesn't get a push and Iupati can't break out to the second level.
10. 2-11 MIN 15 Smith incomplete in the end zone for Walker. Davis stonewalls Edwards on the play and Iupati does a nice job with Williams.
11. 3-11 MIN 15 Smith to Walker over the middle for 11 yards. Both offensive tackles ride their opponents to the outside, and Smith again steps forward to hit Walker.
12. 1-4 MIN 4 Dixon four yards for a touchdown. Smith pitches left to Dixon. He gets a bit of a block from Ginn, but Dixon's speed and effort are mostly responsible for the score.
-- Matt Barrows