A couple of big-picture items before getting into the nitty gritty from Friday's 17-6 win over the Vikings.
Jim Harbaugh said he was pleased with a lot of facets of the game, one of which was that the 49ers were very efficient on bringing players in and out of the game. The team used A LOT of different personnel groups, especially in the first half, and there were no snags or timeouts needed because of substitution snafus. That's important for a team that promises to give opponents an avalanche of different looks in the regular season.
Here's the breakdown as far as how many snaps the skill position players played in the first half:
WR A.J. Jenkins: 17
WR Kyle Williams: 13
WR Brett Swain: 13
WR Brian Tyms: 13
TE Konrad Ruland: 19
TE Vernon Davis: 11
TE Delanie Walker: 7
TE Garrett Celek: 6
RB: LaMichael James: 11
RB Rock Cartwright: 7
RB Brandon Jacobs: 7
RB Kendall Hunter: 6
RB Anthony Dixon: 1
It also should be mentioned that the replacement officials did a fine job. As a reporter working on a tight deadline in the preseason, I'm very conscious of the flow of the game. The officials weren't perfect - there was a reversed call in the fourth quarter - but it was a quick game that didn't feel disjointed.
On offense, I thought Brandon Jacobs and Rock Cartwright jumped out, as did the entire starting offensive line. Vikings starters Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield did not play. Still, the 49ers offensive line was aggressive and precise. Anthony Davis had a false start, but I thought he otherwise looked very good. He had a great block on his defender on Colin Kaepernick's long touchdown run. Cartwright may have been the busiest man of the night. He ran the ball eight times, had two catches and also played on special teams.
In training camp, the 49ers defense has been dominant while the offense has flailed. The roles were reversed in Friday's game, and perhaps the defensive unit went in a bit overconfident. The group did not allow any touchdowns, of course, but the Vikings first-team offense was able to march down the field twice, and only a dropped pass prevented Minnesota from having first and inches late in the first quarter.
On the long pass to receiver Stephen Burton, safety Dashon Goldson had deep coverage but took a step to his right when Christian Ponder looked that way toward tight end Kyle Rudoplh. Goldson's bugaboo last year was that he was overaggressive at times, and that resulted in big plays for the opposition. In fact, the 49ers were among the league leaders in allowing plays of 40 yards or more. The play to Burton - over cornerback Carlos Rogers - went for 52 yards and would have been a 76-yard touchdown if the throw had been on the money.
Work to do? Toby Gerhart broke two 49ers tackles (Goldson, Ahmad Brooks) on a 16-yard run, and he dragged other tacklers in the opening quarter. He left the game averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Of course, it needs to be pointed out that Justin Smith did not play and Aldon Smith was knocked out early in Minnesota's second series. Still, no starting running back came close to Gerhart's average last season. The 49ers visit the Vikings in Week 3.
The second-string defense, on the other hand, was very good. I thought Demarcus Dobbs, Parys Haralson, Eric Bakhtiari, Ian Williams and Perrish Cox stood out in particular. Vikings backup left tackle Kevin Murphy could not block Dobbs. Dobbs got most of his snaps at right defensive end, but he played tight end in the fourth quarter.
The stat line would have been a lot better if the 49ers were not facing backup quarterback Joe Webb, who was able to wriggle out of trouble all night. Bakhtiari, playing left outside linebacker, had two sacks and would have had a third, but Webb eluded him in the open field. Bakhtiari was around the ball throughout and - perhaps most important for his 53-man prospects - played special teams.
Scott Tolzien got in the game ahead of Josh Johnson, and he played very well. His stat line -- 10-13 for 84 yards and an interception -- would have been better if not for drops by rookie wideouts A.J. Jenkins and Nathan Palmer. Tolzien was hit as he threw the ball on his interception. Backup left tackle Mike Person was beaten on the play.
Jenkins' night followed the pattern he's had in training camp. He made two very nice catches, including on a Tolzien pass that was badly behind him. But he also dropped two easy catches.
Alex Smith's touchdown pass to Brett Swain was nicely thrown. The 49ers worked on that back-shoulder pass last year with Braylon Edwards but never could hit it in a game. Smith is 1-1 so far this year.
Aldon Smith easily got past Matt Kalil to force Ponder to throw the ball away on third down as the Vikings drove deep into San Francisco territory on their opening drive. On the play on which Smith got hurt, Kalil shoved him from behind and Smith fell over Donte Whitner onto his hip. Smith Tweeted last night that he would be ok.
Both Anthony Davis and Bruce Miller took out their opponents on the long run by Cartwright in the first quarter. Vernon Davis also nicely sealed off his opponent on the 19-yard run
No, it wasn't like the Saints game last preseason. But the Vikings certainly weren't shy about blitzing. They blitzed throughout the evening, and it wasn't just the vanilla variety. The difference between this year and last is that the 49ers did a nice job picking them up. Kendall Hunter, in particular, was efficient in finding a stunting inside linebacker and holding him up to allow Alex Smith to run the ball close to a first down in the first quarter.
In the third quarter LaMichael James was able to pick up a blitzing linebacker on the inside. The problem was that two linebackers blitzed from the same spot and the second took down Tolzien for the sack.
Mario Manningham suited up but didn't play. I don't think he's in the same category as Justin Smith and Frank Gore, two multi-year veterans who frankly don't need to play in the preseason. Manningham has taken part in every training-camp practice but has been limited in a number of them. In other words, he may be "working through something," as Harbaugh would say.
Finally, it was nice to hear CBS play-by-play announcer Dennis O'Donnell use "The Garbage man" moniker for tight end Konrad Reuland during the telecast. The Garbage Man was very active during the game, and he caught two passes for 17 yards. Now if only "Condor" could gain a little traction ....
-- Matt Barrows