5 Takeaways From San Francisco 49ers’ Week 3 Preseason Game
5 Takeaways from San Francisco 49ers' Win over Minnesota Vikings
The San Francisco 49ers took on the Minnesota Vikings at home in their third preseason game on Sunday night. In the first two preseason games, the 49ers have had their moments of good play mixed in with bad, sloppy play as well. In particular, the first string offense played with rhythm when Colin Kaepernick was in at quarterback in the first two preseason games while it lacked any rhythm and ability to sustain drives when the second and third string quarterbacks were under center. As far as the 49ers defense was concerned, the defense has been dominant having only allowed nine points in the first two preseason games and showing an ability to pressure and get to the quarterback no matter who was playing.
As it is well documented, the third preseason game is the most important one as it is the game where the starters play up until at least halftime or at a minimum, long enough to be able to establish some regular season rhythm. The 49ers took full advantage of this final significant dress rehearsal game as they beat the Vikings 34-14 to improve to 2-1 in this preseason. There are a number of things that stood out from this game, first and foremost is the fact that players like Kendall Hunter, Quinton Patton, and Jon Baldwin each saw their first game action. For Hunter and Patton, each had an injury which kept them out of the first two preseason games while Baldwin had just arrived to the team having been part of the trade that saw A.J. Jenkins sent to the Kansas City Chiefs earlier in the week. In addition, rookie strong safety Eric Reid started as the first team strong safety in what is the clearest indicator that he has essentially won the job over Craig Dahl.
Finally, the 49ers special teams had its strongest showing to date in the preseason as a unit as kicker Phil Dawson once again connected on a 50 yard plus field goal and Lavelle Hawkins returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown. All in all it was a very good preseason game for the 49ers and along with what has already been mentioned, here are five other things that stood out about the 49ers' performance in this third preseason game.
B.J. Daniels Continues To Impress
Heading into Sunday's night game, it was not a given certainty that B.J. Daniels would get significant playing time despite the fact that Daniels entered the competition for the backup quarterback position after his performance in the last preseason game against the Chiefs and in the process earned himself more reps during practice. Yet Daniels was fortunate enough to get the chance to play in this game, and once again he took full advantage of his opportunity. Daniels finished the game completing two of his three pass attempts for 30 yards and had two rushes for 20 yards. While the numbers alone do not stand out, what stood out again was how he ran the offense. The 49ers offense with Daniels under center played with a certain rhythm and tempo which stood out and looked closest to that when Colin Kaepernick is playing.
Heading into training camp I would have said that Daniels was destined and would be spending the 2013 season as a member of the practice squad given he just was not going to show enough that he merited a chance at being at minimum the third string quarterback. After his display in the last two preseason games, however, he has made it impossible for the 49ers to to even try to attempt sending him down to the practice squad. It is clear Daniels has likely played his way into the third string quarterback role.
Maintain Good Health
One thing that the 49ers have been able to say after each of their first two preseason games is that they have avoided any significant injury. Considering that there have been a few season-ending injuries during the preseason, this is great news for the 49ers. During the game against the Vikings on Sunday night, the 49ers saw LaMichael James and Cam Johnson have to leave the game because of injuries, but all word indicates that neither injury was serious and was more just a precautionary measure taken. But once again, the 49ers can claim victory as they finished the game without an injury to any of their key players. They can rest assured that when Week 1 of the season comes around, all their main players should be healthy and ready to go while not having to worry about who will be playing in place of an injured player. As I have said in the past, anytime you avoid injuries of significance is a victory from that game, and the same holds for this game as far as the 49ers are concerned.
Defense With Another Strong Showing
The 49ers defense in the first two preseason games has been nothing short of impressive. As a collective unit, they only allowed nine points in the first two games and in the process, have exhibited that they are still just as physical upfront as they have always been. No matter who is playing, the intensity has not dropped. Against the Vikings, things did not change as the 49ers defense continued to display the same level of play that it had shown in the first two games. Even though the defense in this game gave up 14 points, the 49ers still showed why they are one of the five best defenses in the league. The 49ers defense made it tough for both Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel to feel comfortable in the pocket and pressured them on a regular basis. In addition, Eric Reid gave a good account of himself playing with the first string defense as he was where he needed to be and when he had to make a tackle, did a good job of making sure he prevented the ball carrier from getting any extra yardage. There will be no issues for the defense to be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.
Colin Kaepernick Shows Reading Progression
Last season, Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback that would solely focus on one or two options when he dropped back to pass. Now this is not uncommon from a quarterback who has had less than a season's worth of regular season starts under his belt. And it is especially not uncommon for a young quarterback like Kaepernick, who has the ability to beat you running with the football to show impatience when it comes to throwing from the pocket. Well in the game against the Vikings, Kaepernick demonstrated that he has put in some time during the off-season to studying and learning how to go through his progressions. On several occasions, especially on the touchdown drive he led the 49ers offense on, Kaepernick threw to and or connected on a pass completion with his third or fourth receiver. This will certainly help Kaepernick in his development as a quarterback and it will help him learn to trust and rely on the different wide receivers he will be throwing to. In the process it will also help mitigate the absence of Michael Crabtree by showing he can and is willing to throw to several players, especially if they are not option number one or two.
Colt McCoy Sees Significant Game Action
It's been a very interesting week and interesting past 24-48 hours for Colt McCoy. After having disappointed in the first two preseason games along with Scott Tolzien, the 49ers decided to sign and bring in veteran quarterback Seneca Wallace in order to give themselves another option for potential backup quarterback. As if an additional competitor to his job was not enough, there were reports early Sunday stating that the 49ers were potentially thinking about trading McCoy given that he had not convinced at all to date. Finally, it was confirmed that McCoy had agreed to re-structure his deal where by he would be earning a lower base salary but could make up the loss through bonuses simply by making it as the backup quarterback.
With that in mind, McCoy came into the game midway through the second quarter and would play two full quarters as his final stat line saw him complete 11-of-15 passes for 109 yards and one interception. Most importantly for McCoy and the 49ers was that McCoy showed that he was capable of putting together a good performance as he led the offense on a scoring drive, did a better job of keeping drives alive by throwing completed passes for first downs and in general, did a good job of commanding the offense when under center. The fact that McCoy played as much as he did signals that he will be the backup quarterback and coach Jim Harbaugh essentially confirmed as much after the game stating in his post-game press conference that he felt good about Colt being the backup quarterback.