Live blog: 49ers @ Vikings

Here is the live blog for the 49ers Week 3 game against the Minnesota Vikings. I’ll update the blog frequently with analysis from my living room.

9:25 The 49ers inactives: Scott Tolzien, A.J. Jenkins, Ted Ginn Jr., LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs, Joe Looney and Iam Williams.

10:02 The 49ers win the toss and defer.

10:18 What a first drive for the Vikings. Christian Ponder threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph on fourth and goal on the one yard line. He was rolling to his left, Dashon Goldson was in his face and Ponder floated a pass over Aldon Smith in the end zone. The Vikings marched down the field easily, running on the first four first downs, and passing for significant gains on second down. Still, Ponder had to convert a third and 10 in the red zone, and the Niners defense almost held them to a field goal by stonewalling Peterson twice at the goal line. The Vikings were aggressive, going for the touchdown on fourth down. Now the 49ers offense must respond.

10:23 Alex Smith converted the first third down he faced. The Vikings blitzed, the Niners’ offensive line picked it up and Alex made a nice throw to Vernon Davis over the middle. Smith didn’t convert the second third down, however. He rolled to the right, saw that his primary read – Crabtree – was covered, so Smith stood still and took a sack from Chad Greenway. Not a great play design. It seemed like there was only one read.

Earlier in the drive on a second down, Randy Moss dropped a high but catchable pass. He needs to catch those, or else he’ll lose even more playing time to Mario Manningham.

10:29 The Vikings passing offense has been dangerous on second down. On the second play of their second drive, Ponder hit Percy Harvin for a 24-yard gain down the left sideline. Harvin beat Carlos Rogers at the line of scrimmage, threw him off balance. Aldon Smith ended the Vikings drive, stopping Adrian Peterson for a two-yard gain, and then hitting Ponder on the next play. Kyle Williams returned the punt 16 yards. The Niners start their second drive at their 35 yard line down 7-0.

10:37 The Niners are moving. Alex Smith hit Crabtree for a 6-yard gain on third and four. Crabtree has been one of the best third-down receivers in the NFL this season.

Smith slipped and fell on a scramble a few plays later. That wasn’t good. But he followed that up by audibling to a run play at the line of scrimmage on the very next play. Gore took the hand off and gained 11 yards on 2nd and 10. First and 10 at the Vikings’ 30 yard line.

SECOND QUARTER.

10:44 David Akers just made a 19-yard field goal. 7-3 Vikings. Alex Smith made another good audible. He noticed a cornerback was giving Moss a 5-yard cushion, so Smith killed the first play and threw a quick out to Moss, gaining 8 yards on 2nd and 8.

But Smith couldn’t finish the drive. He overthrew Moss in the end zone, missed an easy touchdown. Smith threw the ball right before he took a shot from Kevin Williams. Alex Boone let Williams run right around him. Still, Smith should have made that pass.

11:00 Christian Ponder is playing like an upper echelon quarterback today. On third and 11 he completed an 11-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu, and then on the very next play Ponder scrambled up the middle 23 yards for a touchdown. 14-3 Vikings with 5:29 left in the first half.

11:00 The 49ers have gotten completely outplayed so far, but they can still get back in this game quickly. Their offense should have the final drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half.

1:06 Alex Smith has converted two third downs on this drive. On third and 7, Smith hit Crabtree in the middle of the field for 9 yards, and on third and 5 Smith hit Vernon Davis in the middle of the field for 13 yards. The Niners are in business. First and 10 at the Vikings’ 46.

TWO MINUTE WARNING

11:16 The Vikings just blocked David Akers’ field goal attempt. The 49ers had been driving beautifully until they got near the red zone. On first and 10 from the Vikings 33, Smith hit Randy Moss for a 7-yard gain. The Vikings are giving him too much respect, too much of a cushion. On the next play Smith was almost sacked by Jared Allen, but Smith threw the ball away. On third and 2, Smith threw in the flat to Delanie Walker, who was tackled immediately.

11:25 Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh just kicked a 52-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter. 17-3 Vikings.

HALFTIME

Perhaps the Vikings’ opening touchdown made the 49ers panic. They have not established their running game even though Frank Gore has gained 32 yards on 6 carries. Greg Roman should have called more runs for Gore in that half.

Alex Smith has passed 19 times, and he’s averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt. He hasn’t tried a deep pass yet.

Before this game many of us said if the Vikings were going to win, they would have to take Frank Gore out of the game and force Alex Smith to beat them. Interestingly enough, Greg Roman has been the one who’s taken Gore out of the game and forced Alex Smith to win it, and that choice isn’t working. Now, down two touchdowns, the 49ers will have to pass their way back into this game in the second half.

11:38 Kyle Williams just returned the kickoff 94-yards to the Vikings’ 14 yard line. Who needs Ted Ginn Jr.?

11:41 And the 49ers offense squanders their great field position. Hunter up the middle on first down, Gore up the middle on second down and Smith around the right end on third down all lead to fourth and two. Akers makes the short field goal. 17-6 Vikings. That seemed like a perfect time to throw to Moss, but Greg Roman went ultra-conservative.

11:46 The Vikings go three and out. Peterson gains four yards on first down and then four yards on second down, but on third and 2 the Vikings call a pass and Ponder has to throw it away. They punt and Kyle Williams makes a fair catch at the Niners’ 14 yard line. There wasn’t one defender within 10 yard. Williams needs to run that.

1:57 That was the 49ers best offensive drive of the season. They needed a TD and they got it easily, Smith to Davis in the back of the end zone on first and goal from the 1. 17-13 Vikings. The 49ers never faced one third down, and they only faced two second downs. Smith completed passes to five different receivers. They’re back in the game.

12:11 The Vikings have responded with a great drive of their own. They’ve been feeding Percy Harvin, and it’s working. He’s catching passes out of the backfield and running up the middle like a running back. The 49ers defense has committed two questionable, costly penalties on the drive – both¬†unnecessary¬†roughness penalties on Dashon Goldson.

FOURTH QUARTER

12:15 On third and goal from the 2, the 49ers blitz Ponder, he backpedals and throws a floater to Kyle Rudolph. Donte Whitner is all over him, but Rudolph reaches out with one hand, his right hand, and makes the catch. 24-13 Vikings. The Vikings have made the 49ers safeties look bad all game.

12:18 Kyle Williams returns this kickoff 50 yards to the Niners’ 43 yard line. He’s keeping them in the game.

12:21 Frank Gore fumbles on the first play of the drive and the Vikings recover. The refs called Gore down, but the Vikings are challenging and it appears they’ll win the challenge. The 49ers have not gotten the breaks today.

12:25 The Vikings win the challenge. They have the ball at midfield.

12:27 The 49ers force them out in three. Adrian Peterson gains 8 yards on first down, and then the Vikings curiously call two straight passes. Neither work. Vikings punt and the Niners take over at their own 20. Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave really blew that drive. Up two scores, he needs to run down the clock. And the run was working. But he called two passes.

12:35 Kendall Hunter goes almost nowhere on back-to-back runs, and on third and 8 Smith scrambles to extend the play but throws behind Kyle Williams. Andy Lee punts and pins the Vikings to their 2 yard line.

12:39 The more I think about that offensive series, the worse it seems. The 49ers are down 11 with 10 minutes left and they’re calling run plays, using the full play clock.

12:42 Isaac Sopoaga hurts his right leg and Adrian Peterson breaks off a 20-yard run.

12:43 On third and 8 the Niners bring lots of pressure, Ponder throws off his back foot right to Donte Whitner, but he drops it. Whitner’s had a bad game, and he has really bad hands.

12:47 The Niners get the ball at their own 17 yard line and go three-and-out. Vernon Davis dropped a pass on 2nd and 6, and then Smith tried to force a throw on third and 6 to Davis, who was covered. Vikings ball at their 30 with 6 and half minutes left.

1:01 The 49ers catch a break. Harbaugh called his last timeout, then challenged a play on the field. The refs allowed this, reviewed the play and gave the ball to the 49ers – Gerhart fumbled.

1:03 Smith completes his first two passes, Antoine Winfield knocks away the third. Then Smith sails his fourth and the Vikings pick it off.

1:05 And Toby Gerhart fumbles on the very next play, but the refs don’t call it. Harbaugh challenges the play. It looked like Gerhart recovered it.

1:06 The refs confirm Gerhart recovered the ball. The Niners are out of timeouts and challenges.

1:11 Gerhart fumbles again! That’s his third fumble in the last 2 minutes. The Vikings are trying to hand this game back to the 49ers.

1:12 Willis is helped off the field.

1:13 On first down Smith throws a beautiful pass to Mario Manningham for a 22 yard gain, and then on the next play Smith gets sacked by Jared Allen and fumbles. The Vikings recover. Allen beat Staley to the inside. The Vikings win 24-13.

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