The 49ers played their first playoff game in six years Saturday night, and beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10. Here are the 49ers’ grades:
GAROPPOLO: C. He won his first playoff start, and a win is a win. Plus he made some nice throws on third down as he usually does. But he was inconsistent. He completed just 57 percent of his passes. And he threw three passes that could have been intercepted — the Vikings picked off one of them. Quarterbacks often struggle during their first playoff starts, and Garoppolo was no exception. He should improve as he gains playoff experience.
RUNNING BACKS: A-MINUS. Matt Breida fumbled — that’s why this group gets a “minus.” But the other running backs were fantastic. Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman both averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns — he was terrific. He clearly needed the bye week to rejuvenate himself. Maybe he was injured.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B. Kendrick Bourne was the 49ers’ best wide receiver, even though he dropped two passes. He also made an extremely difficult catch over the middle and scored a touchdown. He and Deebo Samuel should be the starting wide receivers next season. Emmanuel Sanders has become an afterthought. He had two catches for 33 yards.
TIGHT ENDS: B. George Kittle had just 16 receiving yards, because the Vikings defend tight ends better than any other defense in the NFL. But Kittle didn’t need to catch lots of passes to make an impact. He was the 49ers’ best blocker, and a big reason they rushed for 186 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A-MINUS. They pulverized the Vikings defensive linemen. Wore them down and made them quit. The 49ers gave up just two sacks. Mike McGlinchey gave up one of them, plus he committed a false start. The rest of the offensive line was outstanding.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-PLUS. When Dee Ford is on the field, the 49ers have an historically good defense. He makes everyone better. Against the Vikings, he had one sack, and the rest of the defense had three. Solomon Thomas even had a sack — a rare occurrence. The defense clearly needed a week off.
LINEBACKERS: A-PLUS. Kwon Alexander returned from a torn pec, played strong-side linebacker and made two tackles. He and the rest of the linebackers didn’t have to do much, because the defensive line was so good.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A. Richard Sherman intercepted Kirk Cousins, and Jimmie Ward made two outstanding hits. Ahkello Witherspoon gave the Vikings a quick seven points, then the 49ers benched him. His replacement, Emmanuel Moseley, was fantastic. Moseley should start the rest of the season. When Moseley, Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt play together, the 49ers have a fantastic secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Raheem Mostert recovered a fumble deep in Vikings territory during a punt return, and Robbie Gould made both of his field-goal attempts.
COACHES: A. Kyle Shanahan’s game plan was perfect. He didn’t force the ball to Kittle or Sanders. He featured Bourne, which was the smart move. And he found endless ways to run the ball down the Vikings’ throats. Plus, he stuck to the run game during the second half when he had a big lead, unlike during the Super Bowl three years ago. He learned. His defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, was just as brilliant. Once he and Shanahan benched Witherspoon, the Vikings offense couldn’t move the ball. Saleh will make an outstanding head coach. The Cleveland Browns would be lucky to have him.