SANTA CLARA – The 49ers averaged 5.6 yards per rushing attempt. But that was not all.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was sacked a 49ers-franchise worst 52 times last season, was dropped just once in the 49ers’ 20-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season opener on Monday night.
While being thrown for a sack, Kaepernick got back to the line scrimmage. Therefore, the 49ers surrendered no negative yards on sacks.
“It was great,” Kaepernick said of the performance from the offensive line. “They came out, they played a really good game. I don’t think there’s going to be too many things for them to correct off of that. They were able to run the ball well. The pockets were clean when we were throwing.
“We just had a few penalties that we shot ourselves in the foot. But other than that, it was a clean overall game.”
The offensive line was considered one of the major question marks during the exhibition season. While the 49ers appeared set with Joe Staley and Alex Boone on the left side, there were reasons for concern with center Marcus Martin, right guard Jordan Devey and right tackle Erik Pears. Coach Jim Tomsula did not settle on Martin and Devey until after the exhibition season.
The 49ers blocked out the criticism and ended up doing an admirable job of blocking up the Vikings at Levi's Stadium.
“The criticism hasn’t come from me,” Tomsula said. “We are not there, yet. This is one game in a long season, so we’re not there by any means. But I’ve not defended the offensive line, people have their opinions.”
The opinions coming from the 49ers’ first game of the season were very positive. Running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. It was the most rushing yards by a 49ers running back in his first start since at least 1970.
“My awesome line, they do a great job of zone-blocking and make it easy for me to hit those comebacks I was hitting,” Hyde said. “Be patient and there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a hole there. You’ve just got to hit it.’”
The 49ers gave a strong indication of their mindset on offense when they came out with three tight ends and overpowered the Vikings at the line of scrimmage. As the game progressed, the 49ers continued to impose their will on the Minnesota defensive front.
The 49ers had success running both directions. The 49ers had 17 run plays to the left of center behind Staley and Boone, and nine plays to the right side.
“We have a lot of fun out there and just a lot of smart guys,” Boone said. “Tough guys, that’s what you want in your O-Line. Not pretty, out there mauling people, having fun, getting dirty with it. It was a great day.”
Said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, “All the credit goes to San Francisco, they were much more physical than we were. That’s more of a team that I would like to be like.”