SANTA CLARA – Many of the familiar faces are gone and the black uniforms were like nothing the 49ers have ever before fashioned.
Things might have looked a whole lot different, but the 49ers formula remained the same Monday night in Jim Tomsula’s debut after taking over for Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers hope to surprise some people with a strong defense and their running game.
The 49ers ended an excruciatingly long and tumultuous offseason with an emphatic 20-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium.
The replacements mostly played well as a decidedly different-looking team opened the season as the final game of the opening week of the NFL season.
Frank Gore, the leading rusher in franchise history, is now with the Indianapolis Colts. Carlos Hyde, whom the 49ers selected in the second round of last year’s draft to replace him, had an impressive debut as a starter.
Hyde appears to be a good fit for the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme – a similar style to which he ran during his career at Ohio State. Hyde exploded on the scene with a 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 rushing attempts.
Hyde got the 49ers on the scoreboard when he ended up in the left corner of the end zone on a play designed to go to the right. Hyde followed his blockers to the right, but he made a nifty spin move to leave Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen grasping at air.
Hyde reversed field to score on a 10-yard touchdown run to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead with :47 remaining in the first half. Hyde achieved career-highs in rushes (12) and yards rushing (83) in the first half alone. As a rookie, Hyde’s best game came against Seattle in December when he gained 55 yards.
Hyde gave the 49ers a 17-3 lead with 9:30 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard touchdown run.
The 49ers’ running game led the way on Monday night, though quarterback Colin Kaepernick had his moments, and picked up some key first downs on the game-clinching drive. Kaepernick finished the game completing 17 of 26 passes for 165 yards. He also rushed seven times for 41 yards.
The 49ers’ defense was bolstered by the return of NaVorro Bowman. He sat out all of last season due to a knee injury and was playing in his first meaningful game since the NFC Championship game in January 2014. Bowman recorded a sack late in the game to help thwart any Vikings comeback attempt.
A fast and aggressive 49ers’ defense put the wraps on Adrian Peterson in his return after missing 15 games last season while on the commissionr’s exempt list as he faced child-abuse charges. Peterson managed only 31 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 21 of 30 of passes for 223 yards and one interception.
Tramaine Brock clinched the game with an interception and 26-yard return with 8:22 remaining to set up Phil Dawson’s 25-yard field goal.
Blown chances: The 49ers blew two prime scoring chances in the first 25 minutes.
The 49ers drove 70 yards on their first drive of the game but did not get any points out of it when Dawson’s 28-yard field goal was blocked by Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings missed their own field-goal attempt when Blair Walsh pushed his 44-yard attempt wide right.
In the second quarter, Bruce Ellington’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown was nullified when Nick Bellore and Keith Reaser were called for illegal blocks in the back.
Bush injured: Running back Reggie Bush exited the game in the first quarter and did not return due to a calf injury. Bush was taken to the locker room in a cart. Bush was injured on a play in which he was stopped for no gain on a third-and-one play. His only other rushing attempt of the game went for 8 yards.
Hayne’d debut: Jarryd Hayne’s first regular-season game could not have gotten off to a worse start when he misjudged, then muffed Jeff Locke’s first punt of the game. The Vikings’ Audie Cole recovered the loose ball at the Minnesota 43-yard line. Due to Bush’s injury, Hayne was pressed into action on offense.
Ellington later took over on punt returns, but that might have had more to do with the 49ers not wanting to take any chances with Hayne because he became the No. 2 running back after Bush’s injury. Hayne gained 13 yards on four rushing attempts.
Haley honored: Charles Haley, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, was honored by the 49ers at halftime. Haley was recognized as the 26th inductee into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame.
Former owner Eddie DeBartolo, a finalist for the upcoming Hall of Fame class, and Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wilcox took part in the halftime ceremony.
This ‘n’ that: The 49ers posted a 4-0 record in Kaepernick’s four previous starts on Monday Night Football. He entered the game with 1,018 passing yards and nine touchdowns. Three of his top-five highest passer ratings came on Monday nights. . . Kaepernick completed nine consecutive passes spanning the second and third quarters. . . Vikings safety Harrison Smith leveled Kaepernick at the sideline at the end of a 7-yard run in the first quarter. Kaepernick quickly got up returned to the huddle. . . Kenneth Acker started at right cornerback for the 49ers. . . . The 49ers’ sub package included Dontae Johnson and Jaquiski Tartt in the secondary, along with Tank Carradine and Arik Armstead as inside pass-rushers. Tartt ended one drive when he blitzed up the middle to drop Teddy Bridgewater for a 14-yard loss on third and 5. Carradine helped the 49ers get off the field a little later with a 10-yard sack on third down. . . . Rookie punter Bradley Pinion handled the kickoff chores. . . .Fullback Bruce Miller did not see much action on offense, as the 49ers went heavy with three-TE sets. Miller played on special teams. . . Bowman left the game for one play near the end of the third quarter when he took a hit to a sensitive area. Shayne Skov replaced him for one snap and blitzed. But the Vikings hooked up on an 18-yard pass play for a first down to set up their first score of the game. The 49ers’ shutout lasted until 14:43 of the fourth quarter when Blair Walsh hit a 37-yard field goal to cap an 11-play, 66-yard drive. . . .Aaron Lynch sacked Bridgewater on a fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter.