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3 things we learned about the 49ers

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde had some big shoes to fill Monday night when he made his first career NFL start, taking over for Frank Gore, the team’s all-time leading rusher.

Hyde stepped into the spotlight and rushed for a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns, leading the 49ers to a 20-3 season-opening victory against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in new San Francisco coach Jim Tomsula’s debut.

Hyde, who carried 26 times, scored on a 10-yard run in the second quarter and a 17-yard run in the fourth.

“I just tried to be the momentum-builder for our offense,” Hyde said.

The 49ers lost Gore as a free agent to the Indianapolis Colts after last season. Hyde, who backed up Gore last year as a rookie, took full advantage of the team’s new zone blocking scheme.

“I love it,” Hyde said. “I feel like I was back at Ohio State tonight. It felt good. I have an awesome line, they do a great job of zone blocking and make it easy for me to hit those cutback lanes.”

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who missed the final 15 games last season over child-abuse charges, rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries in his first game since Sept. 7, 2014.

“This wasn’t the way we expected it to go,” Peterson said. “It will be a much different feel coming in (next week at home). You have to credit those guys on defense. They have good players, and they got the better of us.”

What we learned about the 49ers:

1. Frank Gore may be gone, but the 49ers’ running game is still a force with second-year pro Carlos Hyde carrying the ball. Hyde rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries Monday in a 20-3 victory against Minnesota. Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, signed as a free agent with Indianapolis after last season. Hyde, who served as his understudy as a rookie, made his first career start Monday. The 49ers switched to a zone blocking scheme this year, and the powerful Hyde is thriving. “I love it,” Hyde said. “I feel like I was back at Ohio State tonight. It felt good. I have an awesome line. They do a great job of zone blocking and make it easy for me to hit those cutback lanes.”

2. The 49ers’ defense has a new coordinator, Eric Mangini, but still looks like the strength of the team. San Francisco held Minnesota to 248 total yards Monday night. The 49ers sacked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater five times and had one interception. They also held running back Adrian Peterson to 31 yards on 10 carries. Mangini made it clear that he will blitz more often than former coordinator Vic Fangio. Two of the 49ers’ five sacks came from safeties, Antoine Bethea and Jaquiski Tartt, and two from linebackers, NaVorro Bowman and Aaron Lynch.

3. Special teams are a work in progress. In the first half, kicker Phil Dawson had a 28-yard field goal attempt blocked by Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo and returned 44 yards by cornerback Marcus Sherels to the 49ers’ 26. Jarryd Hayne muffed a punt — on his first career return — that Minnesota recovered at its 43. Punt returner Bruce Ellington had an 85-yard return for a touchdown nullified because of two illegal blocks in the back by the 49ers.

Etc.

–ILB NaVorro Bowman, who missed the entire 2014 season while recovering from a knee injury he sustained in the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago, started Monday night against Minnesota. Bowman had a sack and seven unassisted tackles, tying for the team lead.

–QB Colin Kaepernick completed 17 of 26 passes for 165 yards Monday night in a 20-3 victory against Minnesota. He also ran for 41 yards on seven carries. Kaepernick didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he also didn’t have any interceptions or turnovers.

–RB Reggie Bush sustained a game-ending left calf injury early in the first quarter Monday night against Minnesota. “We don’t think it’s real serious,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. Bush, who signed as a free agent during the offseason, made his 49ers debut, and he gained 8 yards on two carries.

–RB Carlos Hyde rushed for a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries Monday night in his first NFL start. Hyde also caught two passes for 14 yards.

–RB/PR Jarryd Hayne, a former Australian rugby start, made his NFL debut Monday night against Minnesota. He carried four times for 13 yards but also muffed the only punt he tried to field, losing the ball to Minnesota.


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