Packer Plus - - NEWS - Dave Camp­bell AP pro foot­ball writer

Game ba­sics; player stats, sched­ules, rosters, depth charts

Min­neapo­lis — Kirk Cousins took the third-and-5 shot­gun snap with 3 min­utes left and Min­nesota hold­ing an eight-point lead. He de­cided to run for it. The San Fran­cisco de­fense con­verged as Cousins crossed his 40-yard line, so the most ex­pen­sive player in Vik­ings his­tory low­ered his head as he tried to power his way past the first-down marker.

Cousins took a shoul­der to the back from 49ers line­backer Eli­jah Lee as he tum­bled to the turf and came up just short, a dan­ger­ous way for a fran­chise quar­ter­back to try to move the chains, but his de­ter­mi­na­tion to experience vic­tory in his Vik­ings de­but on Sun­day af­ter­noon was not to be rea­soned with.

“Hey, when the game’s on the line, we’re try­ing to get the first down. Go for it,” coach Mike Zim­mer said. “I’m all in.”

Cousins passed for two touch­downs and the Vik­ings forced four turnovers, fu­el­ing a 24-16 win over the 49ers in the sea­son opener that stuck Jimmy Garoppolo with his first loss in eight games as an NFL start­ing quar­ter­back .

The Vik­ings ac­tu­ally kept that late drive alive by a 49ers neu­tral zone in­frac­tion penalty on fourth-and-1, be­fore punt­ing four plays later. Har­ri­son Smith’s in­ter­cep­tion, the third by the Vik­ings against Garoppolo in the sec­ond half, sealed the game with 1:35 re­main­ing.

Asked af­ter­ward about that head­first hus­tle, Cousins ac­knowl­edged the risk of such a play and said he might have been bet­ter served with a stut­ter­step or some kind of move to try to make Lee miss.

“We had played too hard at that point to just slide early and give up on that,” Cousins said.

Cousins com­pleted 20 of 36 passes for 244 yards with­out a turnover. He faced plenty of pres­sure, high­lighted by DeFor­est Buck­ner and his 2½ sacks, and there were a hand­ful of awk­ward-look­ing plays pro­duced by the Vik­ings. Cousins was right on tar­get at just the right times, though, de­liv­er­ing sev­eral clutch throws in traf­fic in­clud­ing the scor­ing passes to Ste­fon Diggs in the sec­ond quar­ter and Kyle Rudolph in the third quar­ter.

“That’s NFL foot­ball. I think that if you’re not re­ally ac­cu­rate and you don’t have that con­fi­dence to let it rip, you’re go­ing to be hold­ing the ball and get­ting sacked, you’re go­ing to be spray­ing it ev­ery­where,” Cousins said. “If you’re wait­ing for guys to be open, you’re go­ing to be wait­ing a long time.”

Cousins, who signed a three-year, $84 mil­lion con­tract with the Vik­ings this spring, clearly sa­vored his first reg­u­lar-sea­son con­test at U.S. Bank Sta­dium, where the Vik­ings are 15-3, in­clud­ing the play­offs since it opened. The last player to emerge from the tun­nel dur­ing pregame in­tro­duc­tions, Cousins said the honor was un­de­served and should have been re­served for Diggs, wide re­ceiver Adam Thie­len, left tackle Ri­ley Reiff or run­ning back Dalvin Cook.

“It’s just an ex­am­ple of the team wel­com­ing me with open arms, and I’m so grate­ful for this op­por­tu­nity that I’ve been given,” Cousins said, “and I just want to make good on it with ev­ery chance I get.”

Here are some other key an­gles that

emerged from the game:

Get­ting to Garoppolo: Garoppolo fin­ished 15 for 33 for 261 yards and a touch­down pass to rookie Dante Pet­tis late in the third quar­ter, but the Vik­ings sacked him three times. Mike Hughes re­turned the first pick 28 yards for a score.

“There’s not one word to put on it. We went against a very good de­fense, and we all didn’t play as good as we could,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Lots of quar­ter­backs strug­gle against that de­fense. Jimmy did some good things, but by no means was he per­fect.”

Come­back com­plete: Cook had 16 car­ries for 40 yards and six catches for 55 yards, a pro­duc­tive re­turn to live ac­tion af­ter tear­ing the ACL in his left knee about 11 months ear­lier. He lost a fum­ble at the San Fran­cisco 29 af­ter spin­ning and muscling his way through a crowd of de­fend­ers for a 15-yard gain.

Cook de­clared his knee and body fit for a full sea­son, but his mind was also on his fam­ily. His un­cle and child­hood con­fi­dant, An­thony Jones, a run­ning back for Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, was wounded in a drive-by shoot­ing in Mi­ami on Thurs­day. Cook’s grand­mother raised him and Jones, her son.

“Just go­ing out there, com­pet­ing, play­ing my heart out, that’s what he wanted,” Cook said.

Kit­tle’s drop: Garoppolo and the 49ers had their hands full against the league’s lead­ing de­fense of 2017, los­ing wide re­ceiver Mar­quise Good­win to a first-quar­ter quadri­ceps in­jury and two right guards to foot in­juries. They had suc­cess rolling Garoppolo out on mis­di­rec­tion plays, and tight end Ge­orge Kit­tle was the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary with five catches for 90 yards.

The one he didn’t make stood out. Wide open up the seam, Kit­tle had what would’ve been a 30-yard com­ple­tion fall off his fin­gers at mid­field. The third­down in­ter­cep­tion by Hughes came on the next play to give the Vik­ings a 17-3 lead.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted,” Kit­tle said, “but I feel like we def­i­nitely had some mo­men­tum go­ing and if we can do that we’ll be a pretty good of­fense.” De­fense digs in: The 49ers gave Ga- rop­polo an op­por­tu­nity with three straight three-and-out pos­ses­sions by the Vik­ings in the fourth quar­ter. Rookie Fred Warner, start­ing at mid­dle line­backer with Reuben Foster sus­pended, led the team with 12 tack­les, in­clud­ing one for loss. He also had one quar­ter­back hurry, one pass breakup and the forced fum­ble on Cook.

“Mid­dle line­backer is one of the tough­est po­si­tions to come in as a rookie and play and be ef­fec­tive,” said cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man, who made his 49ers de­but. “I think he did an ad­mirable job.”


Vik­ings quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins threw a pair of touch­down passes in his first game in Min­nesota.

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