Arguably no team in the NFL was as desperate for a Week 1 win as the San Francisco 49ers, who endured a miserable, demoralizing off-season. They found some relief Monday night, taking down Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in convincing fashion, 20-3.
Three thoughts on the final game of the NFL's opening weekend:
1. This was U-G-L-Y, which is just how the 49ers would have wanted it
Make no mistake, there is still enough talent on the San Francisco roster to make up a competitive football team. But there certainly have been some downgrades from the team that made the Super Bowl three seasons ago or that went to the NFC championship in 2013.
To win games this season, the 49ers are going to have to be willing to muck it up a bit. They did just that on Monday, eventually taking full control after a slow first half.
San Francisco made its desired identity clear. Right out of the gate vs. Minnesota, new head coach Jim Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst utilized a bevy of two and three tight-end sets, hoping to establish RB Carlos Hyde before complementing him with the play-action passing attack. On defense, the 49ers attacked—a blitz off the edge forced a Teddy Bridgewater incompletion on Minnesota's second play, and the Vikings never really adjusted to San Francisco's interior-gap blitzes.
This is not going to be a run-and-gun team that rolls up 40-point nights. Strip away the penalties and a couple of special teams mistakes, and Monday night was true to Tomsula's vision.
"I think you're gonna see us get back to the basics, get back to letting our players go out and make plays," Tomsula said in March, via CBSSports.com. "You look at our offense last year ... it wasn't I think where it should have been. I think we have better talent than what our results showed."
On paper, though, there were even more question marks on defense. Would linebacker NaVorro Bowman bounce back after missing a season-plus because of a devastating knee injury? Who would generate a pass rush with Aldon Smith forcing his way out of town via a series of off-field mistakes? How large would Chris Borland's stunning retirement loom for the linebacking corps?
Perhaps a flag there would have changed the course of the game. However, it's hard to blame the no-call given how difficult San Francisco made Minnesota's life Monday night.
2. Carlos Hyde is legit
If there was one spot where the 49ers did not really sweat losing a big-name contributor, it was at running back. While Gore had accounted for nearly 14,000 total yards during his 10-year 49ers career, all indications were that Hyde, in his second season out of Ohio State, was ready for a bigger piece of the pie.
Hyde rewarded that confidence with a standout Week 1 showing. He carried the San Francisco offense, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. His first TD was a highlight-reel job, too—Hyde pulled off a dazzling 360, then bounced wide left to waltz into the end zone. His play out of the backfield helped keep Colin Kaepernick out of obvious passing situations, which is an absolute must in order for this offense to thrive.
The 49ers will have to wait and see how Hyde responds to an increased workload. In his rookie season he carried the ball just 83 times; at his Week 1 pace, he'll top that mark in Week 4 this year.
Assuming he can handle the extra reps, the 49ers should keep giving him the ball. He appears to be ready for stardom.
3. The Adrian Peterson comeback needs time, or so Minnesota hopes
Peterson didn't play after Week 1 last season, and the Vikings did not give him any reps during their five preseason games. So, it's no surprise that the former MVP collected a little rust prior to his 2015 debut.
The lack of cohesiveness in Minnesota's offensive attack probably falls under the same category, to some extent. The Vikings' issues along their line are very real, but the rapport between Peterson and Bridgewater should come in time.
It would help if Minnesota made more of a concerted effort to involve Peterson in the attack. He took just four carries in the first half Monday and finished with 10 rushes for a measly 31 yards overall. Seemingly making matters more difficult was the Vikings' insistence on handing off to Peterson out of shotgun sets, rather than with the QB under center as he's done throughout most of his career. The change limited Peterson's momentum coming downhill.
Without any run game to speak of, Bridgewater often found himself playing behind the chains in difficult down-and-distance spots—an issue for any offense, let alone one that has some holes along the line.
Much of the high hopes surrounding Minnesota this preseason anticipated Peterson regaining his pre-suspension form. He did not have that juice Monday, nor did the Vikings really give him a shot to find it.
GALLERY: WEEK 1 OF THE 2015 NFL SEASON
Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Season
Carlos Hyde of the San Francisco 49ers rushes past Anthony Barr of the Minnesota Vikings.
Adrian Peterson played in his first game in over a year Monday night as the Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers.
Former rugby star Jarryd Hayne fumbles a punt in his first NFL game with the San Francisco 49ers.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones makes a touchdown catch against Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Byron Maxwell.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) runs against Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Kroy Biermann (71) during the second half.
Josh McCown had to undergo concussion protocol after this leap into the end zone against New York.
Johnny Manziel was pressed into duty in Week 1 and played an uneven game against the Jets.
Chris Ivory scored two touchdowns against Cleveland as the Jets won their opener.
Steve Smith couldn't get away from a tough Denver defense during a Week 1 loss.
Eddie Lacy picked up right where he left off last year, bulldozing his way through the opposition.
James Jones made his return to the Packers a joyous one, catching two touchdown passes in Week 1.
Donte Moncrief of the Indianapolis Colts is tackled by Bacarri Rambo of the Buffalo Bills.
Boobie Dixon of the Buffalo Bills jumps into the endzone for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.
Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans fumbles the ball after being sacked by Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Bishop Sankey scores one of his two touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger is pressured by the Patriots in an opening-week loss.
Darrius Heyward-Bey couldn't turn this catch into a touchdown because his foot was out of bounds.
Jarvis Landry is taken down hard by the Redskins.
Jordan Reed was one of the most-targeted receivers in Washington's game against Miami.
Tavon Austin heads toward the end zone on his 75-yard punt return against Seattle
St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams celebrate their overtime victory over Seattle.
Running back Danny Woodhead of the San Diego Chargers scores a touchdown against the Detroit Lions.
Running back Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers is tackled by the Detroit Lions defense.
Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson tries to get around San Diego Chargers safety Jahleel Addae.
Wide receiver Brandon Coleman of the New Orleans Saints stretches for the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.
Wide receiver Willie Snead of the New Orleans Saints stiff arms free safety Rashad Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald leaps over defensive back Delvin Breaux of the New Orleans Saints during the Arizona Cardinals victory.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates a catch and run after dragging three New Orleans Saints defenders for extra yardage.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals makes a big tackle on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Running back Andre Ellington of the Arizona Cardinals breaks a tackle up the middle against New Orleans Saints linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans makes a touchdown catch against Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt lays a massive hit on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a touchdown catch against Kareem Jackson of the Houston Texans.
New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell leaps over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr.
Dez Bryant makes a catch against the New York Giants before leaving with a broken bone in his right foot.
Rashad Greene of the Jacksonville Jaguars misses a pass during a game against the Carolina Panthers.
Charles Johnson of the Carolina Panthers sacks Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles.
Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars is sacked by Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers.
Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson is helped to the sideline after being injured during the second half of a 33-13 loss to Cincinnati.
Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals rushes against the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree cannot catch a pass in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.