Offense finally clicks as 49ers edged by Vikings

With a single heave of the football, San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer found something that had been missing from the 49ers preseason — a first-team offensive touchdown.

Utilizing the olympic-caliber speed of first-year 49er Marquise Goodwin, Hoyer connected with the streaking wideout to find the end zone for the first time in three weeks. The 49ers (1-2) would go on to score on their first two drives of the night, marking the first real sign of offense in the Kyle Shanahan era in a 32-31 loss against the Minnesota Vikings (2-1).

Before Sunday night, the first-string offense headed by Hoyer had sustained marginal success at best, seeing zero points along the way. Clearly a trip to Minnesota changed that narrative, as Hoyer produced his best performance as a 49ers quarterback by far.

A cool 12-for-17 for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half came as the strongest effort from Hoyer so far. Along with Hoyer, Sunday night saw welcomed contributions from several players on the offensive side of the ball.

After Hoyer’s touchdown to Goodwin, the very next drive saw Carlos Hyde finding the end zone as well. A 25-yard connection with Hoyer gave the 49ers a 14-0 lead after a successful PAT from Robbie Gould. Hyde finished the game with 19 yards on the ground and 45 yards receiving on only three catches, providing a long-overdue performance.

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon also proved his worth by tacking on 64 yards on six receptions, leading the team in receiving. Even though it is only the preseason, those watching can see the team making strides in the basics of Shanahan’s system.

As seen at Shanahan’s previous places of employment, his offensive philosophies have the potential to score points in bunches and lift teams to juggernaut state. But before Minnesota, none of that seemed to be a possibility.

A big piece missing for the majority of the preseason has been the offensive line, which hindered the progression of the offense. On Sunday, that same group seemed to have figured things out. Exceptional pass protection and sufficient run blocking allowed Hoyer and company to move the ball downfield while cashing in on long drives.

Even with the resilient effort from the O-line, Sunday’s win comes with one area of concern. Starting left tackle Joe Staley was forced to exit the game during the first half after sustaining a right knee injury. Veteran savvy and leadership comes at a premium with this young 49ers team, so Staley’s return is crucial if San Francisco wants a good start in 2017.

The reinvigorated 49ers now set their eyes on the last preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday night. Though no starters are expected to play, the remaining roster spots for the final 53-man-roster are expected to be decided.