Sep 14, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) reacts after a play against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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49ers Ride Carlos Hyde, Stingy Defense to Monday Night Win

If someone asked you before tonight’s game which man wearing number 28 would carve up the field of Levi’s Stadium, you would have put the smart money on the Minnesota Vikings’ returning superstar Adrian Peterson.

Instead, it was the San Francisco 49ers’ new workhorse, Carlos Hyde, who put the stamp of authority on a huge week 1 win for the storied franchise.

The 49ers entered the 2015 season with a host of questions at almost every position, not least of which at running back after the loss of tireless Frank Gore. Hyde made the most of his first opportunity as a starter, racking up a whopping 168 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries.

But as is often the case in the NFL, the stats don’t tell the full story. Hyde was surprisingly elusive in open space, busting out a couple of nice spins and shuffles to evade defenders – traits usually non-existent in a downhill runner. In contact, he was stout and tough to bring down. You might even say he looked more like AP than AP himself.

On the other side of the ball, Peterson could be excused for showing a little game rust in his first appearance in pads and cleats for a whole calendar year. There were times in which the former MVP looked exactly that, carrying defenders, zipping through holes and shedding tackles the way only he can.

Of course, a big part of Peterson’s 10-tote, 31-yard night was the Vikings’ inability to get into rhythm through the air. Teddy Bridgewater would warm to the task too late, with uncharacteristic inaccuracy and abysmal pass blocking in the first half letting Minnesota down too often to mount a real comeback.

With the passing game stifled, the 49ers consistently loaded the box and stuffed Peterson at the line of scrimmage on multiple snaps. After an entire offseason of defensive despair in the Bay Area, it would be unfair to single out one Niners defender in tonight’s performance.

Antoine Bethea, Tramaine Brock and the returning Navarro Bowman all did their part in keeping Bridgewater on edge. The defense as a whole was good for 5 sacks, an interception, 3 points allowed and – maybe most importantly – just one third down conversion allowed.

The 49ers don’t look like a playoff team quite yet, but their first performance has certainly exceeded expectations in what will undoubtedly be an improved season.

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