Cousins, Addison torch 49ers defense to hand them back-to-back losses

Oct 23, 2023, 9:50 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2023, 8:46 am

Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a first half pass against the San Francisco 49ers a...

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Another heartbreaking loss for the 49ers, dropping their second game in as many weeks.

The San Francisco 49ers finish their mid-season road trip in a slump, dropping the second game, 22-17, to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. A team primed for long-term success two weeks ago, now looks a shell of themselves. And it came at the hands of Kyle Shanahan’s former protege, Kirk Cousins.

Here’s how Week 7 went for the Red & Gold.

Monday Night Football started pretty good for the 49ers, forcing a takeaway on the third play of the game. After the Vikings got a big first down to start, Cousins threw a pick two plays later, trying to force it in to rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison. 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward made a play on the ball, ripping it out of the wideout’s hands to force the interception inside Minnesota territory.

The 49ers offense took over from there, gaining there first downs on the next four plays. Then disaster struck as running back Christian McCaffrey coughed up the rock, handing it right back to the home team inside the redzone. This is CMC’s second fumble in as many weeks, the most in a season since 2018.

The Vikings’ offense made good on the turnover, going on a 10-play drive to the endzone next.

But not before the 49ers forced a third down early. That was the story of the game, as Minnesota went 8 for 13 on said down.  They converted their first one on this drive, hitting tight end T.J. Hockenson for a big gain up the seam.

Hitting open receivers downfield, Cousins got into a rhythm early. He eventually found paydirt with Addison, getting him the ball between two 49ers defenders for a 22-yard score.

7-0 Vikings after a drive that chewed up six minutes of clock. They would only have eight meaningful possessions on the night, converting points on five of them.

San Francisco rebounded the next drive, getting into field goal range after 10 plays. The drive came to an end when QB Brock Purdy couldnt connect with WR Jauan Jennings on third down, slipping on the play.

Rookie kicker Jake Moody came on for the 40-yard field goal attempt, hooking it wide left. The 49ers’ kicking woes continue to start the second quarter. This is Moody’s third missed kick in the last two games.

Cousins and Co. turned around and went on a 13-play drive, culminating in three more points for the home team.  And again, the 49ers’ defense looked lackluster, missing tackles and allowing big plays left and right. A screen pass to RB Cam Akers got the Vikings near the goal-line on a 30-yard catch and run. Luckily, the 49ers made a stand, forcing a field goal after linebacker Fred Warner tipped a pass away from the opposition.

On came the kicking team to make the score 10-0 midway through the second quarter.

The 49ers recovered on the next series, reverting back to themselves with a 12-play drive. Purdy was largely responsible for that, coverting a big third down to WR Brandon Aiyuk for 25 yards. That got the 49ers rolling, working their way down inside the redzone. A tight end screen pass to Ross Dwelley got them even closer, setting up first and goal on the 12-yard gain.

A few plays later, McCaffrey cashed in from three yards out to make it, 10-7.

That touchdown marks the 16th-straight game with a touchdown for the ballcarrier, second-most all time. He is one game shy of Lenny Moore’s record of 17 games.

Sadly though, the 49ers defense made a costly error as the first half came to a close.

Pushing the Vikings back on third down, Cousins threw a laser that was initially in Ward’s hands for his second pick of the day. Addison, the intended receiver, didn’t quit on the ball, ripping it from the defender mid-stride. The play caused confusion, allowing the rookie to waltz into the endzone for a 60-yard score, his second of the day.

16-7 is the score at the half, all from one play call that left coach Kyle Shanahan a bit disappointed.

“That’s stuff we’ll discuss throughout this week,” Shanahan said postgame about the blitz call. “Obviously, I did not like the result.”

The 49ers still had a chance to make it right though, getting the ball to start the second half. They couldn’t capitalize however, forced to punt it away after six plays.

On the other end, Minnesota continued to throw the ball well, racking up over 250 air yards by the end of the quarter. Big plays to WR K.J. Osborn, Addison and Brian Powell put the home side in prime position. Then, a pass interference call on CB Deommodore Lenoir puts the Vikings in first-and-goal.

But once again, the 49ers make a stand, forcing Cousins into a poor throw on third down. K Greg Joseph comes on, making it 19-7, midway through the third quarter.

That drive woke the 49ers’ offense up, conducting a few quick-strike plays for six.

After hitting TE George Kittle for a 28-yard gain, Purdy got the ball to CMC on a swing pass. The versatile runner took the pass in stride, going downhill fast to make a man miss, running in for a touchdown from 35 yards away.

A three-play, 75-yard drive sees the game become one score, 19-14.

Minnesota would not be deterred though, going on another 10-play drive next.

Cousins continued to hit receivers on third down, making a big throw to Powell for 16 yards. Minnesota keep moving the ball methodically, before the were stopped at the 49ers’ 36-yard-line.

Joseph came on for the 54-yard try, hitting it with ease. 22-14 is the score as we enter the fourth quarter.

The 49ers respond with a six-play drive next, as Purdy made plays on the run, hitting Kittle for a 18-yard first down. That drive eventually stalled when WR Brandon Aiyuk couldn’t secure a low throw from Purdy, forcing a long FG try for Moody.

The kicker converted it this time, using his booming leg to make the score, 22-17.

The next possession saw the 49ers’ defense do something they hand done all night: Force a punt.

But it came after seven plays and four minutes of game clock gone, with Cousins able to convert two first downs, getting the ball to midfield. Still, the 49ers’ defense did its’ job, giving the offense a chance to take the lead late.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

After moving the ball efficiently downfield, Purdy made his first mistake of the night at the worse possible time. Anticipating the route by Jennings, the QB led him too far, throwing it into the hands of safety Cam Bynum.

Only Brock Purdy’s second INT of the season, coming at a horrific time in the game.

Cousins and Minnesota had the momentum again, taking another four minutes off the clock with their slow-paced offense. A drive that lasted 10 plays, was eventually stopped inside 49ers’ territory. Now facing a big kick that could make it an eight-point contest, Joseph stepped up from 50 yards.

And he missed it, hooking it right of the goalpost.

Now with only 71 seconds left, it was do or die time for the 49ers. And it ended in the latter.

After getting 20 yards from WR Ray-Ray McCloud, Purdy went back to him a third time in a row. Th results weren’t the same, trying to loft the football over a defender on the run. Once again, S Cam Bynum made the play, snagging the ball out of the sky to seal the win for the home team.

22-17 is the final score, as the 49ers couldn’t muster up a comeback despite no points scored in the final 13 minutes of the game.

The story of the game falls on the defense, allowing a season-high 453 yards of offense by the Vikings. Cousins finished with 378 of those yards, most for the 49ers since Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

After dominating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, SF has come back down to earth, with their defense searching for answers.

“We’ve shown what we’re capable of, our best version of ourselves. But at the end of the day I want our mental toughness to go up. I want to win in any form or fashion. If it’s ugly, ok, let’s find a way to get it done,” Warner stated postgame about his unit.

Another key point in the game was McCaffrey’s fumble on the team’s first drive, swinging the momentum back to Minnesota. The 49ers had scored on their opening drive in the six contests prior, as the running back put the responsibility of the loss on his shoulders after the fact.

“I made a bad mistake today that I believe cost us the game…Put it on me,” he said emotionally.

The 49ers will have to turn the page quickly however, already on a short week. Plus, Week 8 isn’t any easier, with the Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town. While back-to-back losses sting in the moment, the Red & Gold have to find a way to enter their bye week as 6-2, instead of 5-3.

“We flat-out got beat. We’ve gotta take it like a man,” Shanahan added. “We’ve got five and a half days to figure out a way to beat the Bengals and make sure we go into the bye week 6-2, and not 5-3.”

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Sunday, October 29th vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, November 12th @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, November 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 3rd @ Philadelphia Eagles – 1:25 PM PST

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