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The Journal Gazette

Monday, September 10, 2018 1:00 am

Minnesota 24 San Francisco 16

Vikings QB Cousins shines

DAVE CAMPBELL | Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Kirk Cousins passed for two touchdowns in his Minnesota debut, and the Vikings forced four turnovers to fuel a 24-16 victory over San Francisco on Sunday to stick 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with his first loss in eight games as an NFL starter.

Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs in the second quarter and Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter for scores, and the defense finished the job with three sacks and three second-half interceptions of Garoppolo. Mike Hughes turned one pick into a 28-yard touchdown return, the first by a rookie in a Vikings season opener.

“I'm so grateful for this opportunity that I've been given, and I just want to make good on it with every chance I get,” said Cousins, who had no turnovers.

Harrison Smith sealed the game with an interception with 1:35 left. He also recovered a fumble by Alfred Morris at the 2-yard line after Linval Joseph stripped the ball just in front of the goal line in the late in the first half and sacked Garoppolo on a third-down safety blitz.

“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge with the environment, going against a tough team,” Garoppolo said. “They stood up to everything we thought they would, but with all the things that went bad we still had a shot at the end there. Just a tough way to end it.”

Garoppolo finished 15 for 33 for 261 yards and a touchdown pass to rookie Dante Pettis. With an injury depleted offensive line in front of him and the absence of top wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, Garoppolo was unable to capitalize on the opportunity for a comeback after the 49ers defense forced three straight three-and-out possessions by the Vikings to start the fourth quarter. DeForest Buckner had 2 1/2 sacks for San Francisco.

Cousins went 20 for 36 for 244 yards, targeting Adam Thielen 12 times. He caught six passes for 102 yards.

“He played the way he always does,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who made his 49ers debut. “Efficient. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's poised and doesn't get rattled.”

Garoppolo won twice for New England in 2016 and guided the 49ers to five straight wins to finish last season after he arrived in a trade with the Patriots.