Three and Out: McCoy gets nod; impressive debuts for Patton, Baldwin
Colin Kaepernick earned a high-five from his head coach after leading the 49ers on a touchdown drive. (AP)
What you need to know: Everything fell into place for the 49ers' first-team offense under the direction of Colin Kaepernick.
And things worked out quite well for Colt McCoy, too.
McCoy went from being a player in jeopardy of getting cut to accepting a pay cut and being announced as the backup quarterback in less than a day.
"Over the last week, I feel like things have come together," McCoy said following the 49ers' 34-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the third exhibition game for both teams.
"I practiced really well. And, then, minus a couple exceptions, I felt I played well tonight. All that is confidence for me, moving forward. Was I ever scared or nervous? No, I wasn't worried about the situation. I was more concerned about me getting a grasp of what's going on. And I really think I'm on my way to a lot of improvement there."
McCoy completed 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards. He led the 49ers on a touchdown drive which Jewel Hampton capped with a 4-yard touchdown run. McCoy also threw his third interception in three exhibition games.
Coach Jim Harbaugh announced McCoy as the team's backup quarterback afterward. "I feel real good about Colt as the backup quarterback," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said he was pleased with what he saw from the 49ers in their penultimate exhibition game. Even through it was a preseason game, Harbaugh still led his team through its customary locker-room cheer: "Who's got it better than us? Nobody!"
"I thought we played good football," Harbaugh said. "I was pleased with the way our guys worked, practiced all week and came out and played in the game. I thought there was a lot of good football out there."
Kaepernick played three drives -- his longest stint of the exhibition season. After two three-and-outs, Kaepernick completed all six of his pass attempts on a drive that ended with his 4-yard dart to rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton in the back of the end zone.
"He's a great player," said Kaepernick, who completed seven of 13 attempts for 72 yards and a touchdown. "He is someone who just knows football. He knows how to get open. He knows how to make plays. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for us."
Patton finished with a game-high four receptions for 35 yards. He did not play in the first two exhibition games and missed the opening three weeks of camp with a fracture of his left index finger.
The other QBs: Scott Tolzien, the 49ers' third quarterback the past two seasons, did not play. He was limited in practice last week due to an injury. Rookie B.J. Daniels was the third quarterback to enter the action Sunday. He led the 49ers on a touchdown drive, which Anthony Dixon capped with a 1-yard touchdown run. Daniels completed two of three passes for 30 yards, and he also ran for 20 yards on two attempts. Seneca Wallace, a veteran the 49ers signed last week, completed both of his attempts for 27 yards.
Lasting impact: Harbaugh asked 10-year veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to say a few words to the entire team last week. Asomugha has earned his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster with his play. And, now, it's apparent Harbaugh also views him as a team leader.
"Any time coach puts the spotlight on you, it's a good thing," Asomugha said. "I take it as a positive."
What was Asomugha's message to his teammates during the dog days of training camp?
"I told the guys, you hear a lot of times, 'I thought I did well and coach didn't say anything to me.' Or 'A coach only has negative things to say to me,'" Asomugha said. "I was just telling the guys to stay focused and to appreciate the little success you have each day. It was just something to get them going and keep them hungry, not always look for the pat on the back."
Asomugha was the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback on Sunday night. Tramaine Brock has mostly filled that role since Chris Culliver sustained a torn left ACL in the first week of training camp. When asked if Asomugha has taken the lead for the role, Harbaugh said, "There's quite a bit of competition still there."
Reid's role: Rookie Eric Reid likely held onto his starting job with a solid showing in the first half of play Sunday night against the Vikings' No. 1 offense.
Quarterback Christian Ponder tested Reid deep on the first play from scrimmage. Reid had solid coverage on an incomplete pass 40 yards down the field intended for Greg Jennings. Reid was credited with two tackles on defense and another on special teams.
"I thought he was good," Harbaugh said. "He was deep when he was supposed to be deep, made tackles, showed up on special teams. He did a fine job. (He's) another guy who continues to get better."
Head-scratcher: Veteran Lavelle Hawkins, who is facing an uphill battle to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster, would have certainly helped himself with a 105-yard kickoff return and a nice 22-yard catch along the sideline.
However, Hawkins was called for two unsportsmanlike penalties on his touchdown return. He waved the football in a taunting fashion at the Vikings on his way to the end zone for one penalty. Then, he removed his helmet before making his way to the 49ers bench. His third unsportsmanlike penalty came after his reception when officials ruled he gently head-butted former Cal teammate Desmond Bishop after his reception.
Harbaugh removed Hawkins from the game in the fourth quarter after his reception. He did not return to the action.
"Especially, after you point it out," Harbaugh said. "One strike. Two strikes. Probably the second-strike level. He did score a touchdown and had a big catch. He's definitely got to do a better job of not getting emotionally hi-jacked after doing something great."
Receiver competition: Anquan Boldin and Marlon Moore started. Patton and Jon Baldwin, who are likely to make the team, had good showings. Kyle Williams, also expected to make the team, did not suit up as the 49ers bring him along slowly from an ACL injury a year ago. Chad Hall was one of five receivers who saw action in the first three quarters. He caught two passes for 13 yards. Austin Collie saw 14 snaps of action in the fourth quarter and caught one ball for 8 yards.
Earning respect: Defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye said he has not given any thought to the upcoming round of cuts that the 49ers must make to get down to 75 players. Okoye, a British Olympian in the discus a year ago, played in the third football game of his life Sunday night.
"I haven't thought about it, to be honest with you," Okoye said. "I've been focusing on preparing for games and working hard in every practice."
Okoye was on the field for eight snaps before leaving with a right knee bruise, but he was very encouraged by how he did in the week leading up to the game.
"I want to earn the respect of my teammate and coaches," Okoye said. "Every day they see me put the work in and take another step up the ladder, I earn their respect, and that's what motivates me more than anything."
Long-snapper competition: Incumbent Brian Jennings, who has handled the long-snapping chores for the past 13 seasons, handled the first snap in Sunday's game. After successfully snapping on Phil Dawson's 30-yard field goal, the rest of the evening belonged to undrafted rookie Kevin McDermott.
McDermott performed well on his two snaps on punts and five field-goal or extra-point kicks. Harbaugh last week said the competition at long snapper is "very, very even."
Injury Concerns: Running back LaMichael James left the game after the first series of the second half with an elbow injury. James carried nine times for 15 yards.
"I think LaMichael's fine," Harbaugh said. "LaMichael's fine. He's going through something with his elbow."
Outside linebacker Cam Johnson (shoulder) did not return after his injury.
Hunter looks sharp: Running back Kendall Hunter returned to his role as the 49ers' backup. He tore off on a 15-yard run on his first rushing attempt of the game. He finished with three carries for 13 yards. It was Hunter's first appearance since sustaining a partially torn Achilles on Nov. 25 against the New Orleans Saints.
"I just wanted to come back and show them that I'm back," Hunter said. "I'm ready to play and whenever they need me, they can count on me. I'm ready to prove it."
Nice debut: Baldwin caught two passes for 23 yards in his first game after arriving with the 49ers in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for A.J. Jenkins.
"I studied the game plan and studied what they told me to study," Baldwin said. "When the quarterbacks were in there, they just called whatever the offensive coordinator called and we dialed it up."
Said Harbaugh, "The very short period of time he's been here he has shown that he absorbed it real quick and (we) put him in some situations where he hadn't practiced."
Quote of the day: "Justin Smith had a burr in his saddle or something tonight. He was Justin Smith. It was great."
Harbaugh on the 49ers' All-Pro defensive lineman who snuffed out a Vikings drive when he threw ex-Stanford running back Toby Gerhart for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-inches play.