Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings get started against 49ers

Posted by: Chris Miller under Rookies, Vikings, Football on TV, NFC, Jared Allen, Ryan Longwell Updated: August 10, 2012 - 5:28 PM

A video preview of tonight's game betweein the Vikings and 49ers, featuring Dan Wiederer's interview with CineSport anchor Tara Petrolino, can be seen here.

Kickoff is at 8 p.m.

Here's Mark Craig's game preview:

VIKINGS AT 49ERS
8 p.m. at San Francisco's Candlestick Park • TV: Ch. 23 • Radio: 100.3-FM and 100.3-AM

ABOUT THE VIKINGS

After holding his own against reigning NFL sack king Jared Allen over 11 practices, rookie left tackle Matt Kalil will be tested in live game action for the first time in what should be a long Vikings career. Assuming the 49ers play their starters, Kalil, the fourth overall pick, should get at least one series against one of the league's fastest and most physical defenses. Justin Smith, a stout and quick 3-4 end, and rush linebacker Aldon Smith combined for 21 1/2 sacks a year ago. ... Also keep an eye on right guard, where the starting job is Brandon Fusco's to lose; nose tackle, where Letroy Guion has to prove he's not too undersized to make the switch from under tackle; middle linebacker, where Jasper Brinkley will see his first game action since hip surgery wiped out his entire 2011 season; kicker, where rookie Blair Walsh begins dealing with the pressure of replacing veteran Ryan Longwell; and, of course, quarterback, where Christian Ponder is coming off a season in which he went 2-8 as a starter and threw as many interceptions (13) as touchdowns. Watching the depth, especially at receiver and defensive back, will be interesting as well. Rookies to watch include Jarius Wright, who had an unremarkable camp at receiver, and Harrison Smith, who has a nasty side that he'll get to unleash on another team as he tries to become a starter.

ABOUT THE 49ERS

It won't take the Vikings long to see how their refurbished roster compares to the best the NFC has to offer. The 49ers are coming off a conference-best 13-3 record that earned rookie coach Jim Harbaugh the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award. The NFC's best defense -- one that allowed only three rushing TDs a year ago -- includes the best and most physical inside linebacker in the league in Patrick Willis. Offensively, the 49ers committed a franchise record-low 10 turnovers as quarterback Alex Smith had a stunning breakout season after bumbling through his first six NFL seasons. His five interceptions were a record low for the franchise and contributed to an NFL-leading plus-28 turnover differential. Running back Frank Gore, 29, keeps chugging along after rushing for 1,211 yards in his seventh season. And, oh yeah, there's the SuperFreak. After a year out of the league, Randy Moss is attempting a comeback in San Francisco. He's in a dead heat for the No. 2 receiver job with Mario Manningham and Ted Ginn Jr. Moss, 35, has a lot to prove. He flopped in 2010, catching just 28 passes with the Patriots, Vikings and Titans.

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