Cornerback Mike Hughes had himself one helluva debut, helping the Minnesota Vikings (1-0) to a 24-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) The 5-11 191 pound rookie out of the University of Central Florida made several plays during the game that showed the type of talent that Head Coach Mike Zimmer saw back in April, when he made Hughes the 30th pick.
Play Number One
4th & 14, ball on the 49ers’ 38
As the Vikings first drive of the game stalled out, the punt team was brought in. Matt Wile booted a nice punt inside the five yard line, and Mike Hughes - in the words of Fox Color Analyst Charles Davis - “became the punt returner, even though he was punt coverage.”
Hughes shook off the decoy of the 49ers’ rookie return man Dante Pettis, found the ball, and made a beautiful recovery and catch, to down the ball at the four yard line.
Play Number Two
2nd & 11 (TV graphic originally shows 2nd & 6), ball on the Vikings 25
On this play, Hughes is matched up one on one against Pierre Garcon in the slot. Garoppolo sees the cushion that the rookie is giving his veteran wideout, and immediately looks Garcon’s way. Hughes, though, lets Garcon come to him, establishes himself in a position to make a play on the ball, reaches in and bats the ball away just as Safety Andrew Sendejo puts a lick on Garcon. Garcon was well past the line that would have given the 49ers a first down. The result of the drive, after a Garoppolo incompletion, was a Niners field goal.
Play Number Three
3rd & 8, ball on the 49ers’ 20
This was the biggest play of the day from Mike Hughes. Still down by a score of 10-3, San Francisco lines up in a three wide shotgun set, one play after Tight End George Kittle let a wide open pass drop through his fingertips. Jayron Kearse is covering Dante Pettis in the slot, Xavier Rhodes is covering Trent Taylor wide left, and Mike Hughes is giving a five yard cushion to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Kearse blitzes, leaving Pettis uncovered momentarily. Garoppolo stared down Bourne, who slipped on the play. Hughes never took his eyes off of Garoppolo, and snatched the ball out of the air with his momentum already heading back towards the end zone. He then scampered 28 yards untouched for the score.
Play Number Four
3rd & 6, ball on the Vikings 15
Vikings are lined up in what appears to be a single high zone scheme. Hughes is lined up wide left, and when 49ers Running Back Matt Breida motions all the way out left, Hughes follows. All-Pro safety Harrison Smith is lined up over Pierre Garcon, slot left. Linebacker Eric Kendricks is over the tight end, and as the ball is snapped, he and Smith switch assignments. Within the first few steps, it’s clear that Garcon has Kendricks beat, and Garoppolo sends the ball towards his veteran receiver. Hughes realizes that his only chance to make a play is to try and take out Garcon, and he knocks into the big receiver, forcing Garcon to drop the ball. It appeared as though Hughes maybe wasn’t quite prepared for the force at which Garcon would hit him, and he came down flat on his back. But he picked himself up and got back into the action. Again, this play forced the 49ers to settle for a field goal.
3rd & 3, ball on the San Francisco 21
If all this praise is going to be lavished on the rookie, then it’s only fair to point out a gaffe. The only negative play that can be directly chalked up to Mike Hughes against the 49ers was the 39 yard catch and run from Garoppolo to Dante Pettis. Pettis put a nice move on Hughes, who was forced to chase down Pettis from behind. To Hughes’ credit, he did, and again, the Niners were held to just a field goal on the drive.
#49ers rookie Dante Pettis was creating absurd amounts of separation all offseason. I was curious to see how he’d fare in the regular season. Here’s Pettis against the #Vikings’ first-round pick, Mike Hughes:— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) September 10, 2018
( : @MattWaldman)pic.twitter.com/CF4fsIKFSE
All in all, Mike Hughes put together a great game on Sunday. It’s a small sample size, but if his play was any indication of the future, the Vikings found a gem deep in the first round.
Couldn’t agree more, young man. Couldn’t agree more.