SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A pair of NFC playoff contenders sure brought their physical, hard-hitting styles to a preseason matchup in late August.
Enough that the Minnesota Vikings were considering sending one particular play to the NFL for review after their 34-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams got his right knee tangled up with offensive lineman Joe Looney early in the third quarter, and Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier heard from his coaches in the booth that it might be worth mailing to the league.
Williams will undergo an MRI exam to determine the severity of the injury, Frazier said.
"That's the one we're most concerned about," Frazier said. "I didn't see it, but the guys upstairs were telling me it was one of those we may want to send it to the league. They were pretty upset when they saw it. I'll have to take a look at it."
Frazier had every reason to be concerned given there were several other rough blows to his players — and San Francisco's Lavelle Hawkins found himself apologizing to his team and coach Jim Harbaugh afterward for a trio of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Hawkins returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter, but was flagged for pointing the ball at a Vikings player before reaching the end zone and also for removing his helmet in celebration. Harbaugh chewed him out on the sideline, and Hawkins could be seen saying, "My fault."
Yet Hawkins received another unsportsmanlike flag for head-butting linebacker Desmond Bishop after flipping the ball toward safety Mistral Raymond following a 22-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
"Probably the two-strike level," Harbaugh said when asked about Hawkins' status. "He's definitely got to do a better job of not getting emotionally hijacked after doing something great."
Here are five things we know after the 49ers' win at Candlestick Park:
1. PONDER'S STRIDES: The Vikings spent extra time working to get their offense going after a pair of lackluster preseason games, and quarterback Christian Ponder showed plenty of improvement while noting there's still plenty to do before Week 1.
Ponder went 17 of 23 for 116 yards and two touchdowns, a step up after two unimpressive outings and a 28.3 passer rating.
"We started off a little slow but we did end on a positive note, which we are happy with," said Ponder, who welcomed the return of star running back Adrian Peterson for a brief appearance.
2. HUNTER'S GAINS: Kendall Hunter's first carry of the preseason and first since tearing his left Achilles' tendon in late November was a memorable one: a 15-yard burst.
Just being on the field was a big deal. He was only cleared for full practice Aug. 10.
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