The Denver Broncos squared off against the San Francisco 49ers in their third game of the preseason. It wasn't the best performance the team could have put together, but it was good enough to give them their third victory of the preseason. The affair signals what will likely be the last major action the first-team players see before the season kicks off against the Ravens on September 13. The starters on offense and defense, with the exception of a few players endured a full half of playing time on the gridiron.
Special teams has been an issue for the Broncos over the course of training camp and preseason, and that trend continued this evening as Omar Bolden fumbled the opening kick-off, but was fortunate to have it recovered by Joe Don Duncan at the 21 yard line.
The Broncos, led by the ageless wonder Peyton Manning, began the teams offensive game plan by hitting Cody Latimer for four yards on his first throwing attempt. On the next play, he connected on another short pass to Demaryius Thomas, who caught the ball, but had it ripped out of his hands by NaVorro Bowman. It was ruled as a reception and Thomas judged down by contact, but 49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula challenged the play. The ruling was upheld, but the Broncos first drive came to a quick hault when Eric Reid broke up a mid-range pass intended for Latimer.
The Broncos defense then took the field and It didn't take long for them to get in a rhythm. Par for the course, star outside linebacker Von Miller registered another sack this preseason when he took down Colin Kaepernick for a sizable loss to put the 49ers in a 3 and 22 situation. Instead of attacking the Broncos through the air, they opted for a halfback draw where Reggie Bush took it 21 yards, until he was upended and body slammed by Pro-Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib.
Too much from Aqib Talib on Reggie Bush in preseason? https://t.co/XGPS9XmSKP— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 30, 2015
That vulgar display of power seemed to get the Broncos going, who marched down the field on their second series with a combination of runs and short passes. But it wasn't all pretty, the team had a few miscues. In particular, Manning was sacked twice that drive, with Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson both missing responsibilities in pass protection. On both occasions, it was Bowman who came up with the sack. Such tenacity is a welcomed presence for the 49ers, and Bowman looks like he is returning to his former self after after suffering a horrific knee injury in the NFC Championship game that sidelined him from football for nineteen months.
When it was all said and done, the teams first drive ended up with only three points when Brandon McManus connected on a 37 yard field attempt. It was a disappointing end to a promising drive that fell short of what the team had hoped when Demaryius Thomas failed to reel in a 3rd and 14 pass from Peyton Manning that would have given the Broncos six points.
That was the first points that the Broncos first team offense has scored this preseason. 2:51 left in the first quarter, preseason Week 3.— The Orange Page (@theorangepage) August 30, 2015
On the bright side, it was business as usually for the Broncos defense. They continued their pass rushing onslaught and DeMarcus Ware got by former Broncos tackle Erik Pears to sack Kaepernick for a safety with 12:57 to go in the second quarter.
After the safety, the Broncos had a short field to work with thanks to a nice kick return by Bolden, but their drive ended up in disappointment once more when Peyton Manning was picked off by Kenneth Ackler on an attempted throw to Demaryius Thomas in the endzone. This possession also signifies a continued trend of failures for the Broncos first-team offense to put points on the board, in particular touchdowns, when in the red zone. In order for the team to be successful in the regular season that will have to be corrected.
The defense was able to halt the 49ers offense on their third position and subsquently marched down the field with ease at the end of the second quarter, but failed to capitalize again. After a 13 play, 72 yard drive that took over 6 minutes off the lock, Cody Latimer failed to reel in a short pass from Manning on third and goal and the the Broncos settled for a 21 yard McManus field goal.
By way of Kaepernick's legs, the 49ers were able to march down the field during their two minute drill and put three on the board before the first half came to an end. The Broncos went into halftime with an 8-3 lead, but a production comparison between the two teams telling a much different tale than the scoreboard.
At the start of the second half, the both teams put in their back-ups. The third quarter went by extraordinary fast and the 49ers were able to score on consecutive possessions to give them a 9 to 8 lead. That lead didn't last long, when McManus hit a field goal from 45 yards after missing a 55 yard attempt earlier which propelled Denver back into the lead by a score of 11 to 9 as the third quarter came to a close.
The 49ers fought back and under the leadership of former first-round pick and bust Blaine Gabbert and were on pace of a touchdown, until he was sacked by Shane Ray which forced San Francisco to settle for a field goal conversion that gave them a 12-11 advantage with just under six minutes to go in the game.
Brock Osweiler was consistent in his third outing of the preseason and helped rally the team late. He just missed on connecting with Jordan Taylor on a deep bomb with around five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but was able to hit several other receivers in stride and move the chains as the clock continued to tick away. With just over two minutes to go, he threw a long pass in the endzone to Taylor, who was mauled by a 49ers defensive back. The blatant foul drew a flag and put the Broncos in position to score near the goal line, where Juwan Thompson was able to seal the 80 yard drive by punching it in from one yard out and succeed on a two-point conversion to put the Broncos up 19 to 12 and they never looked back.
The 49ers weren't able to do anything in their final possession of the game and Osweiler led the Broncos back on the field to run out the clock and seal their third victory of the preseason. He ended the game with 15 completions on 20 attempts and 104 yards and has seemed to progress well under the new system employed by Head Coach Gary Kubiak.
Hart's Broncos-49ers Game Quick Hits and Observations
- With Emmanuel Sanders sitting out, Jordan Norwood took his place in the slot in three-wide sets and impressed and made the most of his opportunities. The Broncos are high on Norwood, who was poised to make the team before suffering an ACL tear last August. With his performance against the 49ers, likely has secured a spot in the Broncos receiver corps after catching four passes for 38 yards.
- A player who was under the radar and expected to show up, but didn't, was wide receiver Cody Latimer. Gary Kubiak stated all week long that he wanted to see more out of the second-year receiver out of Indiana, but he certainly didn't show the team anything worthy of praise this evening.
- There is no doubting how blessed he is physically, but mentally he just doesn't seem to get it the game of football. Latimer still struggles in that regard and seems to lack the killer instinct to become a quality receiver in the NFL. His give up on the throw by Manning that should have been a touchdown highlights this sentiment.
- Second-year cornerback Bradley Roby got the start in place of Chris Harris, Jr. who sat the game out and was one of the key reasons the starting Broncos defense didn't allow positive yards for passing in the first half. Roby has the potential to be a lock down corner at the NFL level and it looks as if his diligence and focus on correcting the little things has paid off.
- Despite fumbling the opening kick-off, Bolden seems to have the return job locked up and averaged 31 yards per kick return. Bolden was taken out of the game after receiving a cheap shot, crack back block by Anquan Boldin with 12 seconds remaining in the first half, but appears to be fine. Isaiah Burse also fumbled on a punt return to start the second half after the Broncos forced a three and out, but was able to recover it.
- Matt Paradis was singled out by broadcaster and fromer NFL defensive back John Lynch who stated that the second-year player out of Boise State reminded him of Tom Nalen.
- Speaking of young players, Ty Sambrailo and Max Garcia also looked impressive, demonstrating sound pass protection and performing well in regard to run blocking for Anderson and Hillman in the first half. Even though Garcia has been replaced as a starter with the signing of Pro-Bowl guard Evan Mathis, he continues to work hard and has approached this situation like a true professional. Broncos fans should be happy with the progress those two and Paradis have shown so far this preseason.
- Darius Kilgo continued to impress. He is a mortal lock to back-up starting nose tackle Sylvester Williams. He finished the game with four solo tackles and a few stuffs and was a primary reason the Broncos run defense looked much more stout in the second half. He was immovable off the line of scrimmage. Don't count out the possibility of him earning more playing time than expected with starting defensive end Derek Wolfe suspended for the first four games.
- Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett only combined for once sack, but were consistent on getting pressure and forcing bad throws all game long. Those two along with Miller and Ware could put up record breaking sack numbers under the relentless attack defensive of Wade Phillips.
- Peyton Manning was 14/21 for 124 yards through the air and could have had better stats had Thomas and Latimer secured what should have been touchdown grabs in the first half.
- After winning the kicker battle against Connor Barth, Brandon McManus was 3/4 on field goals, with the lone miss being a 55 yard attempt on the teams drive of the second half that was just inches short of hovering over the crossbar. Needless to say, the Broncos will need McManus to connect on those long attempts when games that matter are on the line in the regular season.
- Fourteen different players caught passes for the Broncos tonight, which just goes to show you how fierce of a battle there is for the remaining receiver and tight end positions on the roster.
- The Broncos rushed for 110 total yards and averaged 3.9 per carry against the 49ers. The second-team offensive line was not as good as run blocking as the first-team was and that showed not only in the on field performance during the game, but in the stat line as well. It looks as if C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will be the 1A-1B punch for the Broncos to start the season, with Montee Ball and Juwan Thompson rounding out the stable at the position.
- The Broncos were able to convert 9 third downs on 16 attempts, whereas the 49ers were only able to convert 2 out of 11. This is one of the major reasons the Broncos won the game.
- The Broncos were only penalized 4 times throughout the course of the game as opposed to 13 violations for the 49ers. Denver is playing disciplined and fundamental football on both sides of the ball.