Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' starting offense enjoyed a slightly better outing than their Week 2 debut, netting two field goals in the first half that helped them to an 8-3 lead thanks to a stifling defensive counterpart. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware each netted sacks (the latter of which took Colin Kaepernick down for a safety), and the backups did enough to hang on as the Broncos defeated the San Francisco 49ers 19-12 in Week 3 Preseason action.
Peyton was constantly under pressure in Denver's home preseason opener, getting sacked three times and rarely having time to get comfortable in the pocket.
Most of that pressure came from the inside, with Ronnie Hillman succumbing to a rare miss in pass protection (this year) and San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman making a prematurely early case for Comeback Player of the Year. Manning was also intercepted, leaving his final stat line 14 of 21 for 124 yards, three sacks and one INT.
His evening of protection struggles was punctuated in his last attempt of the night - a broken up pass to Cody Latimer with a wide-open Owen Daniels calling for the football in the end zone. Manning simply didn't see Daniels; with a surge of 49ers defenders less than a moment from sacking him a fourth time, he didn't have time to. Manning's three sacks were the most he had suffered in over three years. And they all occurred in one half.
Denver's defense continued its dominance, particularly in the first half. Ware and Miller's first-half sacks extended the Broncos' NFL-leading sack count to 14, while Aqib Talib made it clear it's a bad idea to try and hurdle the Broncos' secondary.
Too much from Aqib Talib on Reggie Bush in preseason? https://t.co/XGPS9XmSKP— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 30, 2015
Sit down, son.
Despite the low-scoring from the offense, the Broncos dominated time of possession 21:21-8:39 and held Kaepernick and company to a net total of zero passing yards. While some of that was certainly self-inflicted pain on the part of San Francisco, the Broncos deserve credit for hustling Kap and keeping his targets smothered.
In the second half, Brock Osweiler and company took a low-scoring football game and made it into a baseball game, with scores of 8-6, 9-8, and 11-9 hitting the scoreboard into the 4th quarter.
A 3-run blast by Nolan Arenado puts the Rockies back in front 11-9.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 30, 2015
Denver and San Fran continued to trade fields goals until Brock Osweiler and Jordan Taylor got into a rhythm. A pass interference penalty in the end zone gave the Broncos the ball at the goal line, and Juwan Thompson finished the drive to give Denver its first touchdown of the night and a 19-12 lead.
Juwan Thompson zooms through for the first #Broncos (or #49ers) touchdown of the night! https://t.co/Ap7taGqMEC— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 30, 2015
Denver's defense would hold onto the lead, with Brock Osweiler successfully executing a 3rd and 1 QB sneak (at 6'8", he basically had to stretch his arms) to keep the Broncos' preseason perfect, 3-0.
While a 19-12 game isn't sexy, it might be a sign of things to come for the Broncos. Maybe, with this defense, the Broncos don't need Peyton Manning to put "Star Wars numbers" or even Star Wars points. Maybe 19 points is enough.
Maybe this new-look, quarterback-sacking, zero-passing-yards-allowing, no-touchdowns-surrendering Broncos team can be fun to watch too.