After three-straight victories the Denver Broncos appeared to be rejuvenated and found themselves right in the middle of a jam-packed playoff berth race. In order to keep pace with the rest of their wild card competitors a win against the San Francisco 49ers was an absolute must. Unfortunately, the Broncos second half rally wasn’t enough as they fell to the 49ers by a score of 20-14. Here are five things we learned from today’s game.
1. This Broncos’ loss was absolutely embarrassing
Just when the franchise looked to be on the rebound giving fans a new sense of late-season hope, they embark on the road and get blown out by one of the worst teams in the league. So much for a sense of urgency with the playoffs on the line. Nothing about today’s performance was remotely acceptable and the loss should put down the dream of Denver making it to the postseason. Murphy’s Law was in full effect this afternoon. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did.
2. George Kittle destroys the Broncos’ defense in a record-setting effort
Remember earlier in the season when the Broncos’ defense struggled immensely to defend against opposing tight ends? That woe reappeared full-force when George Kittle shredded the Broncos’ defense today. No matter who was tasked with covering him, he was able to routinely get the best of the Broncos’ linebackers and secondary in the first half.
He was virtually shut down in the second half after adjustments, but the damage had already been done. He finished today’s game with 7 receptions for 210 yards and 1 touchdown. His breakout performance this afternoon set a record for the most receiving yards in a game and season by a 49ers’ tight end. If you are beginning to wonder what’s missing from the Broncos’ offense, a difference maker at tight end is certainly it. Don’t you wish we had someone like him on the roster?
3. The 49ers’ defense dominated the Broncos’ offense
With Emmanuel Sanders on the sidelines, the pressure was on the young corps of Broncos’ receivers to carry the torch forward and make an impact in the passing game. Alas, Sanders’ absence was felt and the Broncos’ passing game suffered tremendously without him. Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton had some moments late in the game, but Courtland Sutton was mostly missing in action. That being said, the 49ers’ defense deserves praise for a very well-played game on their behalf.
The high-profile defensive line of the 49ers featuring three first-round picks in Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner dominated in the trenches. Case Keenum was pressured routinely all game long and often was running for his life. The Broncos’ third down conversion percentage was an atrocious thirteen percent. In fact, they converted more fourth downs than third downs. Moreover, they weren’t able to get their running attack going at all. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman had little production. It was arguably the ugliest offensive performance the Broncos have chalked up this season and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
4. Nick Mullens deserves a lot of credit and played well
Third-string quarterback and 2017 NFL Draft afterthought Nick Mullens deserves a lot of praise for his performance today. There is little doubt that Broncos’ defense desperately misses the presence of Chris Harris Jr., but Mullens’ efforts were still admirable. He completed 20/33 passes for 332 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. When Jimmy Garoppolo comes back next season after recovering from his injury he will most certainly be the 49ers starter, but their fans should still be excited about what Mullens can do if needed in the future.
5. Broncos’ bright spot: Bradley Chubb sets a record, inches toward another
With two sacks this afternoon,There aren’t many positives to write about from today’s game, but there is one player that is worth mentioning and deserves praise. With two sacks this afternoon, Bradley Chubb now holds the Broncos’ franchise record for sacks by a rookie. Most importantly, he has inched within 2.5 sacks of Jevon Kearse’s single-season record for a rookie. If he can break it, he should be a lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from today’s game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!