Sunday was just a preseason game, but San Francisco was probably hoping for a better performance for the opening of their new stadium. There were few bright spots on the field for the 49ers as they were held without a touchdown for the second straight game. The Broncos didn’t have an issue finding the end zone with scores in every quarter en route to a 34-0 shutout.
Without further ado, here are some notable individual performances from each team.
Denver – Three Performances of Note
Lack of Pass Rush
The Broncos’ defense did not have as much success rushing the passer against the 49ers as they did against the Seahawks last week. 49er quarterbacks were pressured on just 19.4% of their drop-backs (seven of 36), compared to 42% versus Seattle. The lone exception was Sione Fua (+4.3), whose performance was one of the best we have seen from him in his career. Although he is not known as much of a pass rusher, he made his presence known with four hurries coming against 49ers’ guard Dillon Farrell (-4.8). His performance helps his chances of earning a roster spot, but how much further does he have to go with so many returning interior defensive linemen from last season?
Roster Spot for Marshall?
Linebacker Brandon Marshall has been pushing hard for a roster spot this year after spending much of last season on Denver’s practice squad. After a +1.4 overall grade last week, Marshall followed up with another solid outing. He tallied seven tackles, three of which were run stops, for a +1.0 overall grade. He now has a 16.0 Run Stop Percentage for the preseason and is well on his way to securing a roster spot if he hasn’t already.
Running Back Competition
Training camp and preseason games are all about making the most of the few opportunities given, but thus far the running backs below Montee Ball on the depth chart have done little to separate themselves from one another. Second-year player C.J. Anderson was the only back to force a missed tackle on their combined 29 rush attempts. Juwan Thompson, Brennan Clay, and Jerodis Williams each averaged less than two yards per carry, albeit on small samples sizes. Kapri Bibbs had the team’s longest run of the game at 11 yards, but his other three carries went for a pair of 1-yard losses and a 1-yard gain.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
Uninspiring Quarterback Play
It was a rough outing for the San Francisco quarterbacks. Colin Kaepernick (-1.4) overthrew a few passes, including a deep pass in the end zone to Brandon Lloyd, who had a step or two on Aqib Talib. Blaine Gabbert (-2.0) forced a pass down the seam that was intercepted by Tony Carter, and was also off-target on two other throws. Through 42 snaps in two preseason games, Gabbert has earned a -6.0 overall grade that is tied for the third-lowest among all quarterbacks.
Josh Johnson’s (-2.0) only notable play was one that started with him tripping during his drop-back only to get back up without being touched, scramble, and then fumble the ball while being tackled. McLeod Bethel-Thompson (-2.8) threw an interception of his own, and would have thrown another on a pass that was well off-target, but safety John Boyett bobbled the interception only to have it end up as a 48-yard completion.
Rookies in the Secondary
Improving the back-end of the defense was a high priority for the 49ers in the offseason and their three rookie defensive backs have been given a lot of playing time so far this preseason. First-round pick Jimmie Ward played 52 snaps on his way to a +1.3 overall grade. He allowed three receptions for 25 yards, but only one went for a first down, which came on a tight pass by Peyton Manning.
Fifth-rounder Kenneth Acker (+2.4) had a few impressive plays. In a four-minute span, he had a tackle short of the sticks on third down, a pass defense in the end zone, and an interception of a tipped pass that was negated by an offsides penalty. There was one end zone fade to Bennie Fowler that would have been a touchdown, but Fowler was called for offensive pass interference.
Dontae Johnson (-1.9) didn’t share the successes of his fellow rookies. He was beat deep for a touchdown by Cody Latimer in the third quarter, and a breakdown in coverage on third down in the red zone allowed Cameron Morrah run in for an easy touchdown. Johnson also missed a tackle on a screen pass that ended up going for a first down.
Outside linebacker Chase Thomas saw a significant decrease in his amount of snaps this week, but he made the most of his opportunity. Thomas managed five run stops on just nine run plays for a +2.3 run defense grade. He has the fourth-highest Run Stop Percentage for 3-4 OLBs at 16.7, but he still has his work cut out for him because of the 49ers’ linebacker depth.
– Manning is one of the best at getting rid of the ball quickly, and maybe he is rubbing off on the Broncos’ other quarterbacks. Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert each had a Time To Throw of 2.17 seconds, slightly quicker than Manning’s 2.23 seconds.
– The quick passes helped Denver’s offensive line to prevent pressure, finishing with 96.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency — the highest single-game PBE of any team this preseason.
– Mike Purcell had two run stops on the day for the 49ers, but he was also disruptive on a handful of other plays en route to a +3.4 run defense grade.
PFF Game Ball
Sione Fua’s persistent pass rush was the one of the most impressive parts of the Denver defense that shutout the 49ers.
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