San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos: The Tale of Two Very Different Halves
Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense looked impressive and in control as they tried to down the San Francisco 49ers early. Three straight scoring drives to open the game put the 49ers in an early 17-7 hole at the end of the first quarter.
After a so-so first series that led to a field goal, Manning took control and never let up. His brief three-series performance saw him rack up 122 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 completions.
The most impressive of the three drives was Denver's second drive of the game, in which it ran nine plays that spanned 83 yards. Manning and his new found Reggie Wayne (Eric Decker) hooked up in the corner of the end zone to cap the long drive.
To make things worse, the 49ers had no counter punch defensively to slow the Broncos' roll. Carlos Rogers had a game he would like to forget as he was burned repeatedly by opposing wideouts. Most notably, Decker had him turned around on an out route from 10 yards away. The out route ended in six points and went down as Manning's first unofficial touchdown pass as a Bronco.
Things didn't appear to get much easier for San Francisco once Caleb Hanie entered the game. Hanie wasn't as impressive as No. 18, yet his 82-yard second quarter proved to be effective as he led a scoring drive of his own.
However, Hanie's quarter wasn't entirely clean, as cornerback Perrish Cox paid back his former team with a notable interception midway through the second quarter. Which in turn swayed momentum as the 49ers defense only gave up seven points the rest of the game.
Offensively, the second quarter proved to be less exciting than the first. Only three points to speak of from Alex Smith and the first-team offense as they stalled in the red zone on their only attempt of the quarter.
Smith really never seemed to get in a rhythm with any of the receivers and if it weren't for Vernon Davis' 44-yard touchdown catch, his numbers would have been anemic. Starting wide receivers Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree failed to get separation at times. Moss was only targeted once in the passing game and Crabtree was targeted three times, which ended up being a team-high.
But San Fran can thank Denver's backups, as they were truly depressing for a second straight week. The last two games they have been outscored 40-0 after the half.
Colin Kaepernick had his best game of the preseason by far as he led the comeback charge in the third quarter. He opened the quarter by leading the offense down the field on a four-play, 2:09 drive that ended with Anthony Dixon scoring from 26 yards out.
Kaepernick's highlight of the game was the dart he threw to Kyle Williams on the hitch route. It was a six-yard route that ended up being a gain of 40 in a hurry. Kaepernick put enough on the ball where it couldn't have been undercut by cornerback Drayton Florence, which led to the big catch and run.
The fourth quarter saw David Akers kick field goals from 21, 32 and 44 yards out. Those three scores put the game out of reach as Denver could only muster 66 yards of total offense in the second half.
In addition to holding the Broncos, the 49ers defense held them to only four first downs and 33 yards rushing. A strong rebound effort after Houston worked them over at times last week, especially in the passing game.
It was evident that the Broncos had a plan going into this game and San Francisco didn't. Safety Donte Whitner felt the same way, according to Eric Branch's tweet:
#49ers S Donte Whitner: "We didn’t really game plan for this. You can really tell that they game planned for us."— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 27, 2012
Branch covers the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Regardless, they pulled out the "W" without a game plan. But let's just hope they have a strong one Week 1 against Green Bay because we all remember what happened the last time they played the Packers.
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