Brock Purdy starts and Trey Lance finishes; 49ers beat Broncos 21-20

The San Francisco 49ers came from behind to beat the Denver Broncos 21-20 in their preseason home opener at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday night.

Here is what stood out from the game.

Brock Purdy

During the offseason many questioned whether Purdy would be ready to start week one for the 49ers in Pittsburgh.

The 49ers quarterback made it back in time for training camp and made his first start since tearing the UCL in his throwing arm in the NFC Championship Game on Saturday night.

Kyle Shanahan didn’t take it easy on Purdy by calling seven passes, opening with four passes in a row, during the nine play drive.

Purdy connected twice with Deebo Samuel on short throws with the receiver took for 25 and 14 yards. The difficulty went up from there as Purdy hit Jauan Jennings while rolling to his left for a gain of 11. Two plays later the quarterback hit Brandon Aiyuk on a slant to the right side for a pickup of 15.

After a sack of Purdy set up third and goal from the ten, pressure forced the quarterback out of the pocket. Instead of taking the throw to Jennings, Purdy took off on a scramble but came up two yards short of the endzone. Following the game Purdy mentioned he would “probably be thinking about making the throw to JJ.”

Purdy finished 4-5 for 65 yards. More importantly he showed he could take a hit and get back up.

Sam Darnold

Darnold took over after the opening possession and quickly went three and out. He did a nice job of beating the blitz on second a second down throw to Jordan Mason, but his third down throw to a well-covered Ronnie Bell was broken up.

The veteran opened his second possession with a scramble up the middle for a gain of eight. Two plays later he hit Chris Conley on a slant to the left side to pickup 11. After Ty Davis-Price picked up the first down, Darnold found Jauan Jennigs over the middle off play action for a gain of 21 however the play was wiped away due to a hold on center Jon Feliciano. Now facing first and 20, Darnold connected with Charlie Woerner over the middle for eleven before being sacked by an unblocked defender two plays later to end the drive.

After a pair of runs to open Darnold’s third possession, the veteran hit Bell on a screen to the right side before hitting the rookie again, this time on a slant for a gain of eight. Facing third and 14 following a sack, Darnold took off up the middle on a scramble and was stopped well short. It looked like Darnold could have reset his feet and made a throw which would have given the offense a better chance to convert.

On Darnold’s fourth possession, he connected with tight end Troy Fumagalli for three, but had Ronnie Bell open on a slant behind it for a bigger play. Darnold went to Bell on a slant on the next play, but the rookie could not hold on, the ball bouncing off his hands and intercepted by t cornerback Essang Bassey.

Darnold was given one more possession and made the most of the opportunity, opening with a completion to Cameron Latu off play action for eight yards. Three plays later he hit Ronnie Bell over the middle off play action for 21 yards. This was a play Darnold missed last week against Las Vegas. After completions to Dazz Newsome and Brayden Willis, Darnold found fullback Jack Colletto in the right flat for a touchdown from ten yards out.

Darnold finished the night 11-14 for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Trey Lance

Lance finally took over in the final moments of the third quarter, and he promptly hit Tay Martin for a gain of nine while on the move to his right to avoid pressure. After having a nice completion to Ronnie Bell wiped away due to an illegal formation, Lance found Jeremy McNichols in the right flat for eight yards and a first down. Disaster struck three plays later when Lance’s screen pass to McNichols was batted into the air and intercepted by a Denver defensive lineman.

On his next possession, Lance didn’t hesitate to let the ball go. Working off play action on the first play, Lance hit his back foot and tried to fit a throw in to Ronnie Bell on a deep curl, but the pass was knocked away. Two plays later Lance used his legs to gain six yards after avoiding the pass rush. Facing second and five from the Broncos 29, Lance stood in against the Broncos rush, his deep throw to Cameron Latu coming up just short after he was hit while throwing. Lance came back on the next play to hit Tay Martin on a slant for seven and a first down.

Two of Lance’s worst plays of the night followed. First was a throw over the middle to Brayden Willis which probably would have been intercepted by the linebacker if it wasn’t so high. On the next play Lance had Willie Snead open on an over route but was locked in on another receiver, throwing incomplete late to Snead. He bounced back on third and twenty with an eight-yard slant to Bell which set up a 43-yard field goal for Jake Moody.

After a holding penalty backed the offense up again on the next possession, Lance got into a rhythm. The quarterback hit six consecutive throws, finishing with a 22-yard touchdown to Cameron Latu up the right seam to bring the 49ers within two.

Getting the ball back with 2:01 remaining, Lance opened with a throwaway to avoid a sack before hitting Ronnie Bell on a screen to the right side which the rookie took for a gain of 14. This is where Lance made his biggest throw of the night. The third year quarterback finding Bell open on a deep in route over the left side, and the rookie taking off through the defense for a gain of 43 to put the offense in position for a game winning field goal by Moody.

Lance was 12-18 for 173 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Deebo Samuel

On the opening play of the game, Samuel took a short pass from Purdy for a gain of 25 yards. A couple of plays later he took a screen and ran for 14. The wide back is looking ready for a big year.

Cameron Latu

Latu has been struggling during camp, but he put it all together against Denver. The rookie tight end finished with three catches including a 22-yard touchdown from Lance. Earlier in the drive which ended with the touchdown Latu made a grab along the right sideline for a gain of 16.

Ronnie Bell

Bell’s night was mostly good. The rookie had seven catches for 114 yards to lead all 49ers receivers. He also showed well on special teams with a 25-yard kickoff return and 28-yard punt return.

The downside for Bell was a drop over the middle from Darnold which ended up as an interception. This has now happened to Bell two games in a row.

Ty Davis-Price

The second year back finished with four carries for 22 yards, 15 of which came on a run late in the game to set up the game winning field goal.

Deep in the redzone on the opening possession of the game, Davis-Price whiffed on a pass block leading to the sack of Brock Purdy. Davis-Price struggled with this last week as well, and this shows why he was often left off the active roster during his rookie season.

Danny Gray

Sustained an injury to his collarbone at the end of a 23-yard kickoff return to open the game. The extent of the injury was not known immediately following the game according to Kyle Shanahan.

T.Y. McGill           

The reserve defensive tackle worked in with the second unit in place of Javon Kinlaw who didn’t dress.

McGill made the most of the opportunity by coming up with a sack, quarterback hit which nearly led to an interception and stopped a screen for no gain.

JiAyir Brown

Brown made the start at safety in place of Tashaun Gipson and finished with two tackles. One of his best plays won’t show up on the stat sheet. It came on a screen out the left when Brown attacked downhill and forced the runner back inside where his teammates were able to make the stop.

Myles Hartsfield

The veteran safety had a rough game. He twice had opportunities to make open field tackles to keep Broncos running back Jaleel McLaughlin from scoring and missed both.

D’Shawn Jamison

Jamison is pushing for a roster spot due to his ability as a return specialist. Tonight, he muffed a punt deep in 49ers territory. Denver recovered and scored a few plays later.

Jake Moody

The rookie hit all three field goal attempts including the game winner from 32 yards out. However, he did miss an extra point attempt as well.

Clelin Ferrell

The free agent addition looked explosive off the edge. Several times he was able to turn the corner and get close to a sack. On one, his pressure made Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham move up in the pocket where he was sacked by Marlon Davidson.

This article has 34 Comments

  1. I missed the game! Sounds like a lot of guys played well. Good to see Lance bounce back, I figured he would.

    Hey Jack how did Isaiah Oliver look?

    1. His first play of the game he had a missed tackle on the tight end that ended up going for over 20 yards I believe. Had a bad game overall.

      This is now becoming a question mark. I’m not sold on Womack either (he’s small), with Lenoir moving inside on passing situations it could be a bit of a liability on the outside. Ambry Thomas has some good games, some bad. Also has a tendency to give up big plays.

      All in all though the team’s most glaring weakness is the right side of the O-line, and perhaps depth all along that line.

      As for the questionable db play I will just say that there is no perfect team out there anymore. This isn’t 1994 so as long as you have a solid roster overall and a decent QB you have chances to go to the Super Bowl.

  2. How bout a little love for Samuel Womack? He was great tonight.I didn’t see Kalia Davis tonight, did he play. During camp I have heard a number of people talk about trading for a OT or a DE but I think their biggest need is a run plugging DT. I also think that those are the kind of players who are available and not to expensive. I also thought that Antonio Bryant looked good tonight as a rotational pass rusher. Lastly when are we going to see Drake Jackson again.

    1. The coach is right: this is the second game in preseason where opponents were running too successfully. We badly need help at DT. Or two.

  3. Bell was all over the field. He did have that drop but made up for it.
    I think that he’s overeager and young and sometimes will run before securing the ball.
    He can only get better with the right coaches.
    Lance got better when he didn’t hold on to the ball so long, but he is no Purdy.

  4. Trey got away with another 2 potential INT’s that were dropped. If it weren’t for Bell and the fact he was playing against a team that had their next cuts out there on the field he wouldn’t have looked good at all.

  5. nice fights in the crowd
    are concussions really all that fun?
    glad i quit this junk, overpriced gold chain circus

    1. I stopped going to Levi’s exactly for this reason. A relative of a friend was the guy few years ago who was beaten up in the bathroom. Too many gangsters out there. It’s a shame as that was more typical of the Raiders’ fan base when I was growing up.

  6. Jamison made a serious impression in the Raiders game, with excellent kickoff returns. But in the Broncos game he muffed one punt and in a kickoff return got cute rather than moving ahead with the designed return. A sentimental favorite because of his size, he may have now diminished his chances of making the roster. Too bad; like others I had hoped he would make it.

  7. If anyone is still thinking that either Darnold or Lance is fighting to unseat Purdy, perhaps they missed Brock’s 2022 season. The current QB battle is for QB2, and that is between Lance and Darnold.

    Darnold looks more polished on the field. Lance still looks like an unfinished product.
    SD (imho), still has an edge over Lance, but Lance is still an untapped commodity.
    I still believe that Shanahan will go with Darnold, because of experience. But it has to be tempting to keep Trey around because of the potential and possibilities that come with it.
    Afterall, this was the reason why Shanahan drafted TL.

    1. I don’t know who Shanahan will pick for back up but with those 3 on the roster this year, I think we are in pretty good shape at QB.

    2. Cohn wants Trey to compete for starting. Purdy could be hurt again at some point given the mediocre OL play.

  8. How did the O-line play? Weird that you wouldn’t mention any updates on the position group with the biggest question marks. By my count, In the first 20 offensive plays the O-line gave up 2 sacks, QBs were forced to scramble twice due to pressure, and there was one holding penalty. That’s not very good.

    1. Aaron Banks was the only regular season Starting Olineman yesterday and he only played 9 snaps, according to PFF. The other Olinemen that played were backups and hopefuls. But, I would definitely be concerned with their low-grade performance after two preseason games.
      At the moment there is a big drop-off between the Starters and the backups and this has to be corrected if the 49ers want to remain in the SB picture if one of the starters goes down.

      PFF, had Trey Lance going for 8-10 completions against the blitz for a TD and 152 QB
      rating. Can’t argue with those numbers. But he still has to improve his short game.

      1. AES,
        TL looked better but he almost threw two terrible ints. I still think SD is solidly #2.

        1. Coach,
          Jimmy G, threw near Int’s in almost every game, they make my heart beat faster, but they’re not actual turnovers.

          There are some definite flaws in Lance’s game, but those should be expected given his small game experience.
          Darnold will likely be the QB2 this season and Trey will probably need to continue his development elsewhere.
          When all is said and done, Brandon Allen might emerge as the most important QB if the 49ers are hit with the QB injury bug again.

      2. That’s not correct. The entire starting O-line played except Trent Williams. Not sure how many snaps they played.

        1. Pat,
          Good catch.
          You are correct, except for Jaylon Moore, the starting oline did start the game.
          I’ll have to re-read the PFF stats again.

    2. Pat,
      One of the early sacks was a whiff on a blitz pickup by TDP. They can’t put him on the field until he learns how to pickup a blitz.

  9. Don’t forget the heads up play by JiAyir Brown just before halftime that saved a touchdown at the 1 yard line. Never give up on a play. That may have been the difference in getting the win.

  10. TDP is a horrendous blocker. He is not good enough of a runner to make up for it. He kind of sucks. Last week he had horrific missed blocks.

  11. Give Lowell Cohn credit. Unlike his son, Cohn changed his mind and now admits Trey Lance can and did play NFL caliber football last night and concedes the Niners should keep him Couldn’t agree more. The Niners would be foolish to trade him at this point.

  12. I truly HATE Steve Wilkes scheme. Broncos 1st drive of the game… 3rd & 6. 49ers blitzed and left the middle of the field wide open so Wilson ran straight up the middle for a gain of 17. On the first drive, Wilson scrambled for a total of 37 yards. Broncos got 51 yards on their first drive and Wilson accounted for 72.5% of those yards because of poor scheme and poor containment. I know it’s preseason but if this is how Wilkes is going to scheme up mobile QBs then Seattle and Arizona may set NFL records for QB rush yards against the 49ers this year.

    1. Don’t put any stock into it. They often do things in preseason they don’t normally do. And allow for some risk they normally wouldn’t during the regular season, just for evaluation purposes.

      It wouldn’t totally shock me if Payton also asked the 49ers for this in the pre-game planning phone call, just to evaluate where his quarterback is after a season in which he didn’t exactly look like he was in the best of shape.

    2. Pat,
      QBs have been scrambling for big yards since 2017 against the 49ers. It has more to do with the wide 9 than Steve Wilkes. Its all about KS’s love affair with K. Kocurek. The 9ers had a chance to change that by hiring V. Fangio but Fangio would have switched the 49ers to a 3-4 which would have spelled the end for Kocurek. The 49ers inability to stop the runs up the middle has as much to do with our DTs as it does the wide 9.

  13. Takeaways from this game:

    1. I’m tired of the non-stop QB talk in the press. Who cares? We have a clear #1 and the rest will play itself out.
    2. Not concerned about Moody. He’s not Gould, but he’s a lot cheaper and paying Gould was getting to be prohibitive.
    3. Bell looked great again, but I still doubt he sees any time at WR (save for injury) on game days. He’ll need to keep working and hopefully make his mark in the return game.
    4. Deebo looks good
    5. Where is Drake Jackson?
    6. Kinlaw looked a lot better this time around (wink wink)

    1. I’m definitely getting tired and bored of the QB talk, especially now that we can see them in live action.

  14. A few sources are reporting that the 49ers are signing former Bears draft pick WR, Anthony Miller.
    With both Ray Ray McCloud and Gray injured, it makes sense to add a veteran for now.

  15. Once, fascinated by football and the atmosphere of San Francisco, I enjoyed watching a match against Denver. Everything was on the verge, like in an exciting movie. When San Francisco won, the joy was as bright as night vision turned on. It reminded me of how films use night vision to create a unique atmosphere, which you can read about on the blog. I realized at that moment that sports and the art of cinematography can fuse together like threads in a compelling story!

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