Finally, a happy fourth quarter for 49ers in 20-14 win

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle runs into the end zone to score a touchdown as Denver Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom (41) looks on during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

SANTA CLARA — They didn’t finish strong, but they finished.

After leading 20-0 at halftime, the 49ers held on to beat the Denver Broncos 20-14 Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium. The win wasn’t pretty, but it was impressive.

The 49ers had nothing to play for. They’re eliminated from the playoffs, their record is 3-10 and they’ve blown four fourth-quarter leads this season. But they didn’t blow this one. They played hard for head coach Kyle Shanahan and did just enough during the first half to win.

The Broncos had everything to play for. They’re in playoff contention, their record is 6-7 and, coming into Sunday’s game, they were merely one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for an AFC Wild Card spot and had won three games in a row.

But the 49ers still dismissed the Broncos.

Statement game?

“Yeah, why not?” quarterback Nick Mullens said during his postgame press conference. “We’re excited to take them out of the playoff hunt. They were in it. They were on a pretty hot streak. It feels so good to win.”

Click here to read the rest of the game story.

This article has 113 Comments

  1. Yes, the second half struggles were frustrating. KS needs to learn how to finish games better.
    By going conservative, it seemed like he was running the ball into the teeth of the defense.
    KS needed to take advantage of the Bronco defensive speed by doing counters, misdirections and reverses. Get them moving sideways instead of north and south. He needs to perfect the fly sweep.
    Earlier, there was a Miami Miracle with a hook and lateral that won the game by one point. If the Broncos had succeeded with 4 seconds left, the Niners could have lost by 1 point. With better clock management, there should not have been 4 seconds left.

  2. I would like to commend Vance Joseph. KS should emulate him, at times.
    Joseph went bold, and went for it several times on 4th down. He did not settle for field goals, and went for TDs.
    By being bold, he came within 1 play of winning the game.

    1. I would like to commend Vance Joseph. KS should emulate him, at times.

      4 straight passes from first and goal at the one? Whan you have a stud RB? Ridiculous. And Grant says KS wants to be known as the passing genius? Maybe both you and Grant put together might come up with better play calls than Joseph.

            1. He was desperate.
              I agree, he did not consider time outs to be precious and saved for legitimate challenges and the last 2 minutes of each half.

        1. It took them 4 tries from the 1 yard line, they could have easily not scored. I hope Grants Denver doppelgänger is tearing into the Broncos coaching.

          1. Those failed passes stopped the clock, and he made a TD on the 4th try.
            Yes, I bet they are calling loudly for his head, right now.

              1. Some here Denver are calling for Vance’s termination. Some are calling for Elway’s dismissal because he built this team.

                Seb you’re hilarious. I take a
                7 month break and I think I could have written your post about what Kyle needed to do as a coach.

                I didn’t miss much in 7 months.

    1. Agreed,
      I would argue Kyle did better than he’s getting credit for. He ran the ball/clock and dialed up multiple 3rd down plays that had his receivers running wide open which they dropped. Even catching the ball on one of those plays allows the team to run about 2 more minutes off the clock.
      Just seeing him run the ball in that situation showed he had learned from the NE game. It’s not sexy and fans always criticize it first thing, but it is a proven strategy that has worked more often than not in the NFL.

  3. Nice to see the young guys stepping up given their opportunities…. McGlinchey, Pettis, Reed, Harris, Warner, Mullens, Blair, Kittle…. Heck, even Lee played well. DJ Jones was also huge in the run game (about time he got some action). Exum along with Harris add some much needed thump too… Still not sold on Saleh but at least these players give some hope for the future.

  4. At the risk of coming across like Grant, I’m a little concerned about Nick M’s tendency to force throws into traffic–where the intended receiver has two or three defenders in very, very close proximity. An example yesterday would be where he hit one defender in the back when the receiver was closely covered by two. Nick also has his share of passes batted down. This can be a throwing lane matter which has the potential of being mitigated–hopefully. Batted passes can turn into INTs quickly.

    Overall, I’m happy with Nick’s play and he should continue to grow with more experience. Not bad.

    1. You are focusing on the wrong stuff, Cassie. What we really need is an in-depth analysis of Colin Holba’s debut performance as the long snapper. Were any lapses on punts, field goals or extra points ? How were the trajectory of his snaps? How about his weight? Grant should be on his case posthaste….

  5. I would like to comment on the Hamilton TD.
    It was bogus, because there was an obvious pick play, so the WR was uncovered. Refs missed that, big time.

  6. Jack Hammer says:
    December 7, 2018 at 12:11 pm
    Mullens….If he can pull off a win in the next 3 weeks it would be more impressive than any win from the last 5 weeks a year ago.

    I’d say yesterday was right up there with the Tennessee game from last year. A win against Seattle or Chicago and it’s definitely more impressive.

    1. I beg to differ, the Broncos were depleted, and Keenum was Keenum. Statisically, in the rankings, the Niners were better ranked than the Broncos, so this was a winnable game.
      I am hoping the Vikings beat up the Seahawks, and the Seahawks has one less day to recuperate. KS needs to stop letting Pete Carroll out coach him by being more balanced and less shaped.
      Now, if the Niners can beat the Bears, THAT would be very impressive. The Bears held the Rams to 6 points.

      1. Yes. With Seattle the 49ers definitely have a scheduling advantage. It’s part of why I put it down as a 49ers win before the season.

  7. A few things I noticed after perusing through comments and sites that discussed the game:

    1. I read on a few sites that Mullens botched the kneel down, yet Grant failed to mention it in his grades.
    2. Seb is correct in stating that there was a pick play that was missed by the refs on the Broncos TD pass; Reed was the victim of the pick play, which allowed for Hamilton to go uncovered.
    3. Practically everyone noticed that McGlinchey was held on the play that resulted in Miller getting a sack, yet Grant omitted that nugget of information in his grades.
    4. Despite what some are saying on here, it appears that Thomas played well, as evidenced by the PFF Iink I posted earlier.
    5. While Kittle had a great day catching the ball, he did miss several blocks in the run games and was assessed a penalty.

    1. Mid, thank you. You are a gentleman. I hope we can all be more civil towards each other, and stick to football.
      Let’s drop all politics and personal asides, and see the good in people. I think you have a good football mind, and enjoy your comments, when they pertain to the Niners.

    2. The « pick » play is something that no 49ers fan would mention if it were the other way around.

      I was really watching for Thomas and didn’t see him flash much, but if everyone keeps saying he played good I’ll roll with it. One thing is for sure, he doesn’t get anything moving when he is rushing the passer from the outside. It’s a bull rush into the tackle and that’s about it. He just doesn’t have the bend or moves to rush out there. Even on the stunts going inside th outside you see that. One of the plays that he ended up in Keenum’s face was because pressure from the other side forced Keenum to step towards him and even then Keenum was able to break his contain and throw the ball away.

      Overall it was a good performance from that whole group, and yeah some stuff is very nitpicky or nuanced.

      1. The « pick » play is something that no 49ers fan would mention if it were the other way around.

        I have to disagree with this Jack. Most fans do tend to ignore plays like this if the refs miss it and benefits the 49ers, but there are some of us who do admit when a 49ers player gets away with something.

      2. Thomas had multiple pressures through the game. Some even came from the edge, and not via a bull rush.

        The biggest issue I had with his performance was that he couldn’t finish. Had a few opportunities at a sack but let the QB get away.

        1. I’m not too worried about the number of sacks this season with Thomas. Buckner had a similar issue last season of not finishing before breaking out this year. However, I will be worried if it continues into next season.

          1. Buckner not finishing last year was mostly a case of the QB just getting the pass off before Buckner got home. Yesterday Thomas’ issue was flat out missing sack opportunities. Missed tackles. Its something that was noted during college also. He doesn’t break down well to make the tackle.

              1. I think Solomon Thomas will get better with more playing time, playing in the right position, playing together with his fellow D linemen and playing in the right scheme.
                The Niners could not as well as they did to shut down Lindsay, without playing together as a cohesive unit. ST was not a weakness. Finishing takes time to perfect.
                Solomon Thomas will get sacks, and he way better than any bust I ever saw. Yes, he could improve, but he has plenty of upside, and may prove to be a contributor for years.

              2. Yes, he is Jack. In a straight line he can be quick, but as soon as he tries to change direction he nearly has to come to a stop before turning. Watching him “navigate” traffic is painful.

      1. Awwww, you followed me here too Oneniner? That’s so adorable. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? 🐕
        Do you need your belly rubbed or your ear scratched behind? I am sure I also have some Kibbles and Bits if you need to eat something as well.

        1. I guess you missed the season when the Harbaugh coached, Alex Smith led team made it to the NCFCG. We were at each other’s throats here. No biggie, no actual blood shed.

          1. @mid…am actually kool with you…i just like pointing out your flaws… you are a hypocrite……with no balls, always playing to the crowd….

            Have you seen feathers plucked from a live chicken…..thats how I see you…you always have a jerky react when I poke you….😂

            1. Nah, it is the fact that I love to poke back when you retort. I find to so amusing that you are following my posts like a puppet on strings. You have followed the same exact pattern of trolling others ever since I joined this blog back in 2010. You’re like a predictable workday schedule that never alters.

              1. Lol….Why do you always bring “others” into our convo …….you even went way back to 23jordan……its like you need a backbone…….

                Glad you noticed my consistency…….

              2. What about Andrew in Rishikesh? BayAreaFanatic? Darren (without the 5000)?

                All before that loser Seb’s time.

            2. Sorry Oneniner. It isn’t you, it’s… well no, it actually is you. What I mean is that you are boring as h£11 with your predictable trolling. Come up with something original for a change. Don’t worry though, I will still be on the blog so that you can continue to talk to your reflection about how “well” you are trolling me. 🍻

  8. From the Elias Sports Bureau via Matty B, George Kittle’s 210 receiving yards in the first half were the most in the opening half of an NFL game since Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent had 224 yards against the Lions on Oct. 18, 1987.

  9. I enjoyed the game even though about half the crowd seemed to be Bronco fans. My guess is the total attendance was around 30,000, and it still took us an hour plus to leave the stadium. When the Niners become a playoff team and we get the full 70,000 crowd it will be a nightmare getting in and out of the place. Oh well, I guess we will worry about that when it happens!

    Everybody in the stadium saw the pick play on the Denver PD pass. It was blatant and obvious. Yet the Referees swallowed their whistles. On the other hand, the Niners under Shanahan have been repeatedly called for OPI on far less obvious picks. NFL needs to teach their referees what to look for on picks or just make the pick play legal. The current situation is a joke.

    Shanahan needs to sit down with Mullens and go over clock management. It is inexcusable to have a first down with 2:00 to go, zero timeouts for the opponents and still give them one final offensive play. Mullens initially screwed up by snapping the ball with 7 seconds left on second down. Once he did that , he needed to take a couple of steps back before taking a knee on 3rd down and if you still needed to snap the ball on 4th down, don’t take a knee at all, but go back and heave the ball far out of bounds. that way the time would have run out. Just look at what happened in the Miami / New England game. You never know.

    Also Pettis made a big mistake by not staying in bounds after his big first down catch. That essentially gave Denver an additional 40 seconds. In a one score game you cannot make these mistakes. It did not hurt the Niners yesterday, but you cannot make a habit of bad time management. Sooner or later it will bite you.

    1. Yup, that is why I gave the coaching a B-. They could improve.
      Glad you enjoyed the game.
      Do not worry, parking congestion will not be a terrible problem for years! ;p

    1. No surprise as this was expected once Gruden was hired. While the focus has been on who the Raiders traded away in Mack and Cooper, not mentioned is the fact McKenzie has bombed most of his drafts. He had one great one when he took Mack, Carr and Jackson with the first 3 picks, but other than that he’s missed badly on most of his picks.

    2. undercenter – should say that Gruden fires Raider GM because he is the Raiders. just like Gruden traded Mack and Cooper, actually having the audacity to blame it on the difficulty of dealing with the agent representing both as well as Joseph.

      A lot of juice for a head coach whose record is 48-61 since his SB win over the Raiders in 2002 post-season.

  10. Why didn’t Kittle get another catch for at least 6 yards in the second half? Are Shanahan and Shannon Sharpe fellow lodge members?

        1. Supposedly, KS was not aware of the record.
          Brent Jones, I think, had Steve Young throw him a pass to make a benchmark to get a bonus. It went for -2 yards, but it was a catch.
          Kittle should have been in KS’s ear on the side line, but he was always on the field.

  11. It appears that Tomlinson having multiple false start penalties may have something to do with Von Miller having multiple offside penalties. Niners varied the snap count quite a but to upset Miller’s timing and it generally worked — even with this “overrated” O line..

  12. Really excited as a 49er fan. This team has some great young players like Kittle, Mullens, Warner, and Buckner. These guys are coming together to overcome the worst head coach in the NFL. Shanahan can’t figure out how to scheme a run play to save his life. The Falcons overcame his horrid coaching to reach the Superbowl and then Shanahan found a way to ruin it for them. Even though Shanahan is such a horrible coach, the guys he hired like Saleh, Scangarello, LaFleur, and Zgonina make up the nucleus of a really good coaching staff. The only thing missing from this staff is Greg Roman. When York fires Lynch and Shanahan this offseason I’m hoping the new coach comes in and keeps some of these young coaches. I hope the new GM figures out which scouts identified Mullens, Pettis, Warner, and Kittle and they keep those guys. Everyone else in the scouting department should be fired. The new GM should be daring enough to hire a staff that will only play with productive players. Losers like Garoppolo, Tomlinson, Celek, Goodwin, Taylor, Thomas, Malcolm Smith, and Tartt should be cut – even if they don’t have replacements. A roster really only needs 22 players and they can share special teams duties. I mean honestly, if the 49ers play offense with only 9 or 10 players they’ll be fine since they can’t run the ball in the red zone or 4th quarter anyway. I am the omnipotent football God who writes blog posts that should be treated like football Bibles. As soon as Jed York fires everyone in the organization and hires me, the 49ers will finally achieve football legend status. I am the pagan God of football knowledge – Bow down before me or perish.

    White Mamba Cohn Out!

  13. Good game yesterday….nice to be in the W column for a change. Also nice to see the young talent coming together.

    I’ve asked this before but didn’t get response… we are currently 10th defensively in yards allowed per game, but we are giving up the 27th most point. Do you think that the yardage, is just a side effect of our ability to run the ball well and move the ball well between the 20’s? Or are we actually improving on defense?

    Just wondering if we are a few key pieces to having a legitimate top 10 defense or if its a mirage

    1. Leo,

      The points is a bit skewed due to all of the short fields as a result of turnovers and special teams returns.

      The defense is ranked 4th in punts forced per drive

      1. Yes and I believe they are 10th in yards per play. Saleh really seems to have hit his stride coaching, along with developing the young talent. This seems like a Superstar-less defense but with a strong nucleus up the middle. The off-season should be focused on Secondary and Edge talent. If we can at least even out that turnover ratio next year and get healthy, we should be looking sold next year.

  14. After yesterday’s performance I’m pretty confident that McGlinchey will be able to handle LT when Staley retires. McGlinchey wasn’t the pick that many of us wanted, but he was the pick that we needed.

    Team building priorities.
    Protect the QB.
    Get to the QB.

    Year 1: We get our QB.
    Year 2: We get our franchise T.
    Year 3: We better get our edge rusher.

  15. Randy Cross said a possible draft strategy might be for the Niners to find a team who will give up the farm for the player they fell in love with. Good way to get a ton of picks to help build up the roster. He said their may not be that special pass rusher, so he is not sold on Bosa. Cross mentioned Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams, but he might be advocating getting more than one pass rusher to get better odds on finding that gold nugget.

  16. I agree, way overrated. Late with throws to open receivers, unaware of the back-side rushers, and just the intangibles–doesn’t will his team to score or win. May be that DeFillipo is part of the problem there, but I’m glad he didn’t end up in SF.

  17. Seattle – Wagner. Bears – Roquan Smith. Just two examples of LBs that were key parts of great defensive performances. I know our focus is on CB and the edge but if we trade down in the first, I wouldn’t mind seeing Devon White or maybe Tre Lamar (Clemson) for size in the middle.
    White, Lamar, or the guy from Alabama (Wilson?) would look really good next to Warner.

  18. An elite pass rusher can have an incredible impact on the defense. He can lift the play of the entire defense. Unfortunately, they are hard to find.
    A quality corner and a top linebacker talent along with the pass rusher could move the defense into the top 10. Don’t think it will happen with just the draft this year, will need a free agent or two also.
    I liked the tackling yesterday, it was a great improvement.
    Seattle will be much tougher than Denver this Sunday. A good Test for the team.

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