Strong defensive effort wasted in 49ers loss to Denver: 5 burning questions answered

The San Francisco 49ers offense turned the clock back to 1946 during their 11-10 loss to Denver on Sunday night. The loss drops San Francisco to 1-2 on the season.

Facing a Denver defense which had allowed only 487 yards combined over the first two weeks, the 49ers offense looked on point early in the first quarter.

On their second possession of the game, San Francisco opened with a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo to Brandon Aiyuk. On the next play Jeff Wilson Jr. burst through the line for a gain of 37. Jimmy Garoppolo finished the possession with a three-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk. From that point on the 49ers offense could not get out of its own way.

Jimmy Garoppolo missed open receivers. Stepped out of the endzone for a safety and threw an interception late in the fourth quarter with the offense closing into range for a potential game winning field goal.

In addition, there were untimely penalties along the offensive line and the 49ers completely wasted one of the best defensive efforts we’ve seen in a long time.

San Francisco’s defense forced nine three and outs against Russell Wilson and the Broncos.

Let’s look at the answers to the five burning questions that I asked prior to the game.

1.) How will Jimmy Garoppolo perform in his first start of 2022? Awful

Garoppolo started out ok, hitting on several throws to move the ball. However, other than the second possession of the game, Garoppolo was able to lead the offense to only 10 points.

Garoppolo’s biggest miss in the first half came when he threw an incompletion to Brandon Aiyuk to end the 49ers fourth offensive possession. He had Deebo Samuel open down the right sideline but never saw him, choosing instead to throw to a Aiyuk who was blanketed by Patrick Surtain.

After battling poor starting field position through much of the game, San Francisco finally caught a break early in the second half when they took over at their own 43. The opportunity would be wasted when Garoppolo fumbled the snap at midfield and Denver recovered.

Although the Broncos were unable to do anything with the ball, the mistake would soon prove costly.

The 49ers offense was backed up after Denver downed the punt on San Francisco’s two. On the second play of the possession Garoppolo ran a play fake and stepped on the backline of the endzone for a safety. While the safety was bad, it was actually a positive for the 49ers because Garoppolo’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

A couple series later, the 49ers took possession of the ball at the Broncos 41. On the second play Garoppolo had Jauan Jennings open down the right sideline, but his pass sailed and carried the receiver out of bounds. Instead of having a big play the 49ers would need to settle for a field goal. Another missed opportunity.

Two possessions later, now trailing by one, the 49ers offense moved close to midfield before Garoppolo was intercepted on a throw to Deebo Samuel over the middle.

2.) Can the 49ers defense contain Russell Wilson? Not when it mattered

As mentioned earlier, the 49er defense forced eight three and outs in this game. They deserved to get the win.

The offensive mistakes kept Denver in the game, and Russell Wilson eventually made them pay.

Taking over down by five with 10:12 left in the game, Wilson led the Broncos offense on a 10 play, 80 yard touchdown drive.

As has been the case during so many of Wilson’s 18 victories over San Francisco, the veteran quarterback made plays with both his arm and legs to keep the drive alive.

After scrambling for a gain of 12, Wilson connected with Courtland Sutton for a gain of 19 along the right sideline to set up a touchdown run by Melvin Gordon to take the lead.

3.) Can the 49ers defense stop Denver’s running game? No

The 49ers defense did a good job against the run, holding Denver to an average of only 3.1 yards per attempt.

With their offense unable to generate any points, the 49ers defense saw Denver stick with the run and eventually begin to find some success. The 33 carries by the Broncos were like body blows, softening up San Francisco’s defense until Wilson could finally strike.

4.) Can the 49ers offense keep the run game going? No

At first glance the numbers look good, 88 yards on only 19 carries for an average of 4.6 per attempt. In reality, 55 of those yards came on two long runs by Jeff Wilson Jr.

Wilson gained 37 yards on a burst in the first quarter and had another big gain of 18 late in the third quarter.

San Francisco averaged 1.9 yards on their other 17 carries on Sunday night.

Rookie Jordan Mason got the first carry of his career and picked up seven yards on a sweep to the left. Perhaps they should think about giving him more carries moving forward.

5.) What impact will the return of George Kittle have on the 49ers offense? None

In Kittle’s first action of the 2022 season, he finished with four catches for 28 yards. The 49ers offense that came in averaging 182.5 yards rushing per game and was held to 88.

Prediction: 49ers 23 Broncos 20

This looked like it would be a close game on paper, and it lived up to that. Neither offense could get much going, and the team whose defense scored points won.

This article has 51 Comments

  1. 17 carries for an avg of 1.9 per carry (take Mason’s 8 yard carry out and its even worse) The pass blocking may have even been worse. Check out the two rushers coming at JG unimpeded on the play that ended up being a safety. JG is not the kind of QB who can overcome a bad O line. Like I wrote in my last post football is won and lost in the trenches, fans love to concentrate on QB’s and skill position players because thats where their eyes are drawn but this game was lost upfront. I hate to start looking foreward to next year this early in the season but I just don’t see this line getting much better. The 9ers should have lots of cap money to spend in the off season, they should resign as much of their D as they can then they should spend every other penny on O linemen as well as their first 3 picks in the draft. imho

    1. Hmm, who could have guessed it, OldCoach?

      Who could have guessed that the 49ers woefully INEXPERIENCED, new look, interior OL might not be very good? And who would have guessed that the 49ers veteran QB would continue to make the same back breaking, boneheaded mistakes that he’s always made, despite now being in his EIGTH SEASON? And who would have guessed that Kyle Shanahan would completely bungle his QB position for the 6th straight season!

      Who could have guessed, OldCoach?

    2. The blown game in Chicago said it all and it was confirmed by Denver. Jimmy G can still not play, Kiddle looks old, fat, and done. Terrible OL with san aging Trent. No playoffs this year. I guess it is a wasted year as we wait for trey to return. Meanwhile, we want to see Purdy.

      1. Who is we? Is that the editorial we, or are you the leader of some grass roots movement? Playing Purdy would be justified if Jimmy got injured or the season became totally lost. Otherwise, he’s our qb.

        Btw, Kittle has been recovering from a groin injury and might have come back too soon.

    3. 3 of the highest graded players on offense were offensive linemen as well as 2 of the lowest graded players. A mixed bag but going against a obviously very good defense. In any regard focusing on the Oline detracts from the real reason the Niners lost which is 3 turnovers.

  2. I have seen these same movies many times now. Not a bit even surprised of the outcome.
    Im just going to keep the comments to myself since it won’t change a thing. Sigh…

  3. Same as last week where JG has a brilliant set of throws for a TD and then he becomes inaccurate. I think him missing TC is a big factor. He needed the reps after his surgery and never got them. He throws behind the receiver.
    It’ll get fixed but probably when it is too late.
    Well after all he IS a back up QB….

  4. That was painful.

    On the bright side, the 2022 season has started the same as the 2021 did, the one that ended up in the NFCCG

    1. … on the dark side, the brain trust continues to ensure us that the team looks more and more like last year’s and last year’s and so on and so on…

  5. The difference was the safety. When was the last time you saw a veteran or even rookie QB for that matter step out of the end zone on a pass play for a safety. But on the flip side, if he hadn’t it would have been a pick six.

    I know Jimmy G didn’t have a proper TC, but he is a veteran with this team and I’m sure KS gave him plays that he has run from his last 5 years with the team – so I’m having a hard time making excuses for him. However, it seemed to me that the fumble wasn’t Jimmy’s fault as the center snapped the ball into his own butt.

    Given how porous the OL is a mobile QB might stand a better chance. Purdy is a possibility but if he doesn’t work out, KS will be roasted from here to …… Difficult situation and difficult year ahead for all of us fans.

    1. the difference was the field goal Kyle decided to give to Denver rather than taking the holding penalty and trusting his defense to force a punt on third and long

      1. Yes, that was also a decision I questioned at the time. Still a veteran QB needs to have situational awareness and understand where he is in the end zone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where a QB especially a veteran has stepped out of the end zone.

    2. Cubus, I agree with you on the fumble by the center. It didn’t look to me like Jimmy had a chance with that one. There are lots of things that can get cleaned up and the team will get better going forward but those turnovers are what really hurt, especially that last one.

  6. Curious about the film review of the O-Line. YPC looked good but as Jack pointed out that is a little misleading. Jake Brendel doesn’t look like an NFL quality player to me. Burford is wildly inconsistent and Banks is limited in his abilities. I think they really can get better but how much better? Are we talking about going from one of the worst O-lines in the NFL to mediocre? Are we talking about actually being good? It’s going to be a long year if Games 1 & 3 are any indication. If the year is a disaster I expect a loud segment of 49er fans to be clamoring for DeMeco Ryans as the next 49ers head coach.

    1. Personally I think the Oline is not bad and will only get better with more experience. Also, Oline is a weakness for most teams. There just aren’t enough quality Oline guys to around. I think The 2 guards are going to be just fine but I am a little concerned with the center.

      1. The Chiefs rebuilt their entire O-line in one offseason. They traded for Orlando Brown, drafted Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, and signed Joe Thuney as a Free Agent. The only holdover on the entire O-line was Andrew Wylie. They switched 4 out of 5 O-line positions because they made it a priority. And now that is one of the best O-lines in the NFL. I am a Shanahan & Lynch fan, although some of the bloom is off that rose, but i just can’t understand how you get your supposed franchise QB you’ve been waiting for and then you stick him behind Jake Freaking Brendel. It’s beyond comprehension. It’s time to prioritize the O-Line and fire whomever suggested drafting Aaron Banks and starting Jake Brendel. I’m beginning to think Chris Foerster is a major liability. After this preseason, who in the world would put Jaylon Moore in an actual NFL game? The only way Jaylon Moore stepping onto the field last night makes any sense is if Jimmy Garoppolo got caught with Kyle Shanahan’s wife.

        1. First it’s only been 3 games. There’s no reason to panic. Rookies almost always get better with reps. Also, the weak spot last year was corner and that was the priority this past off season.

  7. I think there’s something to be said for an “offensive genius” like Kyle that has a losing record overall, and whose only successes have come on the backs of the defense, not the offense for which he was given that unfortunate moniker.

    When you play every game hoping to win late in the 4th quarter on your last drive you’re not going to come away with enough wins to make it worthwhile. They should have buried the Broncos yesterday.

    I find it really curious that the one single time he decided to draw up a slow developing downfield throw was from his own half yard line with protection designed to let at least one defender run free unabated to the quarterback. Huh??

    1. Yup – an “offensive genius” who has relied principally on his defense to win (as painfully displayed last night). This is par for the course in the age of misinformation. Did anyone see what the Dolphins did to the Ravens last week? Now there is an offensive genius on that staff. He was able to make do despite Tua’s 2 interceptions which put the Fish down by 21 points in the 4th quarter. Kyle is the master at barely winning ugly. I’d rather watch paint dry.

    2. Ha! He should have run one of his patented, “Super-Defense-Confusing-Multi-Man-Motion/Anyone but the Running Back Gets to Run the Ball” plays? I’d like to get inside his head for a while just to see what’s there, but I think his hat would be too big for me…

  8. The quote below is my comment after last weeks game. The same pattern emerged this week. Denver played their normal D on the first 2 Niner possessions and then made the obvious adjustments. BTW, I watched some of the Bills Dolphins game and Josh Allen slides.

    “Garoppolo finished the first half by completing eight of 11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown while leading the offense to 14 points.
    The second half was tougher sledding for the veteran as he was able to hit only five of ten for 48 yards. ”

    This exemplifies Jimmy’s limitations and how our offense is limited. When Jimmy first came in their D was still in Lance mode. The safeties were back and they were giving up short and medium passes. They then made the adjustment and played short and medium passes and dared Jimmy to throw deep. The rest of the season Niners will face 8 in the box to stop the run and man coverage on the outside.

  9. I’m wondering how much the loss of Mike McDaniel has affected this offense. I’ve also been wondering if the best strategy is to have a defensive line that is two and three deep with NFL starters resulting in a deficiency of funds for an across the board very good OL. I suspect some of that is that very good (not elite) DL are significantly less expensive than very good OL, but still, the OL has been marginal for years. It seems like the strategy for the DL would be good, if, in fact, KS is the offensive genius that he is proclaimed to be. Lately, it seems hard to support that notion. Still it’s early in the season, but this season could rapidly slip away from salvaging.

    1. The 49ers didn’t need to spend big to have a much better O-line. The draft picks they passed up alone could have easily made this a top tier o-line. And it’s not second guessing. Many draft analysts had a “WTF” grade on the selection of Aaron Banks over Creed Humphrey. So now the 49ers are starting the worst Center in the entire NFL and it’s not close because they wanted to select a guy with the lateral agility of a ruler.

  10. 23 years since the Yorks took charge of the 49ers and still not a Super Bowl win in sight. Certainly won’t happen this year, not with hapless Kyle and erratic Jimmy. What a perfectly matched pair!

      1. “Why did Saints coach get suspended?
        Meting out unprecedented punishment for a crush-for-cash bounty system that targeted key opposing players, the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton without pay for next season and indefinitely banned the team’s former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.”

        I found this while looking up Sean Payton on the web.
        Not sure if you are aware that Gregg Williams main target was Frank Gore in a playoff game. Payton was complicit for allowing Williams make deals with his defensive players to earn cash for creating injuries to OUR team.
        It helps to do a little background check before clamoring for Payton.

    1. Payton is a big YES from me but I’m not so sure on Dorsey. I like Dorsey a lot but Josh Allen can pretty much make anyone look great. Payton is a proven comodity.

  11. I almost don’t even know how I feel about the 49ers right now, and I’m not talking in general terms. I got out of bed this morning, brewed myself a perfect cup of Java, fitted my happy-go-lucky dog in his awesome harness, and headed out for our morning walk. It’s a beautiful Monday morning in almost every sense of the word, with one distinct exception …. Jimmy Garoppolo refuses to let me live my best life.

    Just when I thought I could finally stop watching this guy stumble, and bumble, and fumble his way through the last FOUR injury riddled NFL seasons (2018-2021), the San Francisco 49ers pulled him back in. We have all heard the proverbial saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”? Well there was a time when Kyle Shanahan was actually thought of as a “QB whisperer”, when in reality Kyle has simply been skating by on his father’s famous last name.

    My Kyle Shanahan epiphany happened during the ridiculous leadup to the 49ers sham 2021 NFL draft. At Kyle’s direction, John Lynch traded away their own 2021 – first round pick (#12 overall), and 2 additional first round picks, in order to move up to #3, and then it slowly, and painfully became glaringly obvious that they traded up in a sheer panic, because it ends up that Kyle Shanahan turned down Tom Brady’s offer to play out the final 2 years of his HOF career with the 49ers, under what would have amounted to basically a sweetheart deal, and in part so that his parents could finally spend a season or two watching him play in person, which was something they had never had an opportunity to do! AND KYLE SHANAHAN ACTUALLY TURNED TOM BRADY DOWN!

    So what does Kyle do now that he is sitting with the 3rd overall pick, after panicking to make a move so that he can finally replace the QB who he’s been trying replace for years? He proceeds to draft the rawest 1st round duel-threat QB draft prospect the league has ever seen, and he then proceeds to develop him under a QB coach who has absolutely no experience at developing a mobile QB, even though he has a roster that is ready to win now. Rich Scangarello BTW, is widely suspected to be the 49ers insider who has been leaking all kinds of “derogatory comments” and “disparaging remarks” in regards to Trey Lance’s shortcomings as a pro prospect.

    But it gets worse from there. After all of this nonsense, Kyle ends up bringing Jimmy back into the divided locker room, and then he proceeds to pile as much pressure as he possibly can on the young QB, shunning him as a team captain, and then proceeds to use him like a glorified fullback, without as much as the thought of teaching him how to properly perfect protecting his health a priority, with something as simple as the act of sliding! And now the 49ers are left to pick up the pieces with a veteran NFL QB who has never improved in 5 seasons with the 49ers, and who just put on a masterclass of buffoonery in front of a national audience, with a shoulder that likely won’t even hold up until Thanksgiving! Brilliant!

    1. If it was you who brewed the cup of Java, it must have been perfect. You are truly wonderful!

      And it’s good to know your dog’s harness is “awesome.” I assume that’s because you made it yourself. Well, what an amazing guy you are!

      Oh, and “Jimmy Garoppolo refuses to let me live my best life.” You are so unfortunate, I’m going to ask our priest to say a mass for you.

      1. 49 Reasons Jaxson is so damn smart I am surprised Jed hasn’t tracked him down and hired him. His head is so big he must have trouble going thru doors.

  12. Jimmy G went from, “Damn, we should have traded those 2 first round picks for this guy” after the first couple of drives last night to “Thank God we didn’t trade 2 first round picks for this guy” after the last couple of drives.

  13. Forget the Super Bowl.

    The team that is supposed to have many all-stars will likely lose as many games as it wins, and will not get into the playoffs. Shanahan and Ryans were out-coached—see the inability to move the ball and the lackluster defense at the end of the game.

    Another sad season for the Niners.

    1. I don’t agree on Ryans. The defense looked gassed in the 4th quarter possibly because of thin air. Outside of the first series, the offense was completely inept and that includes the play caller.

      1. The defense was well-coached and well-executed. Allowing a single TD scoring drive is hardly failing. It’s winning.

        They’re dominating, averaging giving up only 9 points a game!!!

  14. Why didn’t Shanahan take the penalty to push the Broncos out of field goal range? He said he worried that Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson would pick up the first down if given another third-down opportunity.

    “I was told it was a 50-50 decision,” Shanahan said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was a little nervous about Russell making a big play on 3rd-and-long. Get a pass interference or a [defensive] holding and give them an automatic first down. So we went with the 55-yarder.”

    That, right there. The arrogance on the guy to think all the success and failure of the team rests solely on his scheming and play calls. That he can’t trust his incredibly dominant defense to make a stop on third and very long.

    Kyle coaches scared. He has zero trust in his players with the exception of perhaps Deebo Samuel, who is the only one he allows to go make a play.

    If he doesn’t trust this defense to make a reasonable stop on third and very long, perhaps it’s time for him to shake this team up and start over with guys he believes in.

    What type of coach shows this lack of confidence in his players? Certainly not an elite coach with a supposedly elite team.

    Kyle needs to look in the mirror and get over himself. Start with that arrogance and understand a true leader builds up his team’s confidence and puts them in positions to excel and be better versions of themselves. This guy is only interested in being a better version of himself and the impression I get is he thinks any success is because of him, not his players.

    When things are going according to his script, he succeeds. If the situation requires going off script, his team fails miserably. Reminds me of a helicopter parent that constantly guides their kids on every aspect of life, allowing for some success, but the children are completely lost and unable to cope in situations when the parent is not there or the script has no solution for the situation.

  15. It’s these type of losses that bring out the bad history of this regime… Like, we should have drafted a different QB, and we missed out on Mahomes, Fields and Tom Brady etc. All valid arguments.

    But in this case. I’m going to put the blame on the entire FO.
    I’m not dispelling the fact that Jimmy had a bad performance.
    But at the same time, he was restricted from having any team activities during TC and preseason. His timing and accuracy is off and the lack of usage this past summer certainly explains why.

    In my honest opinion, Garoppolo is in preseason mode and this falls solely on the FO.
    Still, I’m not going to fold on the season. There’s plenty of football left. And if teams like KC and Buffalo can lose, anything can happen.

  16. The Niners were, as I said, very overrated coming into this season. I was surprised at the SB hype attached to them. It was clear over the winter that the team was not improved and the playoffs would be missed. Sad but Kyle is not the answer. WE need big changes.

    1. The 49ers were 3-5 in the 1st half of the season last year and a lot of people were folding on the season.
      And then, we made it to the playoffs and were one muffed Int., away from another Superbowl appearance.

      My, how soon people forget!
      This season is far from over. Lot of football left to play.

    2. How was it clear that the team wasn’t improved? Clearly the safeties and corner backs are improved. You can’t deny that. The only other place with big changes is the Oline with 3 rookies. By the end of the year the guards will be at least as good as those last year. Center will not be as good as Alex was last year. I think that’s the only drop off.
      As for all the criticism of Kyle that just shows how little knowledge some people have. If he was fired half a dozen teams would want to snap him up immediately. The Niners could get draft picks for him.

      1. I’m not a gambler, but apparently the odds makers don’t feel as bad about the 49ers as many of their own fans do.
        They have the 49ers as 2 points favorites to beat the Rams.
        The Oline had a poor game, but they have also held their own in the 1st two games as well.
        Imho, 2 good games trumps 1 bad game. So, let’s not throw out the life-rafts so soon.

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