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.