DENVER, Colo.—Alarm bells could be heard ringing across the Rocky Mountains Saturday night, as quarterback Peyton Manning and the sluggish first-team Denver Broncos offense struggled to convert in the redzone in a 19-12 win against the visiting San Francisco 49ers, often looking more like a unit seeing their first live action than one getting their last chance before they play for real. Manning finished the night after a full half of play going 14-of-21 for 124 yards and an interception in the redzone.
Manning struggled to complete passes along the sidelines, missing two potential touchdown throws to Demaryius Thomas early in the game. After going 0-for-2 in the redzone tonight, and since they aren’t expected to see the field next Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals, they will finish the preseason without having scored a single touchdown.
Running back C.J. Anderson, who ran for 49 yards on 13 carries in the first half, told KUSA’s Rod Mackey that kind of offensive inefficiency was unacceptable.
"We have too many offensive weapons for that to happen,” Anderson said. “We’re going to get it fixed.”
While last week’s offensive struggles could be blamed on poor receiver play, the same can’t be said for this week. Manning threw multiple errant passes, including an interception in the end-zone to Demaryius Thomas’ wrong shoulder. He missed an open James Casey in the end-zone, and seemed to check out of run plays at inopportune times. If nothing else, the first-team offense’s performance Saturday night shows that they have much more work to do before they play again in mid-September.
Denver’s second and third-teamers appeared superior to San Francisco’s backup units. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler played the entirety of the second half, leading Denver to their third straight preseason victory. On defense, Shaquil Barrett continues to be a standout, recording another sack Saturday night and numerous quarterback pressures.
Meanwhile, the first-team Broncos defense again looked like a demolition crew preparing to tear apart the National Football League. They held quarterback Colin Kaepernick to just 13 yards on two completed passes. Outside linebacker Von Miller recorded yet another sack near the start of the game and appears ready to compete for a Defensive Player of the Year trophy this season. Miller's counterpart, DeMarcus Ware, recorded a safety on a Kaepernick sack as the Broncos defense kept him under duress all night.
The questions for the Broncos are certainly not on defense.
With just fifteen days before the Broncos regular season debut against the Baltimore Ravens, there remain serious questions about how quarterback Peyton Manning will adjust to head coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme. Kubiak was candid with KUSA's Rod Mackey post-game.
“It’s been a battle for three preseason games," Kubiak said. "Our offense has to get better—that starts with me. I’ve got to be sure I’ve got our quarterback in the best possible situations.”
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