Nothing is sure in football, especially in the preseason. The Broncos looked every bit the better team in the first quarter, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead. The momentum looked to be in Denver's favor, but it quickly swung to the other side as the 49ers defense stole the ball consistently and their first-team offense bullied the Broncos depth.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p...Denver's tough core recovered and responded by the end of the game, but the fact is that this second preseason tilt has effectively posed a host of questions rather than answering them. Allow me to walk you through the whole ordeal.
Competition is a Strong Word
The stage was set for Trevor Siemian to win the starting job tonight. And things looked good early. On his first drive, he started 5-for-6 for 55 yards, highlighted by a bootleg toss to Virgil Green in the face of an unmanned blitz. C.J. Anderson capped off an impressive drive with a 19-yard touchdown scamper, and Siemian truthers rejoiced as all early signs pointed to the Northwestern kid.
The next drive was nothing special. Siemian looked like the mayor of Checkdown City, throwing short of the sticks to Jordan Norwood on a third down opportunity. So be it. Unfortunately, disaster waited around the corner.
Siemian dropped, saw Demaryius Thomas on a comeback to his right, and fired. Eric Reid saw it too. He jumped the route, picked the ball, and took it back for a touchdown, shaking off Siemian in the process. A heartbreaking blow to Siemian and the recent quarterback optimism.
He looked shellshocked afterwards, sailing a pass high and then throwing short of the sticks. Siemian finished 10-14 for 75 yards and one backbreaking pick-six. Enter Mark Sanchez.
A lot of confidence was evident right away as he zoomed a pass to Cody Latimer and lofted a chain-moving pass to Jordan Taylor on third down. The drive finally stalled after a coverage sack and Brandon McManus booted a field goal through the uprights. Solid start.
Sanchez got another shot to close the half and moved the ball with efficient short and intermediate throws to Green and others, quickly traversing the length of the field. On cue, Sanchez coughed up the ball right on the doorstep of the end zone. Bad Mark.
Luckily, the defense gave the ball back and the offense was granted reprieve. We wished they hadn't. Sanchez promptly fumbled it away, much to the dismay of the Bronco faithful in attendance. He, too, looked shaken after turning the ball over as his mechanics and accuracy departed on his final drive.
Sanchez finished 10-17 for 120 yards and two fumbles.
Suddenly, the door was opened for rookie Paxton Lynch. Just show us something and you'll get the key to the city. It looked rough early, taking a couple of sacks and throwing late outside the numbers, but Lynch let the run game take precedence and flashed his tremendous ability on a play where he looked dead to rights before shedding the potential sack of Marcus Rush and instead scrambling for eight.
The play propelled Lynch, and he finished off the drive booting to his right and firing a touchdown to tight end John Phillips. The next drive stalled after a third down drop by Bralon Addison, but Lynch came back firing on the next series with completions to Addison and Henry Krieger-Coble (his best pass of the night).
He almost found Durron Neal on a rainbow down the sideline, but Neal couldn't complete the catch. Lynch was sacked a play later when Kyle Roberts was beat silly by Jason Fanaika. The drive was saved by a late hit and Lynch moved inched closer before tossing a four-yard touchdown to Neal.
The Broncos had one last gasp with 55 seconds left, but Lynch was picked off on a desperation heave.
Ultimately, Lynch won the night. He got better every series, took shots, showed his mobility and kept the ball safe, finishing 15-26 for 113 yards, two touchdowns, one pick, and three carries for 13 yards.
All of the quarterbacks were helped out by a run game that finished 114 yards and a touchdown. The running backs toted the ball just 21 times while the quarterbacks passed 57 times, with Devontae Booker leading the way with 36 yards.
Expect another week before a decision is handed down by the Broncos brass.
Defense Drifts Back to Earth
After absolutely dismantling the Chicago offense a week ago, the Broncos were once again being propped up as the foremost defense in the NFL. That looked to be the case as Derek Wolfe shut down the running game of the 49ers and kept their first-team offense from crossing midfield.
However, when the 49ers kept their first-teamers in the game while Denver pulled most of their starters, things changed drastically. The 49ers offensive line drank the defense's milkshake and pounded the ball into the end zone with a 4-yard blast by Carlos Hyde. They nearly did it again on the next drive as Mike Davis sliced through the second level for 19 and Jeff Driskel hooked up with Bryce Treggs for 25. Fortunately, Darius Kilgo stopped the bleeding on third down, holding them to a field goal.
Then Davis coughed the ball up. Twice. Both times, Zaire Anderson jarred the ball loose. A couple of drives later, the 49ers spanned the field on a 40-yard pass from Driskell, but DuJuan Harris lost the ball just before crossing the goal line and John Tidwell, who gave up the big pass, recovered the fumble.
There were more struggles when the 49ers turned to Christian Ponder. Ponder moved the ball before ungluing the defense on a 22-yard touchdown run and a 30-yard score to Dres Anderson, beating Tidwell.
Overall, the first unit looked strong, but the depth looked surprisingly overmatched and consistently fooled by the Kelly offense. A few players like Anderson and Wolfe were impressive, but the depth of the defense turned 180 degrees. It's also worth noting that Corey Nelson left the game with a wrist injury.
The defense allowed 24 points in total, but it could have been more if not for a few timely turnovers. To be fair, Chip Kelly's offense might not be the towering inferno of football leftovers that we thought it might be.
It's going to be a long week at camp after this one. Stay tuned.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.