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Broncos starters strike first as defense holds ground against 49ers

Posted Aug 17, 2014

The Broncos' starters christened the 49ers' new stadium with a solid performance on offense and defense.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Unfazed by the 49ers' shiny new Levi's Stadium full of Wi-Fi and jeans (presumably), the Broncos' starters played up to their high standards both on offense and defense.

Peyton Manning remained reliable as ever, connecting on 12 of 14 passes for 102 total yards with a touchdown over the course of two drives as the starters finished their games with a 10-0 lead.

The first offensive possession began with great field position after a missed 55-yard field goal from San Francisco. Running back Ronnie Hillman started with Montee Ball out recovering from his appendectomy, and covered solid ground in the running game that looks more vertical, as Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase noted after practice earlier this week.

Manning needs little help in finding a defense's weakness, but he got more than he needed when the 49ers found themselves out of position and quick to rush back into some semblance of a formation. But Manning spotted it, made an adjustment at the line and found wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route for 20 yards. The offense stalled as they neared the goal line and a pass just out of Andre Caldwell's reach on an out route in the endzone forced them to kick a field goal, the first points scored in the 49ers’ new Levi's Stadium.

Although they had a few missed connections on their first drive, they would minimize those to nearly nil on the second, even with a faster pace utilizing their no-huddle offense. The two Thomases would be instrumental as the Broncos marched down the field, with Demaryius' catches starting the drive and Julius' catches ending it with a touchdown.

The defense fared well against San Francisco's starters, bending but not breaking, as the saying goes. The 49ers had a few good plays to gain some momentum, but Denver's defense stood strong to keep San Francisco scoreless in their first home game of preseason.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall and rookie cornerback Bradley Roby handled new roles in the starting lineup well. Marshall had five tackles in the first half, and Roby had three, though 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn't throw to his side often. Both continued to play after the rest of the first unit left the field.

All told, the Broncos had a nearly immaculate showing from their starters on either side of the field. The preseason is a time to grow more comfortable before the regular season begins, and Denver definitely looked at ease today.