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What we learned: Broncos 33, 49ers 14

Posted Aug 19, 2017

Find out what we learned from the Broncos' victory Saturday night.


SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- What did we learn from the Broncos' 33-14 win over the 49ers on Saturday?

1. Siemian wastes no time staking his claim

Trevor Siemian didn't stride into the huddle until just 3:23 remained in the second quarter. But he quickly made his chance count.

Working behind the first-team offensive line -- which remained in the game after the change from Paxton Lynch to Siemian -- he guided the Broncos to their second touchdown of the game, capping the 53-yard drive by hitting Jordan Taylor for a 19-yard score. Siemian was hit as he delivered the throw to Taylor, who separated from 49ers cornerback Asa Jackson to make the grab for the score.

"It's a reaction to the coverage," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "It was a called go route, but the corner was on top, so if the corner is on top, he throws a back-shoulder [pass] ... it's a reaction off the coverage. Great ball placement on that ball."

Siemian remained in the game until late in the third quarter, and now has a 118.5 quarterback rating in two preseason games, going 14-of-18 for 144 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the last two games.

"Trevor, he was solid. He was Trevor," Joseph said. "He made good decisions. His ball placement was on point tonight. He controlled the huddle. So I was pleased with Trevor."

2. Ups, downs for Lynch

The best plays Lynch made came with his feet -- three runs for 27 yards, including a 12-yard sprint on third-and-10 that helped set up a field goal.

But success was hard to find when Lynch dropped back to throw. He averaged just 3.0 yards per attempt, finishing the night with 39 yards on 9-of-13 passing.

"I saw Paxton make some plays with his legs, which he should -- he's an athlete," Joseph said.

Lynch was able to capitalize off short fields set up by Broncos takeaways to guide the Broncos to 13 points, but it was also a night of missed opportunities for the second-year quarterback.

"I know that there was some opportunities I think that we had to score more points off the turnovers ... but we settled for field goals sometimes and I think that that came down to some third-down conversions we probably should have had, a couple penalties out there," Lynch said. "You can’t complain about getting points. But I think that we left some points out there."

3. Run defense looks strong early

After being gashed by the Bears last week, Denver overcame injuries that knocked Derek Wolfe, Jared Crick, Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall out of the lineup, holding 49ers running backs Carlos Hyde and Tim Hightower to just 25 yards on nine carries during the first half.

A big reason for the success -- literally and figuratively -- was nose tackle Domata Peko. When the 49ers tried to block Peko with a single offensive lineman, Peko typically tore apart the carry from the inside out; when he drew a double team, he freed the linebackers and safeties to attack. This is exactly why Head Coach Vance Joseph wanted Peko for the Broncos' defensive line.

Fellow newcomer Zach Kerr also delivered a strong game in his first start. Kerr and Adam Gotsis worked in place of Crick and Wolfe and helped contain Hyde and Hightower, helping make the 49ers one-dimensional.

"Kerr played well tonight. That run game is tough because it's a fast-track zone-running team that cuts the back side. We hadn't seen that the entire camp and the entire preseason," Joseph said. "I was impressed with Kerr [and] Gotsis stopping that run game."

4. A rough night for Garett Bolles

With any rookie, progress is not going to be measured on a graph with a straight incline; there will peaks and valleys.

Saturday night was clearly the latter, as he was whistled for three holding penalties and a false-start infraction.

"I just play my game, man," Bolles said. "I'm not the ref. They can throw what they want to throw. I play my game. Coach [Jeff Davidson] came and talked to me and told me, 'Stay physical.' I just play my game. That's why they brought me in, because of the physicality that I bring up front, and then I just did what I had to do. But I'll learn. I'll watch film, I'll learn from my mistakes, and I'll move forward."

To the credit of the offense, two of the penalties didn't derail the attack; after Bolles' second holding penalty, Lynch hit Bennie Fowler for 10 yards and then scrambled 12 yards to move the Broncos into field-goal range. Bolles' third holding penalty wiped out a 9-yard touchdown pass from Siemian to De'Angelo Henderson, but then Siemian hit Taylor for the touchdown that went into the gamebook on the subsequent snap.

5. Short-yardage offense showing promise

The Broncos had the league's worst conversion percentage on third-and-1 or third-and-2 situations last year, but in the first half, their offense went 2-for-2, as C.J. Anderson scored on third-and-goal from the San Francisco 1-yard line, while Lynch later scrambled for 10 yards on third-and-2 to help set up the Broncos' second score of the game, a 45-yard Brandon McManus field goal four plays later.

Anderson appeared to have scored on at least one of his first two goal-to-go attempts, but then burst through two defenders on the third try to get the Broncos on the board and give them a lead they never surrendered.