SAN FRANCISCO --Though most of the first unit saw very limited action in the Broncos' preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, the younger Broncos were stout enough to hold the home team to a pair of field goals and walk away with a 10-6 win.
"I think it was a good start," Champ Bailey said. "We're definitely not where we want to be. We kind of had a slow start with the ones in there. We don't like to give up plays like we did. But overall I think a good night. Our young guys really stepped up throughout the second half and got the win for us."
The Broncos forced four turnovers, including a forced fumbled that led to the first touchdown of the season.
Pinned deep in their own territory in the second quarter, the 49ers handed the ball off to D.J. Harper, who was met immediately by Nate Irving. Irving punched the ball out and Shaun Phillips scooped it up and scored from nine yards out.
That touchdown was followed by a Matt Prater extra point, moving the Broncos out in front 7-3.
Phillips said that it was nice to score the first touchdown of the season. But, he noted, there is a lot of work left to do, particularly in run stopping efforts.
"We gave up a couple big runs, a couple five- and six-yard runs at a time," he said. "If you want to be a successful defense you can't do that. That's the first thing you need to eliminate. We'll go back and watch film and we'll get back to the drawing board."
The Broncos forced another fumble on the ensuing 49er possession after Duke Ihenacho poked the ball free from A.J. Jenkins. Rahim Moore recovered the fumble. Ihenacho lead the team with seven tackles and he registered one pass deflection.
"He played fantastic," Moore said of Ihenacho. "It was his debut, I told him to go out there and just do him and he did exactly what he does in practice. He flew around. He made tackles, made plays and every time you see him he's always flying into the play. He's come into his own and at the end of the day his hard work is showing and that's what it's all about."
The 49ers took the early lead after a 13-play, 62-yard drive that ate up the first seven minutes of the game. Phil Dawson split the uprights from 32 yards out.
The Broncos were forced to punt on their first drive - quarterback Peyton Manning's only drive of the game. Brock Osweiler came in on the ensuing possession and put together a solid performance, going 13-for-18 for 105 yards without an interception.
The 49ers put together another 13-play drive in the fourth quarter, this one orchestrated by Scott Tolzien. After marching 73 yards, Dawson made his second field goal of the day, this time from 38 yards, to pull the 49ers within one point.
But once again, a core of young Broncos were up to the task as rookie quarterback Zac Dysert - bolstered by the performance of running back C.J. Anderson - responded with a drive of his own to extend the Broncos' slim lead. The Broncos moved 31 yards in 12 plays to set up Prater for a 46-yarder.
Dysert was 3-for-3 on the day and Anderson was the team's leading rusher with 69 yards on 15 carries.
"I think like any first game, there's things that you need to work on and we have plenty of those things but for the guys that played, I thought they fought hard and found a way to try to win there at the end," Head Coach John Fox said. "We had some young guys that I thought showed pretty well. C.J. (Anderson), Brock Osweiler, Duke Ihenacho."
"The thing I was pleased with, we were plus-four turnover ratio. We didn't turn it over, we took it away four times. That's an area we were looking to improve on. Balls we got our hands on – on defense – we caught. I think those are big factors in a game."