DENVER — The Broncos needed a little Mile High magic on Sunday night against the 49ers.
And just when it seemed the team was poised to drop a prime-time matchup, they got it.
Despite turning in an offensive performance that featured nine three-and-outs and just three points until the late stages of the game, the Broncos found a way to earn a 11-10 win over San Francisco.
As the Broncos' offense struggled for most of the contest, the defense did its part to keep Denver in the game. After allowing a first-quarter touchdown on the second drive of the game, the Broncos earned stops on eight consecutive 49ers drives. They also scored a pair of points for Denver, as they forced Jimmy Garoppolo out of the end zone for a safety.
Trailing 10-5 after the 49ers tacked on a field goal in the fourth quarter, Denver's offense finally found its footing. Russell Wilson led the Broncos on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, and Melvin Gordon III powered his way in from five yards out for the go-ahead score and Denver's first red-zone touchdown of the year.
The win was in no way pretty, but it pushed the Broncos to 2-1 on the season and into a tie for first place in the AFC West.
These were the players and plays that made the difference in a prime-time win:
The Broncos' offense hadn't accomplished much in the game, and the team looked in danger of another breakdown on third-and-10 from its own 33-yard line with just over eight minutes to play. On that third down, though, Wilson scrambled around and worked his magic. He avoided a pair of defenders before hurling the ball down the field to Kendall Hinton for a 27-yard gain. After Wilson scrambled for another first down and then found Courtland Sutton for a first down, Gordon did the rest.
Denver's defense then found a way, as it forced turnovers on back-to-back drives to ice the game.
Following the 49ers' touchdown drive on their second drive, the Broncos' defense held San Francisco without a point on eight consecutive drives. During that stretch, the unit forced a fumble, caused a safety and allowed just five total first downs in that stretch. It was a borderline dominant performance and kept Denver alive. For good measure, the Broncos' defense came up with a pair of stops at the end of the game.
Midway through the third quarter, the Broncos' defense took advantage of a situation in which the 49ers were backed up. On second-and-10 from their own 2-yard line, Garoppolo dropped back to pass and accidentally stepped on the end line. The safety earned the Broncos two points, but it also cancelled out a Bradley Chubb pick-six. After Garoppolo stepped out, he released the ball — and Chubb stepped in front to pick it off. It was a rare safety where the Broncos likely wished Garoppolo had kept his footing inside the white lines.
Josey Jewell returned from injury to lead the team in tackles and post a sack, a pair of tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery.
Jonas Griffith made the game-sealing interception following a deflected pass.
Courtland Sutton nearly posted another 100-yard game, as he finished with a team-high eight catches for 97 yards.
Kendall Hinton made a critical third-down catch — his only reception of the game — for 27 yards on the go-ahead drive.
Denver's defense earns a collective nod, as they held San Francisco to 1-of-10 on third down and forced three turnovers — including two at the end of the game.
In a field-position battle, punter Corliss Waitman and the Broncos' punt-coverage unit made plays again and again to pin the 49ers deep in their own territory.