SANTA CLARA, Calif.**– In his first game starting at weakside linebacker and calling the plays on defense, Brandon Marshall and the Broncos shut out the 49ers.
It may have been just a preseason game, but Marshall's five-tackle performance, where he took reps with both the first team and second team defense, shows his progress and his potential in replacing injured Danny Trevathan.
Marshall said he "felt at home."
"I feel comfortable," Marshall said. "It's all about your preparation. I prepared well. I thought I played pretty decent, so I was excited about being out there."
Though this was his first career game having the helmet microphone and calling theplays, he enjoyed the challenge.
"I've always been just waiting to get the calls from somebody else," he said. "To be out there and make the call is fun. I like it -- it's fun. I like it. It keeps you really focused. It keeps you in tuned to everything else going on."
Marshall played the first quarter and some of the second. But the first-team defense, along with Marshall, set a tone for the defense that was maintained the rest of the game. During the first quarter with the No. 1 defense on the field, Colin Kaepernick and Co. were kept out of the end zone.
The 49ers only gained 166 more yards during the remainder of the contest and, with two missed field goals, were left with a goose egg in their unveiling of Levi's Stadium.
"You shut any team out, especially the Niners with what they've done these past few years, [it's exciting]," T.J. Ward said. "You get a shutout against any team, that shows your depth, especially in the preseason with first, second, third string. They all came to play, and I think we did a great job today."
Ward was pleased with Marshall's willingness to step up and lead the defense and said that "wasn't too big for him."
He consistently plugged holes and prevented San Francisco's running game from finding momentum, and it only gained 69 yards on the ground. Marshall and the rest of the defense contained Kaepernick, whose ability to make big plays on the ground can cause headaches for any defense.
"The fact he can hurt you with his feet, you got to respect that part of him," Terrance Knighton said. "We just want to do a good job of keeping guys in the pocket and corralling him. We got guys like DeMarcus [Ware] and Malik [Jackson] and [Derek] Wolfe, guys who can chase down quarterbacks like that. It makes it a lot easier, and I'm pretty sure they're aware of the guys they got rushing."
Kaepernick finished five of nine for 39 yards. Marshall was appreciative of the defensive line for their performance.
"We have great defensive tackles," Marshall said. "I need to take those guys out for steaks or shrimps or whatever they want, because those guys do a great job of keeping us clean. Any great linebacker has good defensive linemen in front of them, so I'm just happy to have those guys in front of me."
While linebackers are key in coordinating and organizing the defense, Marshall didn't miss a beat. The Broncos have a "next man up" attitude. When one player goes down, the next on the depth chart is expected to be ready. Marshall took onthat challenge.
He had some pregame nerves but once the game began with that first snap the anxiety disappeared and his preparation took over. While Marshall only played in one game last season with one defensive tackle and one special-teams tackle, he has a unique perspective with extensive knowledge of the Broncos defense as he was on the Broncos' practice squad for the first 16 weeks of last season.
Cornerback Tony Carter, who had one of the defense's two interceptions of the day, has spent time on both the Broncos and Patriots practice squads.
"He's one of the guys who knows what he's doing out there," Carter said. "I'm excited for him to get the opportunity… I was on the practice squad myself when I first came in the league and it definitely helps you learn everything and grasp the system. He's doing a good job."
Taking reps with the first-team defense was an exciting opportunity for Marshall, especially since it gave him the opportunity to line up on the other side of former Nevada teammate Kaepernick.
Marshall left one goal out on the field.
"I wanted to [sack him] but they didn't call a blitz," Marshall said. "Next time, maybe I'll get him."