QB Christian Ponder was just signed by the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, but he would end up being the quarterback that looked the most efficient on Saturday night against the Denver Broncos.
The 49ers started the game winning the coin toss and elected to begin on defense. The Broncos' starting offense took advantage and efficiently march down the field on the first drive of the game, capping it off with a 19-yard run into the end zone by RB C.J. Anderson.
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Among those out for tonight's game were defensive ends Arik Armstead and rookie DeForest Buckner. OLB Aaron Lynch was also not in uniform after being poked in the eye during a skirmish with the Broncos earlier this week. That eliminates most of the players that the 49ers defense hopes to use to generate a pass rush this season.
With QB Colin Kaepernick still unable to go, Blaine Gabbert got his second straight start of preseason. The suffocating Broncos defense prevented the 49ers from gaining a first down on their opening drive, forcing the 49ers to quickly punt.
Broncos QB Trevor Siemian had been picking apart the 49ers defense, going 10 of 11 for 75 yards before throwing an interception to 49ers FS Eric Reid, who returned the football to the end zone to tie the game up at 7-7. Reid had missed last weekend's game against the Texans to be present for the birth of his baby girl. It was a short night for most of the 49ers starting defense, who exited the game following the interception.
Early in the second quarter, the 49ers offense put together a 6-play, 63-yard drive, which ended with a 4-yard run by RB Carlos Hyde into the end zone to put the 49ers up 14-7. The drive started with a Gabbert pass to WR DeAndrew White, playing in place of the injured Bruce Ellington, for 17 yards. White was practicing well during training camp and has become one of Gabbert's most comfortable targets.
Gabbert finished the night 6 of 9 passing for 69 yards passing and the Broncos' Siemian would finish 10 of 14 for 75 yards and an interception. However, he failed to complete any of his three final throws, including the interception. Rookie Jeff Driskel replaced Gabbert in the second quarter. He finished the game 6 of 7 for 66 yards passing.
The two teams exchanged field goals, with the 49ers maintaining a 17-10 lead heading into halftime. The 49ers went into the half with nine first downs for 163 total yards of offense. 95 yards came through the air and 68 on the ground. The 49ers defense allowed 18 first downs for 255 total yards in the first half.
|Penalties (Yds)||5 (45)||8 (45)|
|Punts (AVG)||5 (39)||6 (38)|
|Time of Pos.||25:19||34:41|
RB Mike Davis, who had a surprisingly great game against the Texans last week, fumbled the ball twice against the Texans – perhaps lowering his stock a bit. He finished the game with 21 yards rushing on four carries.
RB DuJuan Harris nearly increased the lead by two touchdowns with a near-score in the third quarter, but he fumbled the ball in the end zone and Broncos DB John Tidwell recovered it for a touchback.
The Broncos tied the game 17-17 in the third quarter off of a touchdown pass from rookie QB Paxton Lynch to TE John Phillips. The Broncos are involved in a quarterback competition themselves with Siemian and Sanchez being the frontrunners, but Lynch was the only one to throw a touchdown pass against the 49ers.
|San Francisco 49ers Leaders|
Ponder entered the game late in the third quarter and play to completion. He was asked on Wednesday if he expected to play against the Broncos, who were his favorite team growing up. "Yeah, I'd like to play," said Ponder. "I think it won't be the full playbook, but hopefully we come up with a plan about what I can do in a game and go out and play. It will be fun to compete and get out there."
Not even knowing the full playbook didn't appear to set Ponder back, who went on to help the 49ers regain the lead in the fourth quarter capping off a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run. The run into the end zone gave the 49ers the 24-17 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Ponder was 5 of 6 for 33 yards on the scoring drive.
Ponder followed that drive with another scoring one, this time finding WR Dres Anderson in the end zone. That ended up being a 5-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to put the 49ers up 31-17. Ponder finished the game 7 of 8 for 86 yards and two touchdowns with one coming on the ground.
A late Broncos score on a pass from Lynch to WR Durron Neal brought Denver within a score, but the 49ers held on to win the game 31-24 following an interception of Lynch by CB Kenneth Acker.
San Francisco will next host the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium on Friday, August 26. The coaching staff hopes to ease quarterback Kaepernick back into practice this week to prepare him to play against the Packers, which would be his first action of preseason and the first time he has taken the field since November 1, 2015 against the then-St. Louis Rams.
The highest passer rating possible is 158.3. Christian Ponder's was 151 vs. the Broncos. #Ponder4President— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 21, 2016
WR Bryce Treggs is believed to have suffered a torn MCL following a 25-yard reception from Driskel. He will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. A torn MCL would not be season ending and would not necessarily even require surgery.
Notes and Quotes
Head coach Chip Kelly said that Ponder had never run the play that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass to Anderson. "Maybe we should do that more often," said Kelly.
"He's got a really good understanding of what we're doing right now," said Kelly regarding Gabbert.
"That's the most fun I've had on a football field in a long time," said Ponder following the victory.