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"Just gotta execute."
Anyone listening to a Colin Kaepernick interview since he became the starting quarterback knows that this is a common phrase he uses when asked about why the 49ers struggle in certain areas. It's a response that many don't like to hear, but is right on the money.
Football is a simple game that many try to make complex. At the end of the day the team that executes the best is going to win, and we saw that play out on Sunday night in the 49ers loss to the Denver Broncos.
Although the final score was 42-17, the 49ers had opportunities to make it a much closer game and possibly pull off the win. Unfortunately they failed to execute.
It started on the Broncos first possession of the game. The Broncos had drove down into the redzone and faced 1st and 10 from the 49ers fourteen yard line. The Broncos spread the 49ers out with three wide receivers to the left, but Manning is going to work the other side where he has his tight end running a vertical route and the running back coming underneath on a little "Texas" route inside. The 49ers are in good position to stop the play for a minimal gain, but Michael Wilhoite slips which allows the running back to take the ball down to the 49ers 3 yard line.
After the next two plays net the Broncos no yards they are faced with 3rd and goal. The Broncos line up with three wide receivers to the right of the formation. Dontae Johnson is matchup up with Emmanuel Sanders who runs a drag route. Johnson has good position until he is taken out by the referee. This isn't necessarily an example of poor execution, but rather an offense taking advantage of positioning.
Now down 7-0, the 49ers put together a nice drive that ends up stalling on the Broncos 34 yard line. This sets up Phil Dawson for a 51 yard field goal attempt. This is no chip shot, but a 51 yard field goal at altitude isn't the same as it would be closer to sea level. Dawson ends up pulling the kick and a good drive and scoring opportunity is wasted leaving them down 7-0.
On the ensuing Broncos possession they move into 49ers territory and face 2nd and 8 from the 49ers 39 yard line. The Broncos run a fake screen to Demaryius Thomas with Wes Welker running a wheel route from the slot. Tramaine Brock is supposed to have deep coverage but bites on Manning's pump fake to Thomas leaving Welker wide open down the sidelines for a touchdown.
Now down 14-0 the 49ers need to respond. On 2nd and 12 from their 19 yard line the 49ers send Vernon Davis down the seam. Kaepernick does a nice job of getting the ball out on time and puts it right on Davis' numbers between three Broncos defenders but the pass is dropped. Instead of having first down around the 40, it's 3rd down back at the 19. The 49ers can't convert and are forced to punt having missed another opportunity.
The 49ers defense quickly stops Denver's next possession and gets the ball back to the offense which drives down to the Bronco's 4 yard line. Facing 3rd and goal from the 4 yard line Kaepernick hits Anquan Boldin in the flat for a walk in touchdown, but Boldin drops the ball and the 49ers are forced to kick a field goal. Instead of being down 14-10 the 49ers find themselves trailing 14-3. Against a team as good as Denver you can't give up points.
The Broncos respond on their next possession by driving down into the 49ers redzone. Facing 2nd and 10 from the 49ers 17 the Broncos line up in a trips left formation leaving Tramaine Brock one on one with Emmanuel Sanders. Brock should have inside help from Eric Reid, but Reid bits on underneath routes by the tight end and running back leaving Brock without the expected help inside. As a result Brock is forced to grab Sanders and take a pass interference.
After stopping the Broncos on first and second down, the 49ers have the Broncos facing 3rd and goal from the 8 yard line. Brock finds himself in man coverage on Demaryius Thomas. He lines up to have inside leverage and use the sideline as an extra defender. One problem though, he lines up on the goalline and gives ground at the snap. As Thomas makes his out cut, Brock is 5 yards deep in the end zone and has no chance to make a play.
As the second half starts the 49ers find themselves trailing 21-10, but the defense does a good job of forcing the Broncos offense into a three and out. Facing 3rd and 2 from their 25 yard line the 49ers spread out the Broncos defense. Kaepernick misreads the coverage and takes a chance downfield instead of the easy underneath throw to a wide open Bruce Ellington and Aquib Talib makes the interception.
On the very next play from the 49ers 40 yard line Peyton Manning puts a dagger in the 49ers with a sudden change touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas. The 49ers safeties tip the coverage just a bit before the snap and Manning makes a perfect throw.
Despite playing with a number of backups the 49ers had opportunities to challenge the Broncos through the first half and early in the second half, but could not take advantage. This loss as much about poor play from the backups as it was from the regular starters failing to execute.
"Just gotta execute."