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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Lance leads mistake-heavy 49ers to last-second 21-20 win over Broncos

Aug 19, 2023 at 8:37 PM

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
DEN 3 3 7 7 20
SF 3 0 6 12 21

The San Francisco 49ers committed a laundry list of mistakes against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on Saturday night, but they were able to fight through it in the end for a 21-20 win due in large part to a clutch performance down the stretch by quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance was the third quarterback to play for the 49ers on Saturday night and didn't exactly get off to a good start, throwing an ugly interception on his first possession. But he rebounded to complete 12-of-18 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown while leading the 49ers on a game-winning drive that saw the 49ers take the lead as time expired on a field goal by rookie kicker Jake Moody.

Brock Purdy started the game for the 49ers at quarterback and played for one series, completing 4-of-5 passes for 65 yards. Russell Wilson drew the start for the Broncos at quarterback and completed 3-of-6 passes for 24 yards. Sam Darnold played two quarters for the 49ers and completed 11-of-14 passes for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The 49ers committed three turnovers and nine penalties Saturday night along with a host of other miscues in all three facets of the game but made plays when it mattered most to snag their first win of the preseason.

First Half

The 49ers began the game with possession and moved into Broncos territory in a hurry after two short passes for big gains from Purdy to wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Two completions to wide receivers Jauan Jennings and Brandon Aiyuk along with a short run by Ty Davis-Price set the 49ers up with a first and goal, but a second down sack of Purdy by linebacker Johnathon Cooper moved the 49ers backwards and led to a 20-yard field goal by Moody, which put the 49ers up 3-0 after a 10-play, 68-yard drive.

The Broncos responded with a 13-play, 49-yard drive (featuring 25 yards on the ground from Wilson) that resulted in a 48-yard field goal from kicker Brett Maher to tie the game at 3, then Sam Darnold took over at quarterback for the 49ers as they began their second drive from their own 26-yard line with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The 49ers punted back to the Broncos following a three-and-out, then Jarrett Stidham took over at quarterback for the Broncos in place of Wilson for the remainder of the half.

A 31-yard punt from Mitch Wishnowsky gave the Broncos possession at their own 38-yard line, then Stidham led the Broncos on a 12-play, 46-yard drive that ended in a 34-yard field goal from Maher to take a 6-3 lead. The teams exchanged punts after the field goal, then the 49ers moved near midfield before being pushed back by a second down sack of Darnold and were eventually forced to punt back to the Broncos with less than two minutes to play.

With 25 seconds left in the half, Stidham found wide receiver Jalen Virgil wide open for a 50-yard gain to the 49ers' 1-yard line, but with no timeouts remaining, the Broncos had to run to the 1-yard line and attempt to spike the ball before time expired in the half. Officials ruled the Broncos were unable to get the snap off before the clock hit zero, leaving the score at 6-3 as the teams headed into halftime.

The 49ers struggled on offense during the first half without the starters in the lineup, totaling just 44 yards on 15 plays. The offensive line committed three penalties and gave up two sacks with Darnold in the lineup, while the Broncos finished the half with an edge of 189 to 139 in total yards.

Second Half

The Broncos began the second half with a three-and-out, then the 49ers took over at their own 35-yard line after a 28-yard punt return from Ronnie Bell. But the Broncos got the ball right back at their own 46-yard line three plays later when a pass from Darnold went through Bell's hands and into the arms of cornerback Essang Bassey for the game's first interception.

The Broncos came up empty after the interception, driving to the 49ers' 37-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. The following possession was the best one of the game to that point for the 49ers, who drove 63 yards on nine plays to take a 9-6 lead when Darnold found fullback Jack Colletto from 11 yards out for the game's first touchdown. Darnold completed four passes on the drive, including a 3rd-and-9 completion to wide receiver Dazz Newsome, but kicker Jake Moody missed right on the extra point to keep the lead at three points for the 49ers.

Ben DiNucci took over at quarterback for the Broncos on the next possession with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter, and it looked like momentum would remain in the 49ers' favor when the Broncos were held to a three-and-out on DiNucci's first possession. But a muffed punt by 49ers rookie defensive back D'Shawn Jamison gave the ball back to the Broncos at the 8-yard line, and from there running back Jaleel McLaughlin ran in for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 13-9 lead.

Trey Lance took over at quarterback for the 49ers after the touchdown with 1:22 remaining in the third and completed his first two passes, but his third pass was tipped by defensive lineman Matt Henningsen into the arms of defensive lineman Elijah Garcia for an interception. The 49ers held on defense, however, taking over at their own 37-yard line after a turnover on downs.

Lance led the 49ers to the Broncos' 23-yard line on the next possession, but a first down holding penalty on offensive lineman Nick Zakelj drove the 49ers backwards into a 1st-and-20. The 49ers couldn't make up the difference from there and settled for a 43-yard field goal from Moody to cut the Broncos' lead to 13-12 with 6:37 remaining in the game.

The Broncos took over at their own 48-yard line after a 44-yard kickoff return from McLaughlin, then found themselves with a 1st-and-Goal at the 9-yard line after a 43-yard run from running back Tony Jones. DiNucci and McClaughlin connected on the next play for a 9-yard score to put the Broncos up 20-12 with 5:35 left on the clock.

Lance answered the touchdown with another scoring drive, this one a seven-play, 75-yard possession that ended with a 22-yard scoring strike to tight end Cameron Latu to cut the deficit to 20-18. But then came the strangest mistake in a night full of them for the 49ers -- an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who was in street clothes, for running onto the field to celebrate the touchdown. The penalty drove the 49ers back to the 17-yard line on the two-point conversion attempt, which fell short and left the score at 20-18.

The 49ers held the Broncos to a three-and-out on the next possession, giving Lance and the offense one more chance with 2:01 left on the clock. Lance and the 49ers took over at their own 22-yard line. Lance connected on second down on a 14-yard pass to Ronnie Bell, then Lance fired downfield to Bell on the next play for a 43-yard gain to the Broncos' 21-yard line with 1:18 remaining.

The 49ers moved to the 6-yard line on a 15-yard run by Davis-Price, then began kneeling on the ball to run out some clock for a final field goal attempt. Moody split the uprights from 32 yards out with three seconds on the clock, giving the 49ers a 21-20 win.

Game Notes: Notable 49ers players who weren't in the starting lineup Saturday night included running back Christian McCaffrey, left tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and safety Tashaun Gipson... Wide receiver Danny Gray and defensive end Kerry Hyder left Saturday night's game with shoulder injuries... The 49ers wrap up their preseason schedule on Friday, August 25 with a home game against the Los Angeles Chargers (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).

DEN Team Stats SF
157 Passing Yards 323
165 Rushing Yards 99
322 Total Yards 422
5.57 Avg Yards per Pass 9.38
6.6 Avg Yards per Run 3.96
0 Fumbles Lost 1
0 Int Thrown 2
2 Sacks Allowed 3
00:26:45 Time of Pos 00:33:15
9 Penalties 9

Broncos Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Jarrett Stidham 12/17 130 0 0
Russell Wilson 3/6 24 0 0
Ben DiNucci 3/7 13 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Jaleel McLaughlin 7 45 6.4 1
Russell Wilson 3 25 8.3 0
Samaje Perine 3 22 7.3 0
Javonte Williams 3 12 4 0
Jarrett Stidham 3 8 2.7 0
Michael Burton 2 7 3.5 0
Ben DiNucci 1 1 1 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Jalen Virgil 1 1 50 0
Lil'Jordan Humphrey 3 5 30 0
Greg Dulcich 1 1 18 0
Javonte Williams 4 5 18 0
Nate Adkins 3 3 17 0
Marvin Mims 1 2 8 0
Jaleel McLaughlin 2 2 8 1
Jerry Jeudy 1 2 5 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Jarrett Stidham 1 0
Lil'Jordan Humphrey 1 0
Ben DiNucci 1 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Riley Dixon 4 48.3 1 65
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Drew Sanders 6-3 0 0 0
Jonathon Cooper 4-2 1 0 0
Devon Key 4-1 0 0 0
Ja'Quan McMillian 3-3 0 0 0
JL Skinner 3-2 0 0 0
Kareem Jackson 3-1 0 0 0
Josey Jewell 3-1 0 0 0
Alex Singleton 3-0 0 0 0
Caden Sterns 3-0 0 0 0
Zach Allen 3-0 1 0 0
Elijah Garcia 2-2 0 1 0
Jonathan Harris 2-1 0 0 0
Delarrin Turner-Yell 2-1 0 0 1
Damarri Mathis 2-0 0 0 0
Tremon Smith 2-0 0 0 0
Justin Strnad 1-1 0 0 0
Jordan Jackson 1-1 0 0 0
D.J. Jones 1-1 0 0 0
Fabian Moreau 1-1 0 0 0
Frank Clark 1-0 0 0 0
Nik Bonitto 1-0 0 0 0
Art Green 1-0 0 0 0
Essang Bassey 1-0 0 1 0
Randy Gregory 1-0 1 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Sam Darnold 11/14 109 1 1
Brock Purdy 4/5 65 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Jordan Mason 8 24 3 0
Tyrion Davis-Price 4 22 5.5 0
Sam Darnold 2 18 9 0
Brock Purdy 1 8 8 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Ronnie Bell 7 9 114 0
Cameron Latu 3 4 46 1
Deebo Samuel 2 3 39 0
Willie Snead 2 3 32 0
Tay Martin 3 3 23 0
Brandon Aiyuk 1 1 15 0
Jauan Jennings 1 1 11 0
Charlie Woerner 1 1 11 0
Jack Colletto 1 1 11 1
Chris Conley 1 2 11 0
Brayden Willis 1 2 9 0
Jordan Mason 1 1 5 0
Troy Fumagalli 1 1 3 0
Tyrion Davis-Price 0 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Ronnie Bell 1 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 3 3 43 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 3 31.7 0 35
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Ronnie Bell 1 28 0 28
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 6-1 0 0 0
Qwuantrezz Knight 4-2 0 0 0
Fred Warner 3-1 0 0 0
Kevin Givens 3-1 0 0 0
T.Y. McGill 3-1 1 0 0
Curtis Robinson 3-0 0 0 0
Dee Winters 2-1 0 0 1
Samuel Womack 2-0 0 0 0
Ji'Ayir Brown 2-0 0 0 0
Jalen Graham 2-0 0 0 1
Marlon Davidson 2-0 1 0 0
Javon Hargrave 1-0 0 0 0
Alex Barrett 1-0 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 1-0 0 0 0
Talanoa Hufanga 1-0 0 0 0

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