SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The 49ers fans are lucky this brand-new stadium has such great Wi-Fi capability. They didn't have to wait to get home to complain on social media about the team's preseason play.
The 49ers opened beautiful new Levi's Stadium with quite an ugly performance. Denver won 34-0, bringing the 49ers' cumulative score in their two preseason games to 57-3. Plenty of the 49ers fans who came out for the team's debut at Levi's Stadium left well before the game ended.
There are so many expectations for these 49ers, after coming so close to winning a championship the past three years but coming up empty. That's why the preseason pratfall through two weeks might cause a bit more anxiety than it should. But there's nothing to worry about.
"It doesn't bother me at all, and I'm sure it doesn't bother any of my teammates," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We're not worried about this. It's the preseason.
"This is a time for us to bond and get better. There's nothing to worry about. Everybody relax. Put your seat belt on. Sit back and breathe. Because we're getting ready. We're preparing ourselves."
Davis is correct that the short answer is, preseason results don't matter. Although given the choice you'd probably prefer to look a little better than the 49ers have, but most likely nobody will remember this in a month.
But it isn't ideal to have a terrible preseason. The two 0-4 teams last preseason were Pittsburgh and Atlanta, and they started 2-6 and 2-9, respectively. Three of the four teams to finish with a point differential of minus-40 or worse last preseason were Jacksonville, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and they each went 4-12 in the regular season. Of course the fourth team that was outscored by 40 or more in the preseason was San Diego, which made the playoffs, so who cares?
The 49ers had six defensive starters sit out and they had a typical preseason vanilla game plan. The starters who did play were in for about a quarter.
"We have to be patient," safety Eric Reid said. "The coaches have a game plan. They know what they're doing. They want to see different guys do different things."
Still, there are some things the 49ers would like to see turn around a bit before the season starts.
The defense didn't look that great against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and then it lost strong safety Antoine Bethea to a concussion. If there's a weakness on this team it might be the secondary, especially on the perimeter, and that group hasn't done anything this preseason to change that assessment. Manning was 12-of-14 for 102 yards, and the Broncos were 30-of-38 for 270 yards passing and three touchdowns as a team.
Offensively, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked a bit off, barely missing on a couple throws and he was reluctant to pull the trigger on a couple others. That doesn't matter. He'll be fine. The real problem is it's clear that the 49ers desperately need Kaepernick to stay healthy, because their backup quarterback situation is a mess. Coach Jim Harbaugh can be publicly supportive of Blaine Gabbert all he wants, but he's not fooling anyone. Gabbert struggled again on Sunday, completing 8-of-14 passes for just 40 yards, and he threw an interception. He doesn't look like the answer.
And after the game Harbaugh finally seemed to be getting a little impatient with the quarterbacks behind Kaepernick. Gabbert threw an interception, Josh Johnson lost a fumble. McLeod Bethel-Thompson had an interception.
"Whoever doesn't turn the ball over will be the backup quarterback," Harbaugh said.
San Francisco will be among the NFL's best teams (if Kaepernick stays healthy, obviously). The preseason blues shall pass and the 49ers will resume their quest for a Super Bowl title. But, just in case, the 49ers might want to do a bit better in the third preseason game.
"We have to get better. It's going to be an important week for us," Harbaugh said. "We're not going to keep experimenting. We have to tighten this thing up fast."
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