COMMENTARY | Well, a win's a win.
The Broncos struggled consistently on offense, only gaining 220 yards on 66 plays. The team also struggled on third down, going 5-for-16. It was a sloppy affair with the offense mostly out of sync.
Still, that's what happens when it's preseason football. It's next to impossible to gauge how offenses will actually look in the regular season. The preseason, of course, is a time for evaluation.
Here's a rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly of Thursday's game:
The Good: Safety Play
Duke Ihenacho had a monster game. The undrafted second-year safety backed up his impressive training camp with an even more impressive game. Ihenacho finished with 7 tackles -- one for a loss -- and a pass deflection. He routinely chased down defenders and was there, ready to stuff whoever was in front of him.
However, Ihenacho's play far from sealed up his case to be the starting strong safety. Mike Adams, last year's starter, also had a solid game. Adams was efficient in coverage, coming in from the side and grabbing an interception. Rahim Moore contributed to the turnover category as well, picking up a fumble in the second quarter.
The backfield helped solidify an excellent third-down defense. The 49ers only converted 20 percent (2-10) on third down. It was a great night for the Denver defense, also forcing four turnovers.
The Bad: The Running Game
No matter the formation, the Broncos couldn't get their running game going. Whether it was a three receiver set or a two tight end formation, the team's ground game stalled for most of the game.
Projected starting running back Ronnie Hilman failed to burst through the tackles, gaining nine yards on three attempts. Hillman's rushing attempts stalled the offense's uptempo pace.
If Hillman was the projected starter, his backup wasn't much better. Montee Ball only saw five carries but rushed for just nine yards. Ball had two nice gains, although 49ers defenders found him in the backfield.
In fact, it wasn't until undrafted CJ Anderson saw action that the running game started to become consistent. Anderson broke off a 17-yard gain in the third quarter to spur some life in the offense. His play led to a 91-yard drive that ended up stalling on a 4th-and-1 conversion at the San Francisco 7-yard line.
While the Broncos ended up rushing for 117 yards, most of those yards came in from a man not expected to make the final 53-man roster.
The Ugly: The Offensive Line
Heading into this game, it was no secret the Broncos' offensive line was banged up.
The Broncos were without starting left tackle Ryan Clady and right guard Chris Kuper. The team also scrambled to find depth at center, with Dan Koppen out for the season and JD Walton expected to miss most of the season.
That being said, the line was still atrocious. Together, the group gave up 31 yards on four sacks. Furthermore, the line committed three offensive holding penalties.
Besides the errors in the statistical categories, the line couldn't sustain much pressure from an onslaught of 49er rushers. Brock Osweiler, who played pretty well considering the lack of support, was constantly forced outside the pocket. Manning had to throw it away on third down as well due to the pocket collapsing.
The line finally showed signs of life support in the third quarter when CJ Anderson sparked the offense into a 91-yard drive. The unit held up well, giving Osweiler time to throw. For that 8-minute drive, Osweiler completed 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards.
Even then, the group was downright terrible at times. Whether the line's struggles were preseason woes or a lack of depth remains to be seen.
Matthew Paras is a Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets, including Maxboxing.com, Operationsports.com, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can be reached by email at Mparas1432@gmail.com or on twitter @Matthew_Paras. He currently resides in Chicago, but lived in Littleton, Colo. for seven years.
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- San Francisco 49ers