49ers waste defensive gem, lose to Broncos in eyesore war of offensive futility

© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER – It was billed as a defensive battle. But man, that was something else.

That was like when you’re at an intersection and arrive at a stop sign simultaneously with another driver. You both wave each other to go, and hesitate for an embarrassing period of time. Eventually, someone just has to go. On Sunday, that was the 49ers.

In a hilarious, maddening, absurd, stupid, not-good football game, they were the losers, by a pre-World War II scoreline of 11-10.

If you like punting, penalties, turnovers, and hearing your neighbors audibly wretch at the television, well, you were in luck.

These two teams waged a battle of punting excellence, continuing to pin each other deep inside their own territory and failing to move the ball effectively.

There were 16 punts in this game. San Francisco didn’t convert a third down until there were less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. They were 1-for-10 on third downs. The Broncos were 6-for-18.

While Russell Wilson is on a new team, this was a classic example of what happens when the 49ers face him.

They have this nasty habit of letting Wilson and his teams stumble through the first half or longer (in this case, three-and-a-half quarters) of games while failing to pull away. It’s like they’re interpretive dancing their way through these matchups to find creative ways to lose.

And they sure as heck did that Sunday.

After an impressive touchdown drive in the first quarter, the offense looked putrid, with Jimmy Garoppolo certainly deserving of some substantial blame. He missed some layups, some mid-range throws, and turned a would-be touchdown to Deebo Samuel into an inconsequential 32-yard gain.

It was a pretty stark reminder of why the 49ers were switching to Trey Lance.

Garoppolo turned it over twice; once on a fumble on a bad snap exchange around midfield, and an interception late in the fourth quarter to former 49er linebacker Jonas Griffith.

But he didn’t provide any of the big-play upside.

That completion to Samuel was brutally underthrown. Samuel had to backpedal, stumbling and catching it like a returner rather than receiver.

Garoppolo missed a host of other passes, too, including a few screens.

His most damning play was a Dan Orlovsky-esque safety. The only bright side was that if he had not run into the back of the end zone, it would have been a pick-six.

Trent Williams was injured on the play in a representation of all that went wrong for San Francisco. Though SF was hardly humming before the injury, throwing became almost impossible with Williams out of the game.

The defense was tremendous. Wilson and the Broncos couldn’t get anything going until their penultimate drive. That, however, was enough, with Wilson leading the Broncos on an 80 yard, 12 play TD drive that proved to be the difference.

The 49ers’ offense, somehow, was worse than the Broncos, and San Francisco now heads home with a 1-2 record.


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