In a turnover-prone affair, the 49ers (1-1) fell to the visiting Broncos (2-0), 33-14, after coughing up the rock five times.
To begin the night, the San Francisco defense came out ready to play. And after pressuring the young Denver offense into incomplete pass attempts, the first team unit forced the Broncos to punt on their first drive of the night.
The ensuing kick delivered by Denver’s Riley Dixon pinned San Francisco on their own 11 yard line to begin their own first drive of the night. Or so they thought. Upon further review, it was determined that the ball was accidentally touched by Aldrick Robinson and was subsequently recovered by Denver.
Starting at San Francisco’s 11 yard line, Denver cashed in on their first turnover, getting C.J. Anderson into the end zone on a second and goal attempt one yard out.
Not even two minutes into the game, the 49ers faced a 7-0 hole and had hopes of climbing out of it.
But, just as the week prior, the San Francisco offense found it difficult to find traction early. In their first possession of the night, the first team unit, led by quarterback Brian Hoyer, finishing its first three preseason possessions, across two games, in the same manner.
After a successful stand by the 49ers defense, Hoyer and the offense got another shot. A 23-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin and another for 13 yards had the Denver defense on its heals as San Francisco looked to be back on track.
But just as things started to look fluid, Hoyer seemed to trip over his own feet forcing an errant throw. After avoiding the intentional grounding penalty on the play, Hoyer followed up his stumble with an even bigger blunder.
In the not-top-10 moment, Hoyer lost grip of the ball entirely, dropping it on the ground in front of the Denver defensive line.
“I went to throw it and I was going to throw it hard and literally I think my arm even went forward and then you’re looking around like ‘what happened to the ball?’… It’s like the worst feeling.”
The Niners were not done giving the ball up. In fact, they were not even close.
The very next possession, in an attempt to find his new favorite target in Goodwin, Hoyer’s pass came out slightly late leading to a diving and rolling interception by Denver corner back, Chris Lewis-Harris.
Both the fumble and interception led to Bronco field goals, which allowed the 49ers to give their starting offense one last go at things. But as fate would have it, misfortune continued to arrive on their doorstep.
On a rush up the gut of the defense, San Francisco running back Tim Hightower made a mark with his first carry as a 49er — a skid mark. While being inhaled by a mob of Bronco defenders, the ball was punched out of Hightower’s hands resulting in yet another turnover.
In perhaps the most staggering stat at that point of the game, the 49ers had only two more first downs (6) than turnovers (4). Hoyer finished the game completing 8 of 11 passes for 89 yards, but his efficient production was clearly overshadowed by the pair of miscues.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke about the surplus of turnovers:
“Four turnovers in the first half, struggling to run the ball there too, it’s really tough to win when you put your team in that situation.”
Tacking on another fumble in the fourth quarter courtesy of third-string quarterback Matt Barkley, the 49ers ended the game with a total of five giveaways, more than any game in 2016.
Though it is just the second preseason game of the year, it is still troubling to see a team in their first season under new management be that careless with the football.
Looking forward to next week against the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco will have to be much sharper if they hope to bounce back from this embarrassing loss according to Hoyer:
“I don’t think anyone should be pleased right now. When you put the defense in that situation, regardless if it’s a regular season game or a preseason game, you should feel displeased with the performance. That’s the biggest thing is how do we respond.”