Here are my thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers’ loss to the Denver Broncos after further film review:
-First off, the opening touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders had the unusual problem of the referee in the way. Yes, referees are part of the field and Sanders used him as a pick, preventing Dontae Johnson from covering him on a crossing route. What makes this play unusual was how the referee moved 4 yards forward as if it was a basketball screen in the paint. It was just a strange play all around, maybe just how the Broncos dialed it up.
-It’s an obvious hole, but it finally showed how valuable Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are on defense as they were both on the sideline for Sunday night. Wilhoite had trouble a few times when forced to cover a wide receiver, but Borland was the larger problem in both the run stopping and coverage.
One play stood out where Ronnie Hillman ran right by Borland as he took a bad angle to tackle him for a big gain. Granted, Borland is a raw LB who is meant for special teams, but the speed of any opposing player could zip by him. Wilhoite and Borland allowed 97 passing yards and 67 yards after catch combined, according to Pro Football Focus.
-On a positive note, it was a great game for Stevie Johnson who had 79 receiving yards on five receptions and a touchdown. His awareness in the Broncos secondary was superb and he even got past S Rahim Moore a few times. He added on to his total number of third down receptions.
-FB Bruce Miller was only on the field for 12 snaps and was mostly invisible on Sunday. The 49ers have been going with frequent three or even four WR sets which add Johnson and Brandon Lloyd compared to last year where only Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree had playing time. The running game wasn’t working, but it was quickly turning into a pass only offense with only a few running plays called in the third quarter.
The 49ers have lost three out of the four games where Miller has a snap count below 30 with the lone win coming in Week 1 vs. Dallas. It’s never good to abandon the run completely as it became predictable for the Broncos to get to Colin Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick had a great first half as he was not the problem for only 10 points on the board. He was in a rhythm with passes to Johnson and Boldin, but the receivers wouldn’t help him when he needed it. There were four combined drops in the first half and two of them were by Crabtree. If the drops don’t happen which includes one by Boldin on the goal line, it could have been a 21-14 or even 21-21 game.
Kaepernick’s second half was where the wheels began to fall off. His interception was due to the fact he thought he saw single coverage on Stevie Johnson, but didn’t realize there was some help on the Broncos defense. The ball was overthrown and all momentum from the first half was lost.
-Caught up in the trouble for the secondary was S Antoine Bethea, who kept allowing the deep plays to happen in the open field. There was no help on the Demaryius Thomas touchdown for the third quarter, but he also allowed a 32-yard catch and run from the first quarter. Of course this was the Denver Broncos, who had one of the best offenses in the league.