Broncos vs. 49ers score, takeaway: Defense saves sloppy night for Russell Wilson as Denver rally late

It wasn’t pretty; in fact it was ugly through and through. But for the second week in a row, the Broncos are winners. Despite another tough stretch for Russell Wilson and the offense, Denver got the best of the 49ers on “Sunday Night Football”, forcing three turnovers and a safety to secure an 11-10 win – just the second game in NFL history to end with that scoring. The low-scoring affair takes the Broncos to the top of the AFC West alongside the Chiefs, while San Francisco dips below .500 in the NFC West.

Here are some direct takeaways from Sunday night’s cross conference:

Why did the Broncos win?

Nathaniel Hackett has a defense that can (barely) save his attack, which is completely without rhythm. In all seriousness, the Denver “D” was tough from start to finish, but was really high in crunch time. With a conversion of just a third of the night, the unit saw four different players sack Jimmy Garoppolo, including Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell. A late-game pick-and-fumble recovery effectively sealed their win, and immediate pressure on Garoppolo earlier in the evening forced the QB out of his own end zone for a safety that would prove fatal in the final score.

The less said about Hackett’s group the better, for errant throws, sloppy protection and conservative phone calls still plagued them. But Wilson at least showed hints of his vintage dual-threat self along the stretch, making regular contact with Courtland Sutton (8-97) to set up the lead score. Their production wouldn’t have been enough against an elite contender, but against a foul-and-injury-ridden 49ers squad it was just enough.

Why did the 49ers lose?

Trent Williams’ loss on the left tackle in the third quarter didn’t help, but San Francisco’s problems ran deeper. She set everything up for the win on a night when Denver usually tripped over himself while possessing the ball. And yet Kyle Shanahan’s attack, with Jimmy G at the helm, could only move the chains when it wasn’t third, occasionally finding Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk in space, but never stringing together splashes. Jeff Wilson, averaging a healthy 6 yards per tote, was underused on the ground.

And Garoppolo, despite an efficient start and some impressive precision throws, succumbed to some bad spots, such as when he accidentally fell back from the end zone to safety or threw a pick essentially triple cover while the game was on the line. Wilson’s own turnover, a fumble on their last ride, was a killer. So did their seven penalties, which ruined an otherwise solid night from a defense that sacked Wilson four times and gave him that much more stress.

Turning point

You could look early in the game and call Garoppolo’s unintended safety a big influence on the final score, but in terms of play, Wilson probably turned the tide the most, with his freestyle in the fourth quarter. Unable to push the ball to the field beforehand, Russ took it upon himself to scramble to an important third and 10 with 8:16 over, and the Broncos 10-5, Kendall Hinton found on a stunning 27- yard strike that helped set the team’s lone touchdown of the night. When Denver officially took the lead, it was suddenly up to San Francisco to step up its own attack.

Playing the game

Wilson’s dart to Hinton while on the road was exactly the kind of game the Broncos pay him a lot of money to deliver:

What’s next

The 49ers (1-2) return home for another prime-time matchup, this time against the rival Rams (2-1) in “Monday Night Football.” The Broncos (2-1), meanwhile, will try to stay above .500 by traveling to Vegas to take on the rival Raiders (0-3), who lost a tight to the Titans on Sunday.

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