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Nothing Finer. Broncos offense awakes late, Griffith pick delivers win vs. 49ers

Bare-knuckle brawl features defensive stands, litany of punts
49ers Broncos Football
Posted at 9:36 PM, Sep 25, 2022

DENVER — Russell Wilson's arrival in Denver was one of those stories that captivated the NFL, a litmus test of the importance of the quarterback.

The Broncos were sporadically effective over the past six years, arguably missing only one piece to regain relevance. Wilson might pull Broncos' chin above the counter, but it has been a grind the the first three weeks. The Broncos eschewed penalties for punts Sunday night, and threatened to spoil a breathtaking performance by their defense.

Denver committed fewer mistakes, forced a safety and made 49ers fans yearn, if only briefly, for the salad days of Trey Lance with their first third down conversion late in the fourth quarter.

None of this made the overall situation any less absurd.

When it mattered most, Wilson was at his best late in the fourth quarter. He displayed trademark mobility, scrambling on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that took 6:04 off the clock. He connected with Courtland Sutton. And Melvin Gordon ended the Broncos' red one drought at six as the running back chugged in to give the Broncos a lead.

Linebacker Jonas Griffth provided a pick and safety Kareem Jackson recovered a fumble as the Broncos tied a knot and held on for a 11-10 victory before a full-throat sellout crowd.

Griffith, a former 49er, snared his first interception on a deflection with 2:13 left. Jackson, who told Denver7 this week he could not wait for this brawl, pounced on a loose ball in Broncos territory with 1:13 remaining to Ziplock the win, improving the Broncos' record to 2-1.

"Great win, man!" shouted Sutton as he entered the locker room.

The Broncos won because the defense held San Francisco to 13 first downs and 267 yards and produced three takeaways.

The Broncos nearly lost because their offense became the Rockettes, 1-2-3 kick. They went three-and-out on eight of their first 11 drives, the most in Wilson's career. .

But when it mattered it most, Wilson, as he is wont to do, was at his best. As the fourth quarter began to expire, Wilson scrambled twice for huge chunks. He hit Sutton down the right sideline for 19 yards to the 5 and moments later Gordon was dancing in the end zone.

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The Broncos found new problems Sunday night that must be cleaned up. Gone were the penalties and clock management issues replaced by two forgettable drives at midfield and a missed 53-yard Brandon McManus field goal that would have given Denver an 8-7 advantage. Fortunately, it did not matter.

The math made little sense. Midway through the third quarter, Broncos Country was wondering about history. Denver had made it through the first two weeks with 25 penalties. Could they do it again by recording a league record three safeties in one game? The thought crossed after nose tackle Mike Purcell harassed Jimmy Garoppolo into stepping out of the end zone. What would be normally celebrated was cursed. Bradley Chubb tipped and picked Garoppolo's pass, but it was negated as Denver crawled to within 7-5.

With the schedule less forgiving, the Broncos offense was exposed as clunky, an easy mark for the 49ers defense. Given an opportunity to shave the deficit or even take their first lead, the Broncos squandered two possessions at midfield. They ended the first half by starting at the 50 and fizzling on third-and-23. The Broncos defense produced the first takeaway as Josey Jewell recovered a third-quarter fumble. The Broncos dissolved on third-and-14.

The Broncos went no-huddle to start the game, so no time for home crowd to troll by counting down the play clock. The drive lasted 91 seconds with a three-and-out, the first of three straight to start the game. The Broncos finished the first quarter with 45 yards on offense and one first down, compared to 127 and seven for San Francisco.

A 34-yard connection from Wilson to Sutton came on the last play of the opening period, fanning the embers of hope. Following a 16-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos' drive stalled on third down. Surprisingly, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan declined a holding penalty, leading to a 55-yard Brandon McManus line drive field goal, shaving the deficit to 7-3 with 11:56 remaining in half.

Denver found itself running up that hill more than kids in "Stranger Things." The 49ers, settling down, responded with gash plays on second drive, among them a 37-yard bolt by Jeff Wilson that set up a Garoppolo dart to Brandon Aiyuk for a score, capping the 75-yard march.

However, the Broncos dominated the second quarter, if not the final three periods. A critical third down sack and two penalties in the two-minute drill prevented Denver from shaving the deficit.

Wilson showed some flair coloring outside the lines by avoiding rush and delivering Bob Cousy chest pass to Gordon for a 22-yard gain. But like all drives in the first 30 minutes, this one fizzled.

On third-and-16 from San Francisco 34-yard line, Wilson could not avoid a flurry of 49ers, taking the sack. Rather than attempt a 59-yard field goal, the Broncos punted, pinning the 49ers at the 3-yard line. Denver managed the clock well and received the ball at the 50-yard line with 1:32 left. And proceeded go backward with their second and third accepted penalties after a previous clean performance.

The Broncos trailed by four at half, finishing with 140 yards, six first downs while going 2-for-8 on third down. The Broncos defense prevented a single third down conversion (0-for-6) from 49ers in the half.

The Broncos' offense found a way to avoid red zone issues in the first half. Never get inside the 20. It was a bare knuckle brawl as it was easy to pass a kidney stone than complete passes. Wilson finished the half 10-for-16 for 106 yards, with half coming on one play. Javonte Williams ran with evil intentions, breaking tackles, but unable to bust loose for a long gain. He finished with 42 yards on seven carries.

In the, the offensive issues remain. But in the NFL, you need not apologize for a win as the Broncos sit tied atop the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jerry's World and Word
Coach Nathaniel Hackett showed humility and self-awareness by hiring offensive assistant Jerry Rosburg this week. Rosburg, who worked in the NFL from 2001-2018 before retiring, attended practice Wednesday through Friday, meeting with coaches and players. He was a special teams and assistant coach in Baltimore for John Harbaugh. Multiple sources who worked with Rosburg in Baltimore told Denver7 he was a trusted asset for Harbaugh, talking to him in his headset on gamedays. He performed those duties for Hackett beginning Sunday — this job requires constant conveying of information whether the coach reciprocates, requiring Rosburg to speak up and provide the best intel for decisions.

Footnotes
Broncos' inactives list featured no surprised. Jerry Jeudy, Pat Surtain II, K.J. Hamler and Quinn Meinerz all suited. Only right tackle Billy Turner remained a scratch. There is hope he will make his season debut vs. the Raiders. ...

Broncos' second-round draft choice Nik Bonitto made his first NFL tackle in the first quarter on Brandon Aiyuk's 16-yard reception. ...

D.J. Jones suffered a head injury and Baron Browning hurt his knee on Sunday night. ...

Pat Surtain II played one of his best games as a pro, despite returning from a left shoulder strain.