Running down the significant stats and notable numbers following the Broncos’ third preseason game:
169 – Total yards and nine first downs surrendered by the Denver first-team defense in 11 drives and 48 plays this preseason. For you non-math majors, that’s 15.4 yards and 0.8 first downs per possession and 3.52 yards per play. Those totals and averages are even more impressive considering that 57 of the yards came on the 49ers’ eight-play final drive of the first half Saturday night – a march, factoring in penalty yards, which was aided greatly by 19- and 34-yard scrambles by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. More importantly, the orange and blue’s first-team D only has allowed six points – a field goal in Seattle and another concluding the just-discussed eight-play, 57-yard San Francisco drive – and 42 total, which trails only the Texans (37), Browns (38) and Lions (41) across the league this month.
22 – Combined targets – a team-leading 11 apiece – for starting wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Cody Latimer this preseason. Those 22 passes, however, have produced only a combined 12 receptions for 115 yards and no touchdowns with Thomas catching six for 54 yards and the second-year Latimer hauling in six for 61 yards. There was particular trouble in the red zone Saturday with Latimer dropping what appeared to be a very catchable Peyton Manning pass in the end zone and Manning underthrowing an open Thomas once in the end zone and getting picked off on a later end-zone attempt to Thomas. The interception was a play on which neither the QB or the wideout appeared to be in the same playbook, let alone on the same page.
5.6 – Yards per carry Saturday night for the 49ers, who gained 145 yards on 26 rushes. Again, the total was aided greatly by Kapernick’s team-leading 53 yards on three total scrambles, but top running backs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush combined for 49 yards on only five carries. Coming into the contest, the Broncos had allowed only 160 yards on 48 attempts (3.3 average), but Saturday was more of a true test as Denver’s previous two exhibition foes, the Seahawks and Texans, were without their top backs in Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster, respectively. Along with the defense’s two forced turnovers – none in the last two games – the rushing D is shaping up as the Achilles’ heel of Wade Phillips’ aggressive unit.
4:42 – Average time of possession edge for the Broncos in their three games, bolstered big-time by their sizable 13:24 advantage Saturday. The orange and blue wound up running 72 plays to the Niners’ 48 and totaled 24 first downs to the visitors’ 11, but they failed to turn those advantages into a bigger one on the scoreboard, managing only a lone TD on four red-zone trips. In total, the Broncos have twice as many field goals (tied for a league-leading eight) as touchdowns (four) this preseason. Translation: Efficiency upgrade needed.
2.0 – Yards per punt return (4 on two returns) Saturday night for the Broncos’ Omar Bolden (1 for 4 yards) and Isaiah Burse (1 for 0 on a muff). Believe it or not, that bumped up the team’s average to 1.7 as Denver carried a 1.6 average (8 yards on five returns) into the contest. The Broncos did a lot better returning kickoffs in the game, averaging 30 on three returns, but overall this preseason, Denver has given ground in the special-teams field-position battle with opponents averaging 11.3 more yards (34.2-22.9) per kickoff return and 4.9 additional yards per punt return. In short, special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillus and Co. still have some work to do over the ensuing two weeks.