The San Francisco 49ers notched their first win of the 2016 preseason with a 31-24 victory over the defending champion Denver Broncos.
Blaine Gabbert made his second straight start at quarter back and again failed to gain ground in this wide open quarter back competition, finishing 6-for-9 for a mere 69 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He has made a habit of throwing the ball short of the sticks on third and inaccurately on every other down.
You could argue that this is just preseason and you can’t put too much stock in how a player preforms, but it doesn’t appear that Gabbert is any different than he was when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his “career revival” from last season could be attributed to actually playing on a team with some talent. Rookie Jeff Driskel again saw significant time under center and outside of his 40 yard dime to fellow rookie Devon Cajuste, didn’t do anything to warrant serious consideration as the starting quarter back.
One player who did do enough to warrant serious consideration as the starting quarter back is Christian Ponder. Ponder signed with the team just three days before their game against Denver and played unexpectedly well for just over a quarter. It may have been against third and fourth stringers, but Ponder looked comfortable and fluid in the pocket as he went 7-for-8 for 86 yards with a touchdown on the ground and through the air.
Ponder played how everyone expected Gabbert to play in Kelly’s system showing his ability to run effectively and pass efficiently. The biggest stand out from Ponder’s game was on third down he was 5/5 with four conversions. Don’t be surprised if Ponder makes a serious run at the starting gig.
No matter who starts he will have the benefit of playing with a stable of talented backs. Starting running back Carlos Hyde continues to look good in Kelly’s offense as just like last week he ripped off a 20 plus yard run. The back up rushers also looked good as DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis, and Kelvin Taylor all had 10 plus yard rushes.
The only problem was they couldn’t hold on to the football. Davis fumbled twice and Harris had a killer fumble was he was going into the end zone. If they can clean that up come the regular season, the 49ers could be in the running for the top rushing offense.
The defense again had a so-so outing against one of the better offensive units as far as skill position are concerned. Last week the pass coverage was sticky, this week not so much. Broncos’ QB Trevor Siemian had little trouble throwing the ball against the Niners first team defense and Mark Sanchez was looking great against the second team until he imploded.
Where the defense did shine however was in the pass rush. The 49ers defense turned in a six sack performance with three of them coming from emerging rookie linebacker Marcus Rush. Rush also had an athletic mid air fumble recovery to go along with his three sacks.
With two games down and two to go the 49ers seem to be trending upward. The running game looks like it’s in midseason form the defense is making plays with its loads of young unproven talent. If Chip Kelly can squeeze just a smidge of decent quarter back play then this team might only lose only just over half their games.