SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The initial stock report of the preseason after the Broncos’ 21-20 loss to San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.
Jonathon Cooper: It might be time to buy stock in third-year outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper. In his second straight start of the preseason, Cooper was flying into the backfield. During the 49ers’ first drive of the game, Cooper sacked quarterback Brock Purdy for a loss of eight yards. San Francisco had to settle for a 20-yard field goal after casually marching down the field.
Cooper made another big play in the second. He burst off the edge as he, outside linebacker Randy Gregory and inside linebacker Josey Jewell stopped quarterback Sam Darnold for a nine-yard loss. Cooper finished the evening with four tackles (one for loss), a sack and a quarterback hit.
Pass Rush: Cooper’s was one of a few highlights from a promising pass rush. They generated pressure on San Francisco’s quarterbacks, especially in the first half when they totaled three sacks and four quarterback hits. With under two minutes to go in the second, Allen easily sacked Darnold for a loss of seven.
Run game: The Broncos ran the rock on Saturday. They outgained San Francisco 165-99 on ground, as the run game was the source of their offensive success. Quarterback Russell Wilson showcased his mobility, rushing for 25 yards on three carries, including a 17-yard keeper down the sideline. Javonte Williams, who played in his first game since tearing his ACL in October, moved around well. Meanwhile, Samaje Perine averaged 7.3 yards on three carries. Michael Burton was active in the run game as well. Guess fullbacks still do matter.
Running back Tony Jones Jr. and undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin also got in on the action. They combined for 90 yards.
Head coach Sean Payton said his offense will emphasize running the football. On Saturday, his vision for Denver’s offense started to come into fruition.
Penalties: Payton shouldn’t be pleased with some of the penalties his team was called for against the 49ers. Denver was flagged nine times, and some of the penalties could’ve been avoided. Center Lloyd Cushenberry was called for a false start in the first. Gregory was penalized for being offsides, but the 49ers declined the call. In the third, Broncos were called for delay of game and having too many men on the field.
Payton has been critical of the team’s mental errors. It looks like they still have work to do in that department.
Ben DiNucci: There wasn’t any magic moxie in quarterback Ben DiNucci’s game on Saturday. He took a step back, going 3-for-7 with 13 yards and a touchdown pass to McLaughlin in the fourth.
Late game execution: The Broncos’ defense continues to look like a mess late in games. In the final three minutes of the fourth, it allowed San Francisco quarterback Trey Lance to lead a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to cut Denver’s lead to 20-18.
After the Broncos went three-and-out with DiNucci under center, Lance completed a 19-yard pass before finding wide receiver Ronnie Bell for a 43-yard gain, which helped set up a game-winning field goal from kicker Jake Moody.
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