Peyton Manning and the unstoppable Denver Broncos. These Broncos could have gone to the Super Bowl two years ago, and last year they did, only to find themselves flattened by the Seattle Seahawks. Now, they appear primed to make another run, solely because Peyton Manning is still standing. The 49ers, well, have been uneven to this point this year. At 4-2, they were in a decent position but they hadn't yet played their best game. But you harkened back to last January and you had to think that if the 49ers had managed to make it through Seattle and gone on to play Denver, they likely would have stomped the Broncos themselves. You carried that thought in the back of your mind as the 49ers went into Denver for a glitzy, glamorous, Sunday night affair. Certainly, they could hang with these guys, right?
The 49ers, playing with a patchwork offensive line and a porous linebacking corps that already didn't have Navorro Bowman and Aldon Smith and for this week also didn't have Patrick Willis were little match for the Peyton Manning Parade, as Mr. Man lit up the 49ers for 318 yards and 4 Touchdowns as the Broncos pretty much wiped the floor with the 49ers, 42-17.
There was very little redeeming about this effort from the 49ers. They were behind from the start; after Colin Kaepernick was sacked by DeMarcus Ware on the 49ers first possession, they punted away and the Broncos offense shot right down the field for a Touchdown. The 49ers miss a Field Goal, Broncos Touchdown. Down 14 on the road in St. Louis was one thing, but in Denver, with the Broncos rolling and their stadium of 800,000 rocking, things looked rather grim really early. Though the 49ers defense eventually did stop the Broncos, the offense was stagnant and could only generate a Phil Dawson Field Goal early in the 2nd Quarter. What happened next? You guessed it, Broncos Touchdown. All on passes from Manning to one of the Broncos receivers that looks infinitely better than they deserve to because of who's throwing him the ball.
At this point, it was 21-3 and I was beginning to lose interest. The 49ers scored a cosmetic Touchdown shortly before halftime when Kaepernick strung together a nice drive, finding Brandon Lloyd for a long gain to set up a Stevie Johnson TD, and maybe at 21-10 at the Half you might think things could turn, but I wasn't fooled. The 49ers came out in the 2nd half and Kaepernick almost immediately threw an Interception to Aqib Taqib on a play where he ostensibly threw a pass to where Stevie Johnson wasn't. Guess what. Another Broncos Touchdown, one play later.
At this point, I'd had enough. I was getting tired and the 49ers were getting creamed. And yet there was nothing else on to watch, so I was stuck. At some point, both Quarterbacks exited the game, so when the 49ers scored their inevitable Garbage Time TD, it was off the arm of Blaine Gabbert and into the hands of Bruce Ellington, not exactly the combination you expected to see on this night. But with the score an embarrassing 42-17, I suppose not much more could be done.
Fortunately, the 49ers now go into their bye week, sitting at 4-3, in the middle of the pack in the NFC West. They can take some small solace in knowing that the ballyhooed Seahawks are faring poorly as well, having lost two in a row and sit at 3-3 among some internal turmoil of their own. But for the 49ers, the bye week hits at a good time. Patrick Willis will be back, and perhaps Aldon Smith may return after the bye as well. Plus players like Frank Gore, who was a non-factor last night, and Vernon Davis who's been battling all kinds of injuries, can re-establish themselves in the fold. The schedule over the remaining games isn't exactly easy, particularly when you consider that they have to play Seattle twice and struggling or not, those are games where these two teams just beat the crap out of each other. So, it would behoove the 49ers to get healthy and get their act together over the next couple of weeks.