Broncos vs. 49ers score, takeaways: Defense saves sloppy night for Russell Wilson as Denver rallies late - CBS Sports

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It wasn't pretty; in fact, it was thoroughly ugly. But for the second week in a row, the Broncos are winners. Despite another rough stretch for Russell Wilson and the offense, Denver got the best of the 49ers on "Sunday Night Football," forcing three turnovers and a safety to secure an 11-10 victory -- just the second game in NFL history to finish with that score. The low-scoring affair vaults the Broncos to the top of the AFC West alongside the Chiefs, while dropping San Francisco below .500 in the NFC West.

Here are some instant takeaways from Sunday night's cross-conference showdown:

Why the Broncos won

Nathaniel Hackett has a defense that can (barely) save his offense, which remains wholly without rhythm. In all seriousness, the Denver "D" was tough from start to finish but really stood tall in crunch time. Allowing just one third-down conversion all night, the unit saw four different players sack Jimmy Garoppolo, including Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell. A late-game pick and fumble recovery basically sealed their win, and instant pressure on Garoppolo earlier in the night forced the QB out of his own end zone for a safety that would prove fatal in the final score.

The less said about Hackett's group, the better, for errant throws, shoddy protection and conservative calls still plagued them. But at least Wilson showed hints of his vintage dual-threat self down the stretch, connecting regularly with Courtland Sutton (8-97) to set up the go-ahead score. Their production would not have sufficed against an elite contender, but against a mistake- and injury-riddled 49ers squad, it was just enough.

Why the 49ers lost

Losing Trent Williams at left tackle in the third quarter didn't help, but San Francisco's issues ran deeper. Everything set them up for victory on a night in which Denver mostly stumbled all over itself while possessing the ball. And yet Kyle Shanahan's offense, with Jimmy G at the helm, could only move the chains when it wasn't third down, intermittently finding Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk in space but never stringing together splash plays. Jeff Wilson, averaging a healthy 6 yards per tote, was underused on the ground.

And Garoppolo, despite an efficient start and a few impressive precision throws, buckled in some bad spots, like when he accidentally dropped back out of the end zone for the safety or threw a pick into essentially triple coverage with the game on the line. Wilson's own turnover, a fumble on their final drive, was a killer. So were their seven penalties, which spoiled an otherwise stout night from a defense that sacked Wilson four times and stressed him out many more.

Turning point

You might look early in the game and call Garoppolo's unintentional safety a big influence on the final score, but in terms of game flow, Wilson probably turned the tide the most, with his freestyling in the fourth quarter. Unable to push the ball downfield beforehand, Russ took it upon himself to scramble on a key third-and-10 with 8:16 left, and the Broncos down 10-5, finding Kendall Hinton on a beautiful 27-yard strike that helped set up the team's only touchdown of the evening. Once Denver officially took the lead, the onus was suddenly on San Francisco to step up its own offense.

Play of the game

Wilson's dart to Hinton while on the move was exactly the kind of play the Broncos are paying him big bucks to deliver:

What's next

The 49ers (1-2) will return home for another prime-time matchup, this time against the rival Rams (2-1) on "Monday Night Football." The Broncos (2-1), meanwhile, will look to stay above .500 by traveling to Vegas to take on the rival Raiders (0-3), who lost a tight one to the Titans on Sunday.

SUN 8:20 P

DEN +1.5, o45

NBC

Season Leaders

passing rushing receiving
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J. Garoppolo365 YD, 2 TDS, 1 INT
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J. Garoppolo365 YD, 2 TDS, 1 INT
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R. Wilson743 YD, 2 TDS, 1 INT
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R. Wilson743 YD, 2 TDS, 1 INT
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J. Wilson39 ATT, 181 YD
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J. Wilson39 ATT, 181 YD
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J. Williams37 ATT, 176 YD
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J. Williams37 ATT, 176 YD
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B. Aiyuk10 REC, 142 YD, 1 TD
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B. Aiyuk10 REC, 142 YD, 1 TD
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C. Sutton19 REC, 291 YD
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C. Sutton19 REC, 291 YD

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So, the Broncos will improve to 2-1 and incredibly take over first place in the AFC West, somehow. 49ers fall to 1-2 and take up residence alongside the Seahawks and Cardinals in the NFC West.

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Well, that'll do it. Jimmy freelanced and found Jeff Wilson with a dump-off, but he got stripped from behind and the ball bounced right to Kareem Jackson. Peanut Punch for the win.

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That was almost an epic disaster from Ray-Ray McCloud, but the Niners now have one last chance to try to steal back a game they really had no business trailing in the first place.

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Third-and-long for Denver here. If the Broncos can pick up a first down they can end the game. Let's see if Hackett trusts Russ to try to throw it.

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Didn't see K'Waun Williams (his former teammate) sitting there as a robber in that zone coverage. That's a scheme that gets him to make mistakes quite often.

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Oh Jimmy... What are you doing, my guy?

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That is San Francisco's first third-down conversion of the night. 1-for-10 now. That throw JUST made it to Jennings on the outside.

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And Melvin Gordon is into the end zone. Broncos finally get a goal-to-go score, and they have retaken the lead. Disaster stuff from San Francisco, which should have been up by much more than five points here.

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Denver is 0-for-5 turning goal-to-go situations into touchdowns so far this season, by the way. Two fumbles and three field goals.

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Charvarius Ward pressing Courtland Sutton off the line and Russ hits him with a back-shoulder throw. Really nice play and the perfect throw for that coverage.

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Russ creating outside of structure again. This time it's a scramble on third down to get the Broncos just outside the red zone.

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Russ finally makes something happen, and notably it's outside the structure of the offense. That's how it's had to be tonight.

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