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49ers takeaways: What we learned in 24-15 preseason win vs. Broncos

49ers takeaways: What we learned in 24-15 preseason win vs. Broncos

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DENVER – There was no triumphant return for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo had a forgettable preseason debut in his first game since sustaining a season-ending knee injury last season in Week 3. In short, Garoppolo looked like a quarterback who has not played in nearly 11 months.

Garoppolo's shaky outing is the top takeaway from the 49ers’ 24-15 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night:

1. Rough preseason debut for Jimmy G

Things could not have gone much worse for Garoppolo and the first-team offense – aside from running back Tevin Coleman, who gained 21 yards on three carries.

Garoppolo was constantly under pressure –- left tackle Joe Staley struggled against Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb –- and completed just one of his six pass attempts with one interception. His only completion was a short dump off to Matt Breida that went for no gain.

Two of Garoppolo’s passes were tipped at the line of scrimmage. Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom intercepted a pass intended for Marquise Goodwin. Denver defensive back De’Vante Bausby dropped another would-be interception that could have gone for a touchdown.

Garoppolo was having a solid camp before throwing interceptions on five consecutive pass attempts Wednesday against the 49ers’ defense in Santa Clara. He was picked off once in two days of practices against the Broncos.

Now, Garoppolo has a quick turnaround to return to the site of his season-ending torn ACL from last year. The 49ers will play next Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

2. Keeping an eye on the safeties

Jaquiski Tartt and Tarvarius Moore started at the safety positions for the 49ers. Tartt looked ready for the regular season, while Moore showed he still has some work to do.

Tartt registered three tackles -- including two behind the line of scrimmage -- and a pass break up as the defense forced Denver to settle for a field goal after Garoppolo’s interception.

Moore took a bad angle on one play, missing a tackle, and he did not close fast enough to prevent Courtland Sutton from catching a 21-yard pass over the middle on a third-and-seven play. But Moore showed his tremendous gifts in the third quarter when he ranged up in run support to drop running back Devontae Jackson for a 1-yard gain.

Moore took over as the 49ers’ top healthy free safety early in training camp, supplanting Adrian Colbert, who opened last season as the starter. Colbert left the game Monday night with a left hamstring injury while running down the field on punt coverage.

Jimmie Ward is expected to get back on the practice field this week as he returns from a fractured collarbone sustained during the offseason program in June. Ward and Moore will compete to open the season as the 49ers’ starting free safety.

3. Competition continues for backup QB job

C.J. Beathard did not have a difficult act to follow, as he stepped in at quarterback after Garoppolo. But he got off to a rough start himself, as Bradley Chubb dropped him for a 6-yard sack.

Nick Mullens started the 49ers’ preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. This time, Beathard got the call ahead of him as Shanahan tries to sort out the backup quarterback situation.

The 49ers had minus-6 yards net passing before Beathard dumped off a short pass to Raheem Mostert, who turned it into a 38-yard gain with four minutes left in the first half.

The 49ers were 0-for-5 on third downs before Beathard hit tight end Kaden Smith for a 17-yard pass on a third-and-14 play early in the third quarter.

Most of the big plays for the 49ers came in the run game, as Mostert scored on a 30-yard touchdown run and Deebo Samuel gained 45 yards on an end-around. Jeff Wilson scored on a 1-yard run on the next play to give the 49ers a 17-9 lead.

The 49ers missed two opportunities for big plays late in the third quarter when Beathard overthrew Richie James on a deep corner route. Then, Kendrick Bourne failed to haul in a deep ball along the left sideline.

[RELATED: Watch 49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky unleash big hit on Broncos' returner]

Mullens entered the game with 10:43 remaining in the fourth quarter after Beathard completed five of 11 pass attempts for 81 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

The 24-year-old finished by completing two of his three pass attempts for 27 yards, including a one-yard touchdown on a fade to Kendrick Bourne late in the fourth quarter.

49ers' Dee Ford rehabbing from knee surgery after playing 'on blown tire'

49ers' Dee Ford rehabbing from knee surgery after playing 'on blown tire'

Defensive end Dee Ford collected 6.5 sacks in 11 games during his first season with the 49ers.

And he did it while experiencing severe knee tendinitis that required offseason surgery.

Ford, speaking with reporters Friday morning in a video call, revealed he underwent surgery a "couple weeks" after the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure on Ford's left knee n Pensacola, Florida.

“It was a pretty extensive cleanup,” Ford said. “I feel great right now. I’ve been rehabbing here in Alabama. I feel great right now.”

Ford missed most of training camp last summer after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma injection. He returned for the start of the regular season but aggravated the condition in practices on an artificial surface in Youngstown, Ohio, leading up to the 49ers’ Week 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was not able to finish that game due to his condition.

“We were spot on with the injury, as far as diagnosing it in training camp,” Ford said. “I had a severe case of tendinitis. Although it’s not an ACL tear, with my position, that’s a blown tire.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ford missed significant time late in the season with a hamstring strain, a possible issue from compensation for his knee issues. He was not at 100 percent for the postseason but managed one sack in three playoff games.

“I’m able to actually explode off of this knee,” Ford said. “Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I played a whole season on it. And we knew at the end of the day what we had to do -- (it) had to be surgical. But I didn’t want to miss the season. We had too much going on. I didn’t want to miss that. It’s in the bag now. I’m confident in that.”

[RELATED49ers offense would be more potent with these players returning from injuries]

Although Ford was nowhere near top condition physically, he said other areas of his game developed to the point that he could still be a productive player. If everything comes together in 2020, Ford believes he could exceed his production of 2018, when he registered 13 sacks with the Chiefs. The 49ers acquired Ford in a trade last offseason for a second-round draft pick.

“Even though I had those hiccups going on, I felt a lot more confident, I felt a lot more powerful, I felt a lot more explosive,” Ford said. “This is crazy to say, going into Year 7, but it does slow down even more, which is scarier for me.

“I was able to see a lot more. I was a lot more confident. (I) just wasn’t able to stay out on the field. So alleviating that problem is definitely going to put me in an advantageous situation this year. I’m trying to rack up as many sacks and TFL’s (tackles for loss) as I can and help our team get back to the Super Bowl.”

Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown rumors show Seahawks desperate to catch 49ers

Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown rumors show Seahawks desperate to catch 49ers

One yard. One yard is all that kept Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch fresh off bartending duty at the Coliseum and Pete Carroll from winning the NFC West and sending the 49ers to the wild-card round.

The Seahawks, despite their flawed roster, still appear to be a big threat to the 49ers in the division. As long as Seattle has Wilson under center that will remain true. But the Seahawks know they need more to keep up with the 49ers' loaded roster, which is why there continues to be rumors of their interest in signing Antonio Brown and bringing back Josh Gordon.

Longtime reporter John Clayton told 710 ESPN in Seattle that there is an 85 percent chance the Seahawks bring back Gordon, while it's very unlikely Brown takes his circus to the Pacific Northwest.

Gordon, 28, was suspended in December after playing five games with the Seahawks for violating the NFL's drug and performance-enhancing drug policies. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported in March that Gordon plans to apply for reinstatement but it's clear if he would face further discipline if he's allowed back into the league or if the NFL's more relaxed marijuana policies will allow him back without further punishment.

As for Brown, Clayton reported May 20 that Wilson would love to add the former Pro Bowler. That, however, is unlikely as Brown's current legal troubles make it impossible to determine if the NFL will allow him to play once he signs with a team.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Seahawks' rumored interest in two talented but troubled wide receivers underscores a few things. The first, which we knew, is that coach Pete Carroll never has met a gamble he didn't like. The second is that, as close as they were to the NFC West title last year, Seattle knows Wilson needs help in order to be a true threat to the 49ers.

The Seahawks have D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but after those two there's a stark drop off when it comes to offensive weapons. Running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny both have trouble staying healthy as does tight end Will Dissly who has had a season-ending injury two years in a row.

Seattle signed running back Carlos Hyde to add another ball carrier to their backfield, but they need to give Wilson another explosive playmaker to maximize one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Despite the loss of DeForest Buckner, the 49ers' defense still figures to be among the top units in the NFL. Of the four games the 49ers lost last season, one came in overtime to Wilson, one to Lamar Jackson in a rain-soaked affair, one came to Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and the other was to Patrick Mahomes and the "Legion of Zoom" in the Super Bowl.

As shown, the best way to combat the 49ers' ferocious defense is by having a top-flight quarterback and multiple explosive offensive weapons.

The Seahawks' record last year was indicative of Wilson's greatness and not of a complete roster. The Seahawks ranked 14th in scoring differential at (plus-0.6). They won a number of close games but still have many warts on their roster which they trust Wilson to cover up. Their offensive line will have three new starters in 2020, and it will be difficult for them to build chemistry with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic altering the offseason.

[RELATED: 49ers new rival Hopkins vows he's best WR in NFL]

Wilson, 31, is in his prime and remains the best player in the division. He has the ability to will the Seahawks to a win on any given Sunday. But even the greats need help.

The Seahawks know their roster doesn't stack up to the 49ers, and so visions of Gordon or Brown catching passes from Wilson will dance through the head of Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

But Gordon isn't the player he was five years ago and Brown is just as likely to be in a straightjacket as a Seahawks uniform come fall.

The 49ers have the upper hand on their rivals and the Seahawks' constant infatuation with troubled receivers shows their desperation.