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.
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.