Although preseason doesn’t mean a lot, there’s nothing wrong with big, easy wins while looking impressive, so it’s safe to assume the Denver Broncos are quite happy with their 34-0 win over the San Francisco 49ers as Peyton Manning looked sharp and ready for the new season – something that can’t be said about Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers have lost their two preseason games so far by a combined 57-3, and have failed to score over the last seven quarters, let alone get into the end zone in this preseason. Colin Kaepernick finished with 5-of-9, including one glaring miss of Brandon Lloyd in the end zone. He didn’t go off to any runs, with the 49ers limited to 69 yards on 24 carries and only 225 yards of offense.
Manning? He was 12-of-14, hardly feeling any kind of pressure, and found Julius Thomas for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Broncos had all three of their quarterbacks complete a touchdown throw and the trio combined to complete 76.9% of their passes, going off target only eight times. They also avoided getting sacked by the 49ers defensive front, which like the offensive line, seems to be going through some issues.
And while everyone likes to say preseason means nothing about what happens once the real action begins, the Broncos keep talking about being a different team, with a different mindset compared to what they were when they came out battered and bruised from their Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers aren’t in panic mode – these are just preseason losses, but this team needs to do something about how badly they’ve been beaten.
One thing that might be guiding both teams is the window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl. For the Broncos, it is as long as Peyton Manning keeps playing at this level, and fixing the bolts around him, with defense being the main thing looked at this offseason. The running game could do better as well and so can the offensive line, but the Broncos, at least in theory, look as strong as they’ve ever been, only they need to keep this kind of momentum going for a few months.
The 49ers are in a different situation. They might have given Colin Kaepernick a franchise-quarterback contract, but he’s not Manning. The 49ers’ success over the last few years comes down to a massive offensive line that suddenly has problems due to contract disagreements and a defense that was usually among the best in the league. If those two things fall apart, Kaepernick won’t be good enough to carry this team on his arms and legs.