DENVER, Colo. — A win is a win.

The Denver Broncos struggled to score for most of their Sunday Night Football matchup with the San Francisco 49ers but a fourth-quarter comeback helped them to the second everr 11-10 win in NFL history.

It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.

Now, the Broncos’ 2-1 record is tied for first in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs and tied for second in the AFC with a host of other teams.

Here’s what you need to know…

The defense dominates

The Broncos’ defense made a statement on Sunday, leaving the game as the No. 3 total defense and No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL. Nearly 25% of San Francisco’s offensive plays went backward or were a turnover.

After a couple of leaks allowed the 49ers to fly downfield for a quick touchdown on the second series of the game, the defense was nearly flawless. It made a series of stands as the game progressed, giving the offense opportunity after opportunity to take the lead. In the second half, the 49ers averaged three plays and 11.5 yards per series. Denver gave up three points in the final 52 minutes of game time

The defense provided big plays too.

Mike Purcell got credit for the safety sack when Jimmy Garoppolo stepped out of the back of the end zone.

A Josey Jewell fumble recovery at midfield turned the tackles on a promising 49er possession.

An interception from Jonas Griffith allowed the Broncos to run a few plays and burn a pair of 49ers timeouts before giving the ball back late.

A forced fumble from PJ Locke and recovery by Kareem Jackson ended the game.

Pat Surtain was perfect. He didn’t allow a catch all night. He got his hand on a pair of balls. One of the passes was nearly intercepted after he tipped it up in the air.

Jewell was fantastic in his season debut. He added a pair of tackles for loss and a sack to his game-high nine tackles. He was an important force in the effort to shut down the 49er running game. Mike Purcell deserves credit in that regard, too.

Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory continued to impress. The edge-rushing duo combined for a pair of sacks and a pair of tackles for loss. Both sacks came in crucial moments at the end of the game.

Russell Wilson did not cook… until late

The downside on Sunday night was that the offense couldn’t provide much of anything.

Russell Wilson was quiet for most of the night. He put up 106 yards on 10-of-16 passing in the first half and slowed down even more in the second half. By the end of the game, he had 184 yards.

Wilson missed a few passes. He sailed a ball above Eric Saubert’s head and left a back-shoulder ball to Courtland Sutton too short in the early going of the game. He missed Jerry Jeudy on a crucial third-down in the fourth quarter.

Wilson wasn’t helped out by his teammates. The running game was ineffective. The pass protection was solid considering the strong competition but was beaten plenty of times, including for four sacks.

Wilson also stepped up in the fourth quarter. He led a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the game’s final minutes. The drive included five complete passes worth 58 yards.

The playmakers struggle

Late in the first half, Courtland Sutton dropped a 2nd & 16 post. The ball hit him in the hands but for some reason, he wasn’t looking for it after he made his break. A catch wouldn’t have moved the sticks, but it would’ve set up a 3rd & short that the Broncos may have converted deep in San Francisco territory. Instead, Russell Wilson took a sack on 3rd & long that knocked the Broncos out of field goal range.

Sutton’s drop took at least three points off the board.

As easy as it is to blame Wilson for the struggles in the passing game, a number of Broncos dropped balls that could’ve helped the Broncos keep drives alive.

And the running game was disappointing, too.

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon combined for 84 yards on 27 carries. Gordon also fumbled twice but the Broncos recovered both of the fumbles. Either one could have set the 49ers up to take an insurmountable lead.

Chalk it up to playing one of the league’s best defenses if you want, but the Broncos have plenty to work on when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.

The special teams step up

Corliss Waitman had the game of his life on Sunday, punting 10 times for 476 yards. He pinned the 49ers inside the 10 twice and just outside the 10 on a couple of other occasions.

But it wasn’t just Waitman who had a great night.

From the opening kickoff, the Broncos made noise. The first two kickoffs of the game were coffin corner kicks that forced the 49ers to return. Aaron Patrick made the tackle on the first kick at the 9-yard line. The second return got to the 15 before Alex Singleton brought him down.

Brandon McManus missed the 53-yard field goal that could’ve given the Broncos a third-quarter lead, but that was the only low point for the Broncos’ special teams on Sunday.

The penalties slow down

The Broncos were called for five penalties worth 30 yards, which was a big step in the right direction. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Broncos had given up 206 yards on 25 total penalties.

The crowd still counted down the play clock on two occasions, though.


Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm