Niners win Preseason Opener 17-16

The 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 17-16, behind the touchdowns of Britt Miller.

Kyle Orton threw interceptions in his first three series during a disastrous Denver debut, while San Francisco’s two quarterback candidates were steady in the 49ers’ 17-16 victory over the Broncos on Friday night.

Alex Smith threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brit Miller following Orton’s third first-half pick in the preseason opener for both teams, a night featuring the return of former 49ers coach Mike Nolan as Denver’s defensive coordinator.

San Francisco starter Shaun Hill completed two crisp passes to tight end Vernon Davis for 41 yards while leading the Niners on a 58-yard scoring drive to start the game, capped by Alex Romero’s 38-yard field goal.

It was Orton’s backup, Chris Simms, who nearly led Denver to victory with a big second half. After Miller’s second TD of the night on a 40-yard reception from Damon Huard put the 49ers up 17-10, Simms hit Kenny McKinley on a 52-yard TD pass with 2:01 left, but the Broncos failed on the 2-point conversion.

New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is stressing accuracy this training camp, and Orton was way off all night against the Niners’ first- and second-team defenses. Even with ample time in the pocket, he misfired.

Orton got the No. 1 job in June but has done little to impress after the Broncos traded away Pro Bowl passer Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears in the NFL’s biggest swap of the spring. Orton was even booed by fans during a scrimmage at Invesco Field when he threw two interceptions and several other poor passes.

He completed six of his first seven passes for 54 yards Friday but couldn’t capitalize.

Everybody’s curious to see how Orton handles the pressure and responsibility for an organization that’s won just one playoff game since Hall of Famer John Elway retired with two Super Bowl titles a decade ago.

San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements was constantly in the middle of the action. He had four solo tackles and an interception on Denver’s first drive, picking off a pass from Orton in the end zone intended for Daniel Graham on third-and-goal from the 3.

“I saw the route and played my responsibility and he threw it,” Clements said. “I like seeing all of our (defensive backs) get interceptions and just making plays because we’re game breakers.”

Neither Hill nor Smith did anything flashy to stand out — not that coach Mike Singletary expected to have a good gauge of who might be his top QB after just one preseason game. He hasn’t decided on a starter for the second preseason game, next Saturday against the Oakland Raiders.

Hill went 2 for 2 with the two completions to Davis and was sacked twice, while Smith was 5 of 7 for 33 yards with a sack.

“We were able to move the ball and we had a big conversion on third down,” Hill said. “That last sack kind of hurt us. That was completely on me. The offensive line did a great job out there. So I’d like to have that play back and I feel like we could have gotten seven out of that.”

With Orton long gone, Jeb Putzier caught a 6-yard TD pass from Simms midway through the third quarter. Simms later hit Brandon Lloyd for a 25-yard completion that set up Matt Prater’s go-ahead 26-yard field goal.

McDaniels certainly had hoped for more from Orton. He came to the Broncos after Cutler decided he didn’t want to play for McDaniels, the former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in New England.

Hill went 5-3 over the final eight games last season, when Singletary took over Oct. 20 and later had the interim tag stripped from his title following the team’s strong finish.

Smith missed all of 2008 after re-injuring his surgically repaired right shoulder in practice two days before the season opener.

“Obviously, I was raring to go when I got out there,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time for me, so I was pretty amped up.”

Singletary is eager to name a starter who can turn around a team that’s endured a franchise-worst six straight losing seasons, yet he’s said he might wait until after the third preseason game.

The Pundit of 49ersNews. I do what I can to supply the Niner fans with their fix.
  • josh

    First of all the amount of QB play was not fair for both QB’s even though Singletary said playing time would be fair. Liked what I seen from both QB’s though. Alex Smith still seems to be having trouble with short passes. Even though Smith received more snaps than Hill I think Hill looked better than Smith. The defense still had trouble with pass rush. Hopefully being the first pre-season game we haven’t really seen what the defense can do on the pass rush. Overall defensively we looked alright, but need to pick the speed up; looked a little slow tonight.Glen Coffee looked good and competent as Gore’s back-up. I see why Kory Sheets will end up getting a roster spot over Thomas Clayton. Kory Sheets showed some nice bursts of speed and agility. Unfortunately for Clayton he is hurt now as well. Can’t wait for the next pre-season game.

    • NinerPaul

      Im kinda bummed that clayton got hurt >> I really did think that guy belonged in the NFL >> Not the Not For Long >>

  • All the questions involving the secondary should finally be answered after tonight game. I never saw a problem with our secondary as others did. We have a pro bowl in Michael Lewis, Dre’ Bly, and Nate Clements. Dre’ is motivated and out to prove he isnt ‘done’. Very similar to the Walt Harris signing we made a few years back and Walt ended up a pro bowl for us that season. Just imagine with improved pass rush what our secondary can do with that front 7. Not to mention great HB play, solid O-Line play and WR with Solid QB play! PLAYOFFS BABY 10-6

  • Lowrance

    I now see Robinson took Zack's place….

  • Lowrance

    Watching the game again.

    GREAT decisions by Hill, when he took off for that run. Loved it when he did that. He would have surely been sacked.

    Also a great play by Clemens after the interception to kneel in the endzone. So many try to run it out. He just scored us 20 more yards!

  • Lowrance

    Yeah the 2nd sack was on Hill. Glad he knows that.
    Smith’s miss on the one pass from our end zone to a wide open receiver was a little painful.
    Wragge missing the block and mr Blonde locks wiffing wasn’t good.
    Crisp catches by VD, But I still wish he’d just take that energy and sprint back to the huddle. He so wants to puff out his chest after every catch. Og course if we win, I’ll let it slide, lol.
    Orton was so terrible, it’s hard to gauge our defense.
    But zero pass rush was eveident again.
    Gore and Willis out was evident.
    Tighten up that coverage by the DBs please!!! 6 yards off inside the ten? C’mon!!!
    All in all it was nice to get a win….
    Can’t wait for next week….

    • NinerPaul

      Good point Smith has trouble throwing under pressure >> That has been his story >> His completed passes mostly had no pressure, ala his career at Utah >> In saying that our o line looks really good on the pass blocking (with the right help from the running and half backs)but the run blocking needs a little work to be crisp. >> Yeah we need an injection of pass rush…..

  • Lowrance

    Hmmmm, just saw Zack broke his arm. That may open up a roster spot for the touchdown star of the game.

    • Mike M.

      Zack has always been a weak player. He can't block or take a hit. Sorry about the broken arm but I think that it is time to say bye bye. If Gore is going to have a great season we can not have a weak full back leading the way.

      • NinerPaul

        Zack rhymes with sack >> At least when he is blocking >>>

  • Vinny

    I watched the game last night, and what stood out to me, was that shaun hill is the starter!!! this is the normal preseason 1 series and you’re out first game. i think singletary and raye are comfortable with him. he might not be the big arm 1st round prodigy but he “has it”. Jeff Garcia has it; even young and montana had it- they dont have big arms but they deliver a catchable accurate ball; the ball gets out fast and hits their receiver in stride.

    With that said, I was on the Alex Smith side of the fence! I was hoping that he would do well and win the job, and live up to his potential. Honestly, this niner team needs to win RIGHT NOW- not because of player’s age, but more so for relevance of the franchise (plus I cant take another losing season). Hill should be the guy…. I guess it was too many months since last season, and hope of alex smith crept into our minds.

    • NinerPaul

      With you on that one >> Its looks to me like they are saving Hill and that he's pretty much the guy and he looked good out there. Also that shaun hill to vernon davis connection has been consistant since the first time they played together >> And not a bad idea to get alex, damon, or nate davis some work for the back up roll.

  • Lowrance

    I somewhat agree Vinny. Hill played little because he did the job expected, I’m thinking. And Singletary played Alex more to try and give him the best chance possible. Unlike Nolan’s grudge.
    More playing time please Mr Singletary. Let’s hope one jumps out.

    One thing for sure…. keep that damn clock in your head guys!!! Get rid of the ball!
    Offensive line did a good enough job….

  • joe gomez

    Is it me or is that the same ol' Alex Smith weve been seeing ever since he was a rookie? Holding the ball too long, indecisiveness, deer in headlights look. I mean doesn't Huard make a better backup to Hill?

  • Mas

    Not happy with Hill or Smith. Granted, of the two, Hill has more poise and patience in the pocket where as Alex looks scared straight. I don’t get it.

    A guy whose statistical progression runs parallel with Ryan Leaf’s, why do we still care?

  • Lowrance

    Watching the Giants/Mets game. During the game they said Crabtree’s in the bay area and they think they’re working to get the contract done. At least that’s what my brain filtered it to say!
    He’s ready to get to the 49ers facility if it gets signed.

    • Mas


      What part of “During the game they said Crabtree’s in the bay area and they think they’re working to get the contract done.” did your brain filter?

  • P. Willies Playhouse

    I liked the way the defense played on Friday. It looks like Bly might be a good investment