It was a defensive slugfest filled with sloppy play and missed opportunities by both offenses. However, the Denver Broncos managed a late drive to put six points on the board and take a one-point lead.
Despite failing on a two-point attempt, the Broncos' defense got a stop, securing an 11-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. While Denver's offense drew boos from the crowd, the defense's performance had the stadium rocking.
The Broncos' defense showed how capable it is, and it's well on its way to being a top-5 unit in the NFL, at the very least. When the Broncos are clicking on all levels defensively, it's hard to move the ball against them, which will be needed in their next game.
As for the grades, the Broncos' defense graded extremely well overall, while the offense turned out rather poorly. For a quick rundown of how my grading system works, click here.
Offense: Courtland Sutton | WR | Grade: 70.3
The Broncos' offense has been mostly Sutton. He had one bad drop but was also perfect on two contested catches. Sutton is a good route runner, and even when he is covered, he's a talent who is essentially always open. Unfortunately, there were opportunities for more as the quarterback missed him a couple of times.
Defense: Josey Jewell | LB | Grade: 95.2
Getting Jewell back was outstanding for the defense. He was all over the field and filled up the box score with a sack, fumble recovery, and nine tackles, but he also missed tackles and relinquished catches.
The worst play was a great design, but the Niners' lined Deebo Samuel up as the running back, sending him out on a wheel route, which is a tough ask for anyone, especially a linebacker. Again, Jewell also had a couple of missed tackles, but his positive impact was significantly greater than the negative.
Russell Wilson | QB | Grade: 52.3
Denver needs better from its quarterback, plain and simple. While Wilson showed his legs are not completely dead and he still has some magic, the hole the offense dug themselves into was largely his fault.
The offensive line wasn't great, but Wilson missed open receivers and held the ball for too long a couple of times, leading to a sack or a panic dump-off pass. He missed opportunities, especially with an open Montrell Washington deep on one occasion.
Wilson was all over the place on the shorter throws with his placement due to mechanical errors with his lower half. Even with a struggling offensive line, many issues fall at Wilson's feet and must be fixed.
Denver won't be able to win its tougher AFC matchups when Wilson is playing like he was. Many of his issues in this one were even worse when he had time.
Mike Purcell | DL | Grade: 90.1
The big man in the middle had himself a huge day. He didn't get pushed around as he had the past few weeks. Purcell showed why he needs to be kept in the middle and not moved to a 4i/5 technique in this defense.
Purcell made multiple huge plays against the run, but his biggest was on a pass rush that forced a step out of the back of the end zone for a safety. It was a big day for a huge man.
Patrick Surtain II | CB | Grade: 89.5
This is a game where Surtain looked like an elite corner in the NFL. While he did well to limit D.K. Metcalf in Week 1 and did alright before exiting in Week 2 with a shoulder injury, Surtain allowed a 100% catch percentage when the ball wasn't thrown away in his direction. A perfect 8-of-8 for 45 yards. Limiting yards are great, but limiting catches is huge.
Surtain entered Week 3 with no pass break-ups, but picked up two, and saw all five targets fall incomplete. He had a shot at an interception on one deflection. Denver needs Surtain to shut down his receiver, and he finally did that fully against the Niners.
Randy Gregory | OLB | Grade: 87.9
Gregory has been exceptional for the Broncos and added six pressures against the Niners. While he isn't great as a run defender, he has shown to be capable, although inconsistent. He is quick, and the defensive coordinator is having fun coming up with pressure packages with Gregory.
Javonte Williams | RB | Grade: 68.4
While Williams had some big plays against the Niners and was the more reliable running back, some issues kept him from being the MVP on offense. Williams has terrible vision and multiple times missed huge running lanes for gains of 5-plus yards, only to run into the defense for maybe one yard.
If Williams can improve and cut down on the yards he leaves on the field, he could be an excellent back. Outside of that, he did well, and his power was always on display, forcing five missed tackles against the Niners. While he got credited with a drop, it came on a not-so-great throw. However, it was still a drop as the ball bounced off his hands.
Cameron Fleming | OT | Grade: 60.3
Fleming had a tough task facing Nick Bosa for essentially half the game. While it wasn't great by any means, Fleming did a decent job considering the matchup. Where Fleming has consistently done well, no matter the matchup, is in the run game.
Graham Glasgow | IOL | Grade: 59.2
Glasgow is reliable in pass protection. While he allowed two pressures, one of them came on a perfectly executed stunt by the Niners. The issues with Glasgow are in the run game.
He isn't a blocker that will generate push up front, but he can clear running lanes when he can use momentum against the defender. The Niners kept that from happening often.
Jonathan Harris | DL | Grade: 38.2
Denver is dealing with injuries and bang-ups on the defensive line, leading to the team calling Harris up from the practice squad. While his overall impact was small, he was consistently bullied upfront, though it didn't matter much as the Niners could attack elsewhere. It was noticeable Denver turned to Harris over McTelvin Agim, as Agim at least has interior pass rush ability, and Harris has never shown that.
Melvin Gordon | RB | Grade: 40.2
Even if you recover them both, two fumbles will significantly hurt your grade. Gordon wasn't helped by poor blocking up front and couldn't do much in the run game.
There were some nice catches from Gordon for good gains, but he also had a drop. The Broncos need him to be better than he was against the Niners because resting Williams will be key later in the season.
Lloyd Cushenberry III | C | Grade: 40.6
You will have issues when your center is consistently pushed into the backfield in the run game. The Niners exploited Cushenberry's issues, all of them, to consistently make him look bad in the middle.
While Cushenberry does well in pass coverage, it is because of his lack of one-on-one situations. Somehow it was possible for Cushenberry to look like he had regressed over what he had shown the last two seasons. The Broncos really should consider benching him for Glasgow when Quinn Meinerz is good to come back.
Jerry Jeudy | WR | Grade: 42.8
There was a deep shot to Jeudy that was a bit underthrown and broken up, which isn't exactly on Jeudy. However, he shows a lack of effort as a blocker outside, which is so important in this scheme.
There were other plays as a receiver where Jeudy took a little while to get off the line and get into his routes. That disrupted some of the timing with the quarterback.
Dre'Mont Jones | IDL | Grade: 45.7
It's good that Jones did well as a pass rusher against the Niners because he was a liability against the run in this game. He did have one stop, but the Niners had a high success rate and yards per attempt when attacking wherever Jones was assigned.
Jones is a top-15 interior defensive lineman in the NFL, but to get even higher, he has to improve against the run and be consistent there.
Caden Sterns | S | Grade: 49.4
Sterns missed out on what looked like a pick-six chance due to a D.J. Jones tipped pass. Outside of that, it was a mostly rough showing from Sterns.
His run fills were all over the place, and he was caught out of position a few times on defense. His worst play came on a big catch where he matched up with a receiver. Improving those run fills needs to be a focus, with Justin Simmons still out a little while at least.
Other Noteworthy Grades
DeShawn Williams | IDL | Grade: 86.8
Williams had a great day on defense, especially against the run. After being targeted for the first two weeks, the Niners intended to do the same. Instead, Williams stepped up and had great stuff on the game's first play. Then, when the opportunities were there for Williams, he followed through, which was an issue in Week 2.
Jonas Griffith | LB | Grade: 85.4
Griffith had hiccups with his run fills and some issues getting off blocks. There were also some late rotations in coverage. However, he had a great heads-up play for a timely interception to ice the game. His development is coming along nicely, and having Jewell next to him significantly helps his play.
Garett Bolles | OT | Grade: 53.2
Bolles allowed six pressures, including one sack. His sack was a bad play where the defender overpowered him. Some of the pressures he was credited with relinquishing weren't just on him, as the quarterback held the ball too long on a few of them. Even so, this was the worst game from Bolles, and the redeeming factor was he stepped up in run blocking and had his best game of the season there.
Dalton Risner | OG | Grade: 45.5
Risner's game is replete with inconsistencies from play to play. There were plays he had a huge win, followed by a bad loss. Some of his issues come from having to help the center position, but he also lost plenty of reps on his own. Denver needs a lot more from Risner as this season goes on.
Nathaniel Hackett | HC | Grade: 73.5
While there were issues with decisions of when to go for it or not, there was an improved, streamlined process in communicating the plays on time. Not to mention the Broncos played a much cleaner game overall with penalties.
This was probably the worst game from a play-calling standpoint, but execution faltered when Hackett called up some great plays. It's still a work in progress, but the win over the Niners was a step in the right direction from Hackett, with many more steps still needing to be taken.
Ejiro Evero | DC | Grade: 92.8
The defense has been playing great football for 10 quarters, but the Broncos still have those issues that pop up, leading to a big play. Tackling improved, but there were still some missed against the Niners. Perfection isn't the expectation, and overall, this game was close to it despite the few issues.
Evero has great design up front with how to use the pass rushers and is doing a great job with what he calls on the backend. In addition, his coverage has good disguises that have been difficult to read. However, there is a challenge coming with the 0-3 Las Vegas Raiders, whose offense has issues, but still has plenty of weapons and will be out for blood.
Dwayne Stukes | STC | Grade: 90.3
The coverage units were fantastic against the Niners. The Broncos were quick to rally and remain disciplined with their lanes. Denver's return units were not quite as good, but it wasn't as if they were bad either.
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