The 49ers were able to go into Denver and pull out the victory, thanks in large part to five David Akers field goals, but it was hardly a win for the 49ers first unit.
The Niners offense again looked stagnant vs. the Broncos' D, as the offensive line really had a tough time keeping people off Alex Smith and opening up running lanes for the halfbacks. Really the only play the first string offense can be happy about was the TD pass from Smith to Vernon Davis that put the 49ers on the board. It was a nice route by Davis and an excellent read by Smith, but that play doesn't likely go for 6 if the Bronco defender would have stayed on Davis instead of shadowing towards the middle of the field. Other than that, the 49ers passing attack was very similar to what we saw over the first two preseason games, extremely conservative. Most Smith's looks were little 5-10 yard routes as Harbough apparently didn't want to expose too much. They did take a few shots down field to Moss, but he had about 3-4 Broncos around him every time Smith dropped back. On the other side of the ball though, the Broncos had no such trouble moving on the Niners defense with Manning throwing 2 TD tosses vs. the first unit.
One big difference between this one and the first two preseason games was that the 49ers failed to get their running game opened up early. Again, this falls in line with Harbough not wanting to show his hand in practice games, but I was a little surprised to see Frank Gore get just 2 carries in this one. The third preseason game is usually the game in which coaches will treat the first half much like a regular season game, just to get a judge on where the team stands. However, Harbough went the complete opposite of that. I do understand it to an extent, but I don't see any reason why Gore wasn't given 5-6 carries early on just to get him some game action. Frank has expressed some frustration this preseason because he's not been given a lot of carries and he's really been unimpressive with the ones he has gotten. His first run of the preseason was a solid one, but 2 runs for -4 yards probably wasn't what he had in mind for his final tune-up. They do have one last exhibition game before their September 9th opener, but it's highly doubtful any of the 49ers starters see any time with the caution their coaching staff has been using.