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49ers-Broncos final score: Christian Ponder, Marcus Rush help themselves the most

The San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos on Saturday by a final score of 31-24. We take a look at who helped themselves and who hurt themselves in the game.

The San Francisco 49ers got their first win of the preseason on Saturday, defeating the Denver Broncos by a final score of 31-24. The 49ers got off to a slow start, but picked it up as the game moved on. The defense gave up a relatively easy opening score to Trevor Siemian and the Broncos first string offense. They settled down after that, however. The first team defense shut down the Broncos, and got the 49ers on the board with an Eric Reid pick-six.

The 49ers offense struggled to get much of anything going the first two drives. However, on the third drive, as the Broncos started taking starters off the field, the offense got things going. The offense managed a touchdown on a six-play, 63-yard drive. It was capped by a Carlos Hyde touchdown run.

Things got wild late in the second quarter, with three fumbles between the two teams. Mark Sanchez fumbled twice, and Mike Davis fumbled once to close out the half. Mike Davis had a fumble early in the second half, and DuJuan Harris added one of his own later.

However, the story of the second half was Christian Ponder. He put together back-to-back scoring drives, completing 7-of-8 passes for 86 yards and a 30-yard passing touchdown, while also running in a 22-yard touchdown. It was a huge performance.

Here are a look at some folks who helped and hurt their case in the second preseason game. We focus a bit more on the people who helped.

Who helped their case

Chris Davis, Keith Reaser: The two cornerbacks did a lot of good things. Davis had a pass break-up and a third down stop, offsetting a first down reception he gave up. He also was the team’s primary kick returner with Bruce Ellington sidelined. Reaser was part of the second team defense,

Blaine Gabbert: It wasn’t a great performance, but it was solid. And compared to last week, it was an improvement. Gabbert was 6-of-9 for 69 yards. He benefited on the third drive by facing a sizable chunk of the Broncos second-string defense, but execution is execution, and hopefully it’s a confidence-builder.

Marcus Rush: The second year OLB had three sacks, one of which was a strip-sack. With Aaron Lynch suspended to open the season, there could be a chance for a roster spot. Corey Lemonier had a solid game last week, but he is teetering on the bubble. If Rush can finish the preseason strong, he could bump Lemonier off the bubble.

Garrison Smith: The 49ers were without Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, and then Tony Jerod-Eddie hurt his chest and left the game (seemed fine on the sideline). Smith got a sack in the third quarter, but got a lot of snaps early in the game. He did some solid work. He faces a lot of obstacles for making the 53-man roster, but he’s getting opportunities.

Christian Ponder: Considering he was on the 49ers roster less than a week, he put together a heck of an outing. In his first drive, he was 5-of-6 for 33 yards, and scored a touchdown on a 22-yard run. In his second drive, he was 2-of-2 for 53 yards, capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dres Anderson. It as against the Broncos third string defense, but it was still impressive for a guy still learning the basics of the playbook.

Jeff Driskel: We saw Driskel impress on the ground in Week 1, but he struggled throwing the ball. On Saturday, he looked much better through the air, connecting on 6-of-7 passes for 66 yards. He also had an 11-yard rush. He’s got a long ways to go, but if the 49ers keep a third QB this year, he put forth a solid showing.

Who hurt their case

Mike Davis: He seemed to be off to a solid start building on his Week 1 performance. And then he had a fumble late in the second quarter, and then again early in the third quarter. All the yards in the world aren’t going to help if you can’t hold on to the ball. It was brutal.

Everyone fumbling: Davis hurt his case the most, but what was up with all the fumbles, on both sides of the ball? DuJuan Harris fumbled into the end zone, and we also saw some muffed punt returns. It was really sloppy football.

Corey Lemonier: This isn’t so much a poor performance as not doing anything to really step up. Aaron Lynch was sidelined due to his eye injury (poked in the eye in joint practice). Marcus Rush stepped up in a big way, while it appears Lemonier was held off the stat sheet entirely. We’ll check the snap count on Sunday, but the performance was not what he needed.

Injury report

Tony Jerod-Eddie: Left with chest injury and ruled questionable to return. Did not come back but looked fine on the sideline.

Bryce Treggs: Left with knee injury and ruled out

Nick Bellore: Limped off field, ruled out with knee injury

Eli Harold: Had wind knocked out of him

Shaun Draughn: Did not play as precaution due to soreness

Aaron Lynch: Did not play due to getting poked in the eye earlier this week at joint practice