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George Kittle, defense key 49ers third win of the season

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It hurts draft position, but it was a fun win!

The San Francisco 49ers snapped a three-game losing streak, beating the Denver Broncos by a final score of 20-14. The 49ers got off to a great start, and hung on for dear life to improve to 3-10 on the season. The Broncos drop to 6-7, and their playoff hopes are in a rough spot.

The 49ers had a bit of a win-win situation today. They won, but the Raiders also won on a late touchdown over the Steelers. The 49ers remain ahead of them due to the strength of schedule tiebreaker, but are now tied with the Arizona Cardinals, who lost to the Detroit Lions. The 49ers and Cardinals currently have the same strength of schedule. The next tiebreaker is a coin flip.

George Kittle was the star of the game, albeit exclusively in the first half. Kittle caught seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He also drew three defensive holding calls, each of which meant five yards and an automatic first down. However, he was silent in the second half as the Broncos blanketed him. The 49ers did hang on for the win, but they’ll need to figure out how to make adjustments as teams double- and triple-team Kittle.

The 49ers jumped out to a 20-0 lead, but Denver adjusted and effectively shut down San Francisco’s offense in the second half. It was not necessarily bad play-calling. The 49ers looked to have a drive started in the third quarter, but Kittle tripped on his backpedal to set up a 2nd and long. They couldn’t convert from there, and that was a lost opportunity.

Fortunately, the 49ers defense stepped up in a big way. They gave up a pair of second half touchdowns, but for the most part shut down the Broncos offense. Phillip Lindsay had his worst game as a first year pro, rushing for 30 yards on 14 carries. Royce Freeman had a couple strong runs, but the 49ers run defense stood tall.

The pass rush only managed two sacks, but they got a strong day of coverage from the much-maligned secondary. It helps that Emmanuel Sanders did not play, but even still, the 49ers secondary deserves credit for a solid effort. Ahkello Witherspoon was solid in coverage, and safety Marcell Harris had a strong bounce-back effort after a rough debut.

Up next: vs. Seattle Seahawks

Last week, the 49ers were thumped by the Seahawks 43-16 at CenturyLink Field. They get a shot at redemption next week at Levi’s Stadium. Seattle faces Minnesota on Monday Night Football, and if they can get a win, they’ll remain the leading team in the NFC wild card chase.

The 49ers managed to get their third win of the season this week, but they have some things to clean up when Seattle comes to town. Most notably, the turnovers remain a problem. They only had one interception, but the Seahawks offense is better than Denver’s. If the 49ers are going to upset Seattle, they can’t afford to lose the turnover battle.