clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 key matchups for the 49ers against the Broncos - Our old friend Russell

Win these and win the game

Houston Texans v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The 49ers' first primetime game of the season comes on Sunday night in Denver against the Broncos. Both teams have had a near identical start to their seasons, disappointing Week 1 loss with a ton of penalties, but both collected bounce-back wins in Week 2. Denver, on paper offers the toughest test for the 49ers so far in 2022 so it’ll be a good barometer for the 49ers.

These are the three matchups that could decide the Week 2 matchup at Mile High:

The 49ers defense vs. QB Russell Wilson

I’m assuming that if you are reading this, you know the 49ers' history against Russell Wilson and his Seahawks, so I’ll spare the details and say it hasn’t been great for the 49ers. Sunday will mark the first time the 49ers face the Broncos version of Wilson after a decade of seeing him in Seattle. Wilson has gotten off to a slow start this season, however, leading Denver’s offense to 16 points per game in their first two games against Seattle and Houston,

The 49ers' defense on the other hand have been off to a hot start especially after shutting out Seattle’s offense in last week’s 27-7 win (Seattle’s lone score was on special teams). The combination of Mooney Ward and Emmanuel Moseley is likely the toughest duo of 49ers cornerbacks Wilson has faced, but Courtland Sutton and potentially Jerry Jeudy, who is questionable with a rib and shoulder injury. Can the 49ers' defense and pass rush contain Wilson and continue his slow start, or does Wilson figure it out against a 49ers defense he has beaten plenty of times before?

HC Kyle Shanahan vs. HC Nathaniel Hackett

Both coaches have been hot topics the past week for completely different reasons. Shanahan has been under fire for his usage of Trey Lance and if that usage played part in Lance’s season-ending ankle injury. Now Shanahan pivots back to an offense led by Jimmy Garoppolo with a week to prepare after Garoppolo mentioned his “freedom” playing against Seattle, comparing it to his 2017 season. Garoppolo played friskier than usual, taking a few deep shots and even drawing a pair of pass interference penalties. It likely won’t change how Shanahan uses the quarterback, but on the off chance, Shanahan leans into giving Garoppolo some “freedom,” could be something to watch.

Hackett, on the other side has been questioned for some of his more strange decisions through the first two weeks of his coaching career. He has been conservative even with Russell Wilson on fourth-and-short situations in opponent territory. Hackett’s offense has been in five such situations that have led to three field goals, a missed field goal, and a fumble lost, none of the plays including Wilson. Hackett’s indecisions have also led to a missed 64-yard field goal attempt and the offense having to take a delay penalty because Hackett admittedly couldn’t decide if he wanted to go for a fourth down or kick a field goal.

RB Javonte Williams and RB Melvin Gordon vs. the 49ers' front seven

Russell Wilson and the passing game won’t be the only concern for the 49ers' defense as Denver features one of the better running back duos in the league with Williams and Gordon. The duo has averaged 5.06 yards per attempt on 44 combined carries but have both yet to score, with both having a goal-line fumble in Denver’s Week 1 loss against Seattle. Not only will the 49ers' defense have to worry about Wilson’s mobility but also try to contain the two running backs as well.

The 49ers' run defense feels well prepared, however, allowing only 135 rushing yards through two games which are second-best in the NFL. Even though they allowed nearly 100 yards against Chicago, it took the Bears offense 37 attempts (2.68 yards per attempt) to reach that mark, and Seattle couldn’t get anything going totaling just 36 rushing yards in the loss. Denver will offer the defense's toughest test yet, and with Arik Armstead questionable, there will be more pressure on the interior of the defensive line to prevent big runs.