DENVER -- Peyton Manning put on an absolute clinic Sunday night in the Denver Broncos' 42-17 beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers.

Sure, he set a new NFL record for career touchdown passes with Nos. 507, 508, 509 and 510, and he also had as many TD passes against the 49ers as he did incompletions -- four -- in completing 22 of 26 passes for 318 yards and a passer rating of 157.2.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Jack DempseyIf you're keeping score, Colin Kaepernick is just 468 touchdown passes behind Peyton Manning on the all-time list. But Kaepernick would do well to learn from Manning's record-breaking night.
But perhaps the most important thing he accomplished on his record-setting night, at least as far as the 49ers are concerned, was setting an example for Colin Kaepernick to follow in his nascent career.

No doubt, they are two different quarterbacks with polar-opposite skill sets. But Kaepernick had a front-row seat to, well, the greatness that is Manning when he is firing on all cylinders.

That greatness includes touch passes, reading defenses and calling audibles in and out of plays depending upon what the defense shows him at the line.

"He's a great player," Kaepernick said. "He's able to put up a lot of points. He's proven that. We knew we were going to have to score points regardless."

Kaepernick actually had more passing yards than Manning at halftime, though the 49ers trailed 21-10 at intermission. And Kaepernick, who is only 468 touchdown passes behind Manning, flashed by leading the 49ers 80 yards in seven plays with no timeouts to close out that first half.

His 4-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with 11 seconds remaining in the half gave him a touchdown pass in 14 straight games, the third-longest such streak in franchise history behind Steve Young (17 games, from Oct. 9, 1994, through Oct. 15, 1995) and Jeff Garcia (15, from Dec. 3, 2000, through Dec. 2, 2001).

But with the 49ers playing catch-up and Kaepernick needing to pass, the Broncos merely pinned their ears back and dominated the Niners' decimated offensive line. Kaepernick was sacked a season-high six times and he passed for only 74 yards in the second half to finish with 263 yards on 24-of-39 passing with a touchdown and an interception.

Still, having a front-row seat to history should allow Kaepernick to glean something from Manning going forward, no? Well, so long as Kaepernick wants it.

It sounds like he does.

"He's a very smart player," Kaepernick said. "He knows where he wants to go with the ball, how he wants to attack different defenses."

So, you could add that your arsenal, your QB bag o' tricks, so to speak?

"Very much," Kaepernick said.

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is not one to compare players, but on this night, the former quarterback seemed in awe of Manning. (A bit of trivia: The last QB to start a game for the Indianapolis Colts before Manning was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft? Harbaugh.)

"I'm sure there are some things [he can glean from Manning]," Harbaugh said. "He's one of the greats, and that certainly was on display tonight."

And then some.

"You're playing against a coordinator when you're out there," 49ers free safety Eric Reid said.

Whatever lessons Kaepernick took home from Denver will have to wait for a while. The only way he will see Manning this up close and personal again would be if the 49ers and Broncos meet in the Super Bowl.

"I hope we do," Kaepernick said.

He's not the only one who feels that way in the 49ers' locker room.

DENVER -- San Francisco 49ers center Daniel Kilgore suffered a lower left leg and ankle injury in the third quarter of the team's 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, something coach Jim Harbaugh said "might be a break."

If it is a broken leg, Kilgore would be out an extended period of time, putting the Niners' already makeshift line in further flux as they head into a badly needed bye week.

"It's always tragic to lose a player," said quarterback Colin Kaepernick. "I don't know exactly what it is right now. Hopefully it's not something that is season-ending."

The backup center, undrafted rookie Dillon Farrell, also came out of the game for a spell in the fourth quarter after rolling an ankle, though Harbaugh said he should be fine.

The 49ers were already without left guard Mike Iupati, who suffered a concussion Monday night at the St. Louis Rams and was not cleared to play in this game.

After Farrell left the game, the Niners O-line was this: left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Jonathan Martin, center Joe Looney, right gurad Alex Boone, right tackle Anthony Davis.

(Read full post)

Top stats to know: Manning passes Favre

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20

AP Photo/Jack DempseyPeyton Manning set the NFL career passing TD record on Sunday night.

Not to underestimate the importance of the Denver Broncos improving their record to 5-1, Sunday’s 42-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers will be most remembered for Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes.

The Record
With 3:09 remaining in the first half, Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on an 8-yard scoring pass, increasing his career total to 509. That broke a tie with Brett Favre. Manning didn’t stop there, throwing another scoring pass to Thomas after halftime, his fourth of the game, to make the record 510 – and counting.

Manning reached the record territory for touchdown passes more efficiently than Favre. The former Green Bay Packers quarterback got his 508 touchdowns in 10,164 passes (one touchdown every 20 passes). Manning reached 509 in 8,659 passes, which is one touchdown every 17 passes.

Manning throws 4 TDs … again
Sunday’s game was the 33rd of Manning’s 16-year career with four touchdown passes. He’s No. 1 on that list, eight ahead of Drew Brees. In the 22 games since the start of last season, Manning has had four touchdown passes in half of them. No other quarterback has five four-touchdown games in that span.

Harbaugh has seen this before
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team gave up 42 points, the most they have allowed in four seasons under Harbaugh, is connected to the touchdown-passes record beyond being on the opposing sideline Sunday.

Before Manning joined the Colts in 1998, the most recent quarterback to throw a touchdown for the team was Harbaugh. (Marvin Harrison caught both of them -- Harbaugh’s last and Manning’s first.) And in the 1995 game that Dan Marino (who held the record before Favre broke it in 2007) set the record, Harbaugh was playing in that game for the Colts.

Who’s next?
Although Manning will continue playing and padding his record, does he have a challenger in the NFL today? If he does have a contemporary who could pass him, the only apparent candidate is Drew Brees.

Brees has averaged 35 TD passes a season since joining the Saints, and his attempts per touchdown over that time is in line with Manning’s career average. Brees is three years younger than Manning, and although his numbers were slightly behind Manning’s entering his age-35 season, he could reach 400 TD this year. Manning, remember, spent his age-35 season on the bench after neck surgery.

Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold's game ball goes to Peyton Manning, who set a new NFL record with his 509th career touchdown pass. Niners QB Colin Kaepernick gets the nod from Paul Gutierrez.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:
  • The 49ers’ top two centers entering the game both left with injuries. Starter Daniel Kilgore suffered what coach Jim Harbaugh said “might be a break” in his lower left leg while backup Dillon Farrell, who limped off the field after replacing Kilgore, was seen walking around without a noticeable limp.
  • It was a stunned locker room, one that was trying to process how efficiently Peyton Manning dissected the 49ers' defense. “You’re playing against a coordinator out there,” free safety Eric Reid said of Manning.
  • The 49ers are beat up, both emotionally and physically after being run over by the Broncos. So, can the bye week come at a better time? “This is perfect timing,” linebacker Ahmad Brooks said.
DENVER -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The 49ers' three-game winning streak came to a crashing halt at the feet, and arm, of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who established a record for most career touchdown passes. He needed two to tie Brett Favre and he obliged by throwing four; Manning now has 510.

The Niners were missing three injured starters -- linebacker Patrick Willis, cornerback Chris Culliver and left guard Mike Iupati -- and were simply outmanned by a deeper and speedier Broncos team. Rookie Chris Borland was more than serviceable in playing for Willis as he had a game-high eight tackles through three quarters, including his first career sack. Fellow rookie Aaron Lynch also had his first career sack. And that was about as positive as it got for the Niners, whose bye week comes at a perfect time. The 49ers remain in second place in the NFC West at 4-3, behind the Arizona Cardinals (5-1), but ahead of the Seattle Seahawks (3-3) and St. Louis Rams (2-4).

Stock watch: Falling -- offensive line. To be fair, it is not at full strength, not with Iupati out with a concussion, though right tackle Anthony Davis was back to make his second start of the season. But the line gave up a season-high six sacks and could clear only enough space for the 49ers to rush for 37 yards on 11 carries through the third quarter. To make things worse, center Daniel Kilgore had to be carted off the field after suffering a left leg/ankle injury in the third quarter and was replaced by undrafted rookie Dillon Farrell. Then Farrell limped off in the fourth quarter and Joe Looney moved over from left guard to center, with Jonathan Martin coming in at left guard. Expect third-round draft pick Marcus Martin, who has been rehabbing from a left knee injury suffered in the third exhibition game, to ramp up his preparations for St. Louis on Nov. 2.

Depleted secondary: The 49ers entered the game already down two defensive backs with Culliver (hamstring) and rookie Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) on the inactive list. Then they lost Chris Cook to a hamstring injury in the third quarter, leaving the Niners with only three corners. That included starter Tramaine Brock, who was playing for the first time since the season opener after injuring a toe. Think Manning wasn't licking his chops looking at that depleted secondary?

And the game ball goes to: Not much to choose from here, but Colin Kaepernick had a good first half -- he had more yards passing than Manning at halftime. After the Broncos turned it into a blowout, Kaepernick became a marked man. Still, he has now thrown a TD pass in 14 straight games, the third-longest streak in franchise history behind Steve Young (17) and Jeff Garcia (15). Kaepernick threw for 263 yards on 24-of-39 passing with a touchdown pass and an interception. He did lead the 49ers on an 80-yard TD drive late in the first half on seven plays to get them within 21-10 at the half.

What's next: The 49ers enjoy their bye week to heal, both physically and mentally, before returning to play host to the St. Louis Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Nov. 2.

Peyton Manning throws 508th TD

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Jack DempseyPeyton Manning threw his 508th career TD pass Sunday, tying Brett Favre's all-time NFL record.

DENVER -- In what has been a remarkable re-start to his NFL career as the Denver Broncos' quarterback, Peyton Manning threw his 508th career touchdown Sunday, tying Brett Favre's league record.

The 39-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Wes Welker gave the Broncos a 13-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The play was reviewed, but Welker was ruled to have to hit the pylon in the front left corner of the end zone.

Manning had thrown a 3-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 8:29 left in the opening quarter. It was Sanders' first touchdown catch of the season and his first scoring pass from Manning.

(Read full post)

DENVER -- While a report from Pro Football Talk says San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith could return a game or two early from his nine-game suspension, Niners general manager Trent Baalke told reporters on press row that he knew nothing of such a development.

Smith was slapped with the suspension, which would keep him out of the 49ers’ lineup through the team’s Week 9 game at the New Orleans Saints, by the NFL "for violating the NFL policy and program for substances of abuse and the league's personal conduct policy.”

The suspension broke down as such: four games for violation of the league’ substance-abuse policy, and five games for violations of the personal conduct policy.

As part of his suspension, Smith has been allowed to work out at the team’s Santa Clara facility.

The 49ers have their bye week coming up before playing host to the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 2 and at the Saints on Nov. 9. Per the suspension, he is eligible to return on Nov. 10.
DENVER -- Three players who started for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday will not play tonight against the Denver Broncos due to injury as cornerback Chris Culliver, who missed practice on Friday due to an injured hamstring, joined linebacker Patrick Willis and left guard Mike Iupati on the inactive list.

Willis (toe) and Iupati (concussion) were ruled out on Friday.

The other 49ers inactives: WR Quinton Patton, DB Jimmie Ward, C Marcus Martin and DT Tank Carradine.

Rookie Chris Borland will start for Willis while Joe Looney will start at left guard.

Tramaine Brock, who has not played since injuring a toe on his right foot in the season opener at the Dallas Cowboys, will start at cornerback, alongside Perrish Cox.

With Culliver and Ward (quadriceps) out, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson will provide depth as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning needs three touchdown passes to set a NFL record for career TD passes.

Also, Anthony Davis, who has been nursing knee and ankle injuries, will make his second start of the season for the 49ers, taking the place of his backup, Jonathan Martin.
[+] EnlargePatrick Willis
AP Photo/Billy HurstSan Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis has been ruled out against the Broncos this Sunday with a toe injury.

The San Francisco 49ers will be without All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis (toe) and starting left guard Mike Iupati (concussion) for Sunday night's game at the Denver Broncos, the team  announced Friday.

Willis, who was still wearing a walking boot on his left foot Friday, was injured in the first half of the 49ers' victory at the St. Louis Rams on Monday night. Willis said he jammed his foot into the artificial turf while pursuing a running back.

Iupati suffered a concussion in the second half.

Rookie third-round pick Chris Borland is in line to start for Willis. Joe Looney will take over for Iupati.

(Read full post)

Third-string quarterback Josh Johnson was released again Friday by the San Francisco 49ers, adding to the merry-go-round that has been his season thus far.

The team made the move to make room for special teams ace Bubba Ventrone. Again.

It was on Tuesday that the team released Ventrone to re-sign Johnson, who has now been cut by the 49ers three times and signed twice since Sept. 20.

This latest move would suggest the 49ers need a special teams player and safety-by-trade in Ventrone against the Denver Broncos on Sunday night more than a third QB, especially with five DBs already on the Niners' injury report.
The Denver Broncos' Julius Thomas represents the NFL’s new wave of athletic, but powerful tight ends. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, nine of his 24 receptions in five games have scored touchdowns.

“Big body, good receiver,” San Francisco 49ers strong safety Antoine Bethea mused this week in the locker room. “All the tight ends nowadays in this league, you know, big bodies. It’s tough to get around them.

“Week in and week out, we’re starting to see more of these type tight ends, big bodies, wide radius range of being able to catch the ball. Just got to go out there battle and have fun.”

And with inside linebacker Patrick Willis likely out with a toe injury, how will the San Francisco 49ers defend Thomas? With a safety like Bethea, or Willis’ likely replacement, undersized 5-11 rookie Chris Borland?

“Well, it will be a mix,” said Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “When you [face] a tight end like him, some people think you’re crazy if you don’t put a DB on him. Then the next guy will think you’re crazy because of the size mismatch if you don’t have a linebacker on him.

“That’s what these good tight ends do; they cause you problems. So it will be a mix of who’s on him for us.”

Fangio said Borland has practiced well against Niners backup tight end Vance McDonald, but could not recall him facing Vernon Davis all that much.

And if Borland is in the game, Fangio does not anticipate keeping Borland away from Thomas.

“You can a little bit, but ultimately, you’ve got to play your package, you know?” Fangio said. “If you start tinkering here and there to cover up somebody’s perceived deficiencies, that just leads to problems other places, too. You've got to be able to play.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has a unique history with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, one that goes beyond their time together with the Indianapolis Colts.

And yet, it might not matter as far as an advanced scouting report goes.

“Well, I’ve known him since he was a teenager, a young guy back in New Orleans,” Fangio said Thursday. “His dad was involved with the Saints and Peyton used to come around to our practices. Back in those days, there were no OTAs. If you had guys around, you maybe have a little skelly. And some of the times, he was a freshman and sophomore in high school, he came over and quarterbacked in those [scrimmages]. So, I’ve known him a long time.”

Wait, a teenaged Manning used to follow his father Archie to Saints unofficial offseason workouts and throw the ball around with the pros who happened to be in the facility?

“I said, now, there were no formal practices back then,” said Fangio, who was the Saints’ linebackers coach from 1986 through 1994. “OTAs did not exist. It might be 10, 15 guys hanging around. We’d have a little playground-type skelly. Not an OTA that you’re thinking that we have [now].

“I’d say [he was] 14, 15 [years old]. You just knew that he loved football. He was thrilled to be there with some other NFL players, but yet he was focused on the task at hand and he wanted to throw the ball good.”

Their paths crossed again in Indianapolis when Fangio served as the Colts’ defensive coordinator from 1999-2001.

“Vic is an outstanding coach,” Manning said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. “I enjoyed the [three] years that he and I were together in Indianapolis.

“I used to enjoy talking ball with him and competing against his defenses in practice. It was always very competitive and the different places he’s been, his teams have always been very well coached.”

Fangio recalled a young Manning -- the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft -- being a sponge.

“He would spend a lot of time at the facility,” Fangio said. “I’m talking day and night. Many times, I’d walk by the film room where he was watching tape, he’d pull me in and ask me what the defense was doing here, why they’re doing this or he’d come in my office and ask me. We would always have football conversations.

“He loves football. He really does. He’s 38 years old ... and he still loves the game, loves playing, loves preparing. I’m sure he’s studying just as he always has. He’s a true football junkie.”