DENVER (AP) — Christian Ponder ran for a score and threw for another in the fourth quarter and San Francisco pulled away to beat the Denver Broncos 31-24 in an exhibition Saturday night.
Ponder was signed earlier in the week to bolster the team’s depth at quarterback.
Blaine Gabbert, trying to solidify his hold on the starting quarterback job in Colin Kaepernick’s absence, led a scoring drive and finished 6 of 9 for 69 yards in roughly a quarter and a half of play.
Kaepernick, who missed the first exhibition because of a sore right shoulder, resumed throwing in practice Thursday and is expected to begin fully participating in workouts next week in hopes of playing Friday against Green Bay.
Ponder, who was out of football last season, was added by the 49ers (1-1) after backup quarterback Thad Lewis suffered a season-ending knee injury in their exhibition opener against Houston last week. Ponder scored on a 22-yard bootleg and then completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dres Anderson.
The Broncos (1-1), also in search of a quarterback after the retirement of Peyton Manning and free agency departure of Brock Osweiler, did not get a decisive performance from their contenders.
Trevor Siemian led a nifty game-opening touchdown drive that C.J. Anderson finished with a 19-yard run, but he also was picked off by Eric Reid, who returned the interception 42 yards for the score. Reid easily eluded Siemian’s attempt to tackle him near the goal line. Siemian was 10 of 14 for 75 yards.
Mark Sanchez, who started the Broncos’ exhibition opener last week, relieved Siemian and led a drive ending in a field goal but struggled overall, with three sacks and fumbling twice. He completed 10 of 17 for 120 yards and just missed having one of his throws intercepted by cornerback Chris Davis.
Paxton Lynch, the Broncos’ first-round draft pick, was the most productive among the three though he has primarily gotten third-team reps in training camp.
He threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to John Phillips late in the third quarter and another covering 4 yards to Durron Neal in the waning minutes. His final pass was intercepted in the last moments by cornerback Kenneth Acker.
“I squandered a great opportunity to separate myself and put the team in a bad situation. No excuse for that. Poor, poor quarterbacking play.” — Sanchez on his fumbles on consecutive second-quarter possessions.
“I think we improved in the offense as a whole. We got the ball in the end zone. We could always start faster, but just getting into the flow of the offense kind of playing more this week we see how things kind of work.” — Gabbert on his play and the performance of the offense as a whole.
Kaepernick went through his pregame passing routine in anticipation of participating fully in practices next week ahead of Friday’s exhibition against Green Bay. “The biggest thing is seeing how he responds in terms of if there are any residual effects (from his pregame throwing session) and see how he feels in the morning and see how he’s progressing,” coach Chip Kelly said.
49ers: WR Bryce Treggs, an undrafted free agent out of Cal, caught a 25-yard pass from fellow rookie Jeff Driskel to help set up a second-quarter field goal. Treggs later left the game with a knee injury. WR Devon Cajuste, an undrafted free agent from Stanford, caught a 40-yard pass from Driskel in the third quarter.
Broncos: FB Andy Janovich, a sixth-round pick out of Nebraska, helped clear the way on Anderson’s first-quarter touchdown run by picking off a 49ers defender with his lead block on the play.
49ers: RB Mike Davis, in the mix for the right to back up starter Carlos Hyde, ran five times for 26 yards but also had two fumbles. … RB DuJuan Harris, also competing for a backup spot, appeared headed for the end zone late in the third quarter, but fumbled at the 1 and the ball was recovered in the end zone by the Broncos for a touchback.
Broncos: Rookie RB Devontae Booker, competing with Ronnie Hillman to be the primary backup to starter C.J. Anderson, ran nine times for 36 yards and also provided solid pass protection when asked to stay in and block on passing plays. Zaire Anderson, looking to add depth at inside linebacker and contribute on special teams, forced two fumbles.
49ers: LB Nick Bellore was sidelined by a knee injury in the third quarter. … DT Tony Jerod-Eddie was sidelined in the first half with a chest injury. … LB Eli Harold left late in the second quarter after hitting the ground hard at the bottom of a pileup. No announcement was made on the nature of his injury. … WR Bruce Ellington did not play because of an ankle injury. … DT DeForest Buckner, the first of the 49ers’ two first-round picks, was held out with a lower-body injury.
Broncos: T Darrion Weems left the game early in the second quarter with a concussion. … LB Corey Nelson left midway through the second quarter with a wrist injury. … DE Vance Walker, who tore his right ACL during a training camp practice earlier in the week, has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. … OLB DeMarcus Ware, continuing his recovery from back problems, missed a second exhibition game, but could begin practicing with the team as soon as next week.
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