Football / Sports

Broncos blank 49ers in Levi's Stadium debut

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One amenity Levi's Stadium didn't come with for the 49ers: points on the scoreboard.

The 49ers made their debut there Sunday with a 34-0 loss to the Denver Broncos and reigning league MVP Peyton Manning.

But, hey, how about that improved traffic flow and the shady concourse at the new, $1.3 billion home?

Scoring points is a growing problem, however. Sunday's home-christening defeat followed a 23-3 loss in the exhibition opener at Baltimore.

Injuries also remain a constant theme, and Sunday's biggest blow was starting safety Antoine Bethea's exit with a second-quarter concussion.

The 49ers defense already was short-staffed, as five would-be starters didn't suit up: linebacker Patrick Willis, cornerback Tramaine Brock and linemen Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams.

Offensively, the 49ers basically had their full complement, with two noticeable exceptions: right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) and right guard Alex Boone, who's entrenched in a contract holdout.

Colin Kaepernick went 5-for-9 for 39 yards and escaped injury through his two series. He did get knocked down as his final pass attempt fell incomplete, a third-down throw targeted for Stevie Johnson.

As was the case in the exhibition opener, the 49ers didn't find much relief in Kaepernick's successors. Blaine Gabbert again struggled (8-for-14, 40 yards) before his stint ended with an interception. In came Josh Johnson, who lost a fumble on his first series, and later McLeod Bethel-Thompson, whose first pass resulted in an interception.

Like Kaepernick, Manning played only two series, but he made the most of his, completing 12 of 14 passes for 102 yards, including an 8-for-8 effort on his final series that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Julius Thomas past safety Craig Dahl, Bethea's replacement.

The 49ers' most promising drives ended when Phil Dawson missed wide right on his only two field-goal attempts, from 55 and 44 yards, in the first half.

The 49ers were shut out only twice in their 43-year Candlestick Park exhibition history, and both came against the Broncos (in 1977 and '79).

The 49ers were poised to avoid the shutout when Kevin Greene made a 47-yard reception to the Broncos' 7, but Jewel Hampton got stopped at the 2 on back-to-back plays.

Among those in attendance to scout out the 49ers, if not their stadium, was Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider.

Michael Crabtree made his exhibition debut, though he was unable to catch Kaepernick's first pass and wasn't targeted the rest of that first series. Brandon Lloyd also saw his first exhibition action, producing a 7-yard reception.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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