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SANTA CLARA -– The 49ers played their first exhibition game at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday in front of a full house of sun-splashed fans.
Next week, those who plan to attend the 49ers’ next game will have a chance to witness the 49ers’ first points in Levi’s Stadium after the home team was shut out for 60 minutes against the Denver Broncos.
Coming off a 20-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the exhibition opener, the 49ers had another lackluster showing against the Broncos as they opened their new home with a 34-0 loss.
The 49ers had not been shut out in a home exhibition game since 1979, when the lost 21-0 to the Broncos at Candlestick Park.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ starting offense strung together some first downs to open the game but managed no points. And the defense had a tough time with Peyton Manning, as well as the Broncos’ backups.
Starting defensive linemen Justin Smith, Ian Williams and Ray McDonald, each of whom returned to the practice field last week, were held out of action. Manning completed 12-of-14 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against a 49ers defense that also lined up without linebacker Patrick Willis and starting cornerback Tramaine Brock.
In addition, starting strong safety Antoine Bethea exited early in the second quarter with a concussion. His replacement, veteran Craig Dahl, was in coverage on Manning’s 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas that gave the Broncos a 10-0 lead.
The Broncos extended their lead to 17-0 just before the end of the first half.
Again, the 49ers started Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland at the inside linebacker positions. With Willis’ spot secure, the 49ers are searching for the player who will take over for injured All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Bowman is expected to open the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would make him ineligible for the first six games of the season. Bowman continues to rehab from the knee injury he sustained in the NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Wilhoite had a strong first half with a game-high seven tackles. He also added a quarterback hit.
Dawson off the mark: Kicker Phil Dawson made his first season with the 49ers a memorable one. He connected on a franchise record 27 consecutive field goals. In 19 games, including the playoffs, Dawson made 39 of 43 field-goal attempts.
But his first game kicking in his new home stadium did not go so well. Dawson missed badly from 55-yards out at the end of the 49ers’ first drive. Later in the first half, he failed to connect from 44 yards.
Kap’s day: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick played the 49ers’ first two possessions, consisting of 16 snaps. He completed 5-of-9 pass attempts for 39 yards. The 49ers managed five first downs but did not generate any points.
Kaepernick’s best throw might have been one that landed incomplete. Kaepernick stood in the pocket a delivered a pass 37 yards down the field for Brandon Lloyd in the end zone. But Lloyd, who was covered by Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, did not fully extend for the pass.
Gabbert struggles: For the second consecutive exhibition game, backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert did not exactly distinguish himself. In the first half, Gabbert completed 4-of-9 pass attempts, with his completions going for 3, 2, 1 and 4 yards.
He opened the second half, as had a little more success – until he threw behind Quinton Patton and was intercepted by Broncos backup safety Quinton Carter. Gabbert finished his day completing 8-of-14 passes for 40 yards and an interception. His passer rating was 32.4.
--Running back Frank Gore started and carried twice for 12 yards before getting replaced by rookie Carlos Hyde, who gained 11 yards on four rush attempts.
--Josh Johnson, who entered in the third quarter as the No. 3 quarterback, turned the ball over when he fumbled on a run attempt on his second snap under center. Johnson completed 2 of 3 pass attempts for 9 yards.
--Fourth quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson did not fare any better. Denver linebacker Steven Johnson intercepted Bethel-Thompson’s first pass attempt late in the fourth quarter.
--Rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson was in coverage against fellow rookie Cody Latimer on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler, which gave the Broncos a 24-0 lead in the third quarter.
--In addition to Willis, Justin Smith, Williams and McDonald, other 49ers who did not suit up for Sunday’s game were nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps), cornerback Tramaine Brock (ankle), running back LaMichael James (elbow) and right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder).
--Rookie cornerback Kennth Acker, a sixth-round pick from SMU, had a couple notable plays in the third quarter. He broke up a Zac Dysert pass intended for Greg Wilson in the end zone. Denver receiver Bennie Fowler caught a pass in the end zone, but he was called for offensive pass interference against Acker. A couple plays later, Acker had an apparent interception but an offside penalty on teammate Aaron Lynch nullified the play.