DENVER -– Linebacker NaVorro Bowman appears to be in midseason form.
The 49ers’ offense, however, is not. Well, at least they hope their offense is going to be a whole lot better in the regular season.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a porous offensive line and the rest of the 49ers’ first-team offense was completely flummoxed Saturday night against the Denver Broncos.
The 49ers’ defense kept Peyton Manning out of the end zone in the first half to provide the team’s highlight in the 19-12 loss to Denver.
Undrafted rookie kicker Corey Acosta had second-half field goals of 50, 38 and 29 yards, and veteran Phil Dawson made a 41-yard attempt in the second quarter to account for the 49ers’ scoring.
The bright side for the 49ers is that Bowman looks to be every bit as good as he was when he was selected first-team All-Pro in three consecutive seasons before his grisly knee injury in the NFC Championship game in January 2014.
In the first half, Bowman recorded nine tackles, two sacks as the Broncos managed two field goals and a safety to hold an 8-3 lead after 30 minutes of play.
The big concern for the 49ers was the offense. Kaepernick did not complete a pass until there were just 30 seconds remaining in the first half. He ended up with two completions in five attempts for 13 yards.
With two sacks factored into the team’s total passing yards, the 49ers finished the first half where they began the game -– with zero passing yards.
The 49ers did not earn a first down until their fourth offensive possession. On their third series, Denver outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware got around right tackle Erik Pears for a three-yard sack in the end zone for a safety.
The only real offense the 49ers managed in the first half was with Kaepernick’s legs doing the work. He scrambled 19 yards on a third-and-four, then took off on a 34-yard run. The possession ended with Phil Dawson’s 41-yard field goal.
Kaepernick and the first-team offense did not play in the second half, as Blaine Gabbert took over at quarterback.
The 49ers’ first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown in eight series during the three exhibition games.
Bush, Hunter play: Running backs Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter saw their first action of the exhibition season. Bush returned his first punt four yards, then was indecisive on the second punt attempt and let it roll. The decision did not turn out well, as the Broncos ended up downing the ball at the three-yard line after a 62-yard punt. Bush had one rushing attempt, and he picked up 21 yards on a third-and-22 play.
Hunter played in his first game in 19 months, and it showed. Hunter, returning to action after sustaining a torn ACL in training camp last summer, looked tentative. He carried seven times and gained 15 yards before exiting in the third quarter.
Replacing Brooks: With starting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks excused from team activities and back in the Bay Area, the 49ers gave all the first-half playing time to Corey Lemonier and rookie Eli Harold.
Aaron Lynch, who lined up with the first unit after being cleared for 11-on-11 work at practice upon being activated from the non-football injury list with an undisclosed back condition, did not play in the first half. He entered the game at left outside linebacker in the second half.
Acker reacts: Cornerback Kenneth Acker is making a strong bid for extensive playing time in the regular season. Acker made a great play on the ball to intercept a Peyton Manning pass intended for Demaryius Thomas in the end zone. But, apparently, he forgot he was in the NFL.
After Acker made the interception in the end zone, he got up from the ground and tossed the ball in the air, over his head. Safety Antoine Bethea alertly went after the loose ball, which went out the back of the end zone. The 49ers’ offense took over at the 20-yard line.
Later, Acker made the Broncos settle for a short field goal when he broke up a Manning pass intended for Cody Latimer on a slant pattern at the goal line.
Hayne’s game: Australian import Jarryd Hayne did not see any action in the first half of action, as Bush and rookie DeAndrew White handled the return chores. He showed his ability to get up the field on his first punt return when he blasted through a small opening for a 12-yard return.
The drawback on Hayne is his upright running style, and that was apparent when he was stood up on back-to-back inside runs for no yards. But Hayne demonstrated his pass-catching ability out of the backfield with an 18-yard reception from Gabbert.
On the sideline: Safety Craig Dahl (back), tight end Vance McDonald (left ankle), linebackers Philip Wheeler (leg strain) and Desmond Bishop (left thumb), and cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring) were held out of the game. Dahl appears to be close to returning to action, as he warmed up with the team before the game.
Newly signed Broncos guard Evan Mathis did not suit up for the game. The other Broncos who did not participate due to injuries were: receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerbacks Chris Harris and Tony Carter, linebacker Lerentee McCray, tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Dan Light, and defensive end Kenny Anunike.
This ‘n’ that: The 49ers’ starting offensive line consisted of left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Alex Boone, center Marcus Martin, right guard Ian Silberman and Pears. Late in the first half, Jordan Devey replaced Silberman. Devey was acquired last week in a trade with the New England Patriots for tight end Asante Cleveland. . . With Brock out of action, the 49ers turned to Acker and Keith Reaser to start the game. . . Cornerback Dontae Johnson broke up a potential touchdown pass in the first quarter on a pass intended for wide receiver Damaryius Thomas. Thomas beat Johnson’s jam attempt at the line of scrimmage, but Johnson recovered to make the play. . . Johnson briefly left the game in the second quarter when he took painful hit below the belt from teammate Antoine Bethea as they converged on a tackle . . . Anquan Boldin was called for unnecessary roughness just before the end of the first half with a blind-side hit on free safety Omar Bolden at the end of Torrey Smith’s 5-yard completion.
What’s next: Now, the 49ers turn their attention to the first round of cuts. All NFL teams must trim to a maximum of 75 players by 1 p.m. (PT) on Tuesday. The 49ers will likely make most of their cuts on Sunday and Monday.