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Denver Broncos defense stifles 49ers in exhibition opener

Denver Broncos effectively shut down San Francisco's offense Thursday night. It was the first preseason game for both the Denver Broncos and 49ers.

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San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James (2nd L) fumbles during the first quarter of their NFL pre-season football game against the Denver Broncos in San Francisco, California August 8, 2013.

Stephen Lam/REUTERS

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Denver linebacker Shaun Phillips has forced enough fumbles in his day that he doesn't mind the occasional cleanup job of just pouncing on the ball and safely recovering it.

He got a little more than that in the Broncos' 10-6 exhibition win against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, scooping up D.J. Harper's second-quarter fumble and returning it 9 yards for the game's lone touchdown.

The rest of the defense did its part making plays all over the field, too. The Super Bowl runner-up 49ers had issues in all phases.

Here are five reasons this game didn't live up to the hype of potential Super Bowl preview for what many consider the best two teams in the NFL — San Francisco and Denver are 1-2 in the AP Pro32 NFL power rankings.

1. THE QUARTERBACKS: Those fans at Candlestick Park who were still in the concession lines or garnishing their hot dogs might have missed the two star quarterbacks on either side — Broncos veteran Peyton Manning and third-year pro Colin Kaepernick — as they played all of one series each. Kaepernick completed all four of his passes, two to Anquan Boldin in his 49ers debut after being acquired in a trade from the Ravens. Manning was 2 for 4 for 13 yards.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had considered giving Kaepernick one more series, but liked what he saw from the first-team offense — however brief.

"The execution was good," Harbaugh said. "I felt like he had gotten enough reps."

2. BALL-HAWKING BRONCOS: Defense won this game, Denver's defense. Phillips' fumble return and touchdown highlighted a four-turnover night produced by the Broncos D. The unit held San Francisco to 288 yards — 68 more than Denver managed — and kept the 49ers out of the end zone.

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