The sun is setting over Denver; is it setting on the Broncos’ season? We will learn that answer over the next 15 minutes of game time.
4:40 p.m. MST: San Francisco opens with first-and-10 at its 42. The crowd is boisterous, but its quick silence after a 7-yard Frank Gore run on the play is testament to the uneasiness that seems to permeate the 70,697 onlookers.
4:42 p.m. MST: San Francisco in the red zone after a 35-yard Alex Smith-to-Arnaz Battle pass.
4:44 p.m. MST: Good coverage and pressure from Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers forces Smith to roll left and settle for a toss out of bounds and away from danger. Joe Nedney salvages a 29-yard field goal, however, and the Broncos trail 20-16.
4:47 p.m. MST: First-and-10 from the Denver 28, 11:51 to go, and the Broncos out of timeouts, which could dramatically alter the decisions that follow throughout this period.
4:50 p.m. MST: Mike Nolan challenges the Broncos’ 15-yard Jay Cutler-to-Tatum Bell screen pass. It appeared as though Bell lost the football before hitting the ground. The question is … does replay show that the 49ers definitively recovered it? This play would have been unchangeable a year ago, but the league’s replay regulations were modified in the offseason to allow for reviews of fumbles after the whistle blew.
4:55 p.m. MST: Walt Harris picks the ball up well after the play after Bell fell on the football. What will Larry Nemmers rule?
4:56 p.m. MST: Forty Niners ball, according to Nemmers. Bell laid upon the ball for a second or two. Harris looked like he picked up the football simply to hand it to umpire Undrey Wash. Yet Harris’ casual little procurement — which seems merely like a bit of courtesy to keep an official from kneeling to get the football — gives the 49ers the football at the precipice of scoring position.
5:00 p.m. MST: “Broncos ball, Broncos ball,” chants the crowd after the officials discuss a Smith-to-Taylor Jacobs pass that sees Karl Paymah strip him of the football, pick it up and — eventually, after some prodding from John Lynch — take off.
5:04 p.m. MST: Nemmers still looking in the replay apparatus.
5:05 p.m. MST: Now it’s ruled incomplete. Jacobs took three steps before hitting the ground and losing the football. “How that can be an incomplete pass, I have no idea,” says KOA’s Dave Logan.
5:09 p.m. MST: Third-and-7 from the Denver 9 for the Broncos … and Cutler’s pass for Rod Smith is incomplete for a costly three-and-out. Just 8:44 remains in the game now.
5:11 p.m. MST: Denver needed a booming punt, and Paul Ernster couldn’t deliver, with a 35-yard punt that had a net of just 32 after the return. One play later, Frank Gore has the 49ers in scoring position after a 12-yard run to the Denver 29.
5:13 p.m. MST: Frank Gore up to 119 yards on the ground. San Francisco down to one timeout after Smith can’t get the play off before the snap. Forty Niners face third-and-8 from the Denver 27 after the timeout.
5:15 p.m. MST: Smith in the shotgun … flags fly as San Fran’s Adam Snyder is whistled for a false start.
5:16 p.m. MST: Karl Paymah in good coverage on Jacobs … incomplete in the end zone. Joe Nedney on to attempt a 51-yard field goal … three flags fly as Ebenezer Ekuban was called for a flinch that supposedly caused a Niners lineman to false start. Ekuban took a knee, the Niners reacted, and the five-yard penalty makes it a 46-yard attempt, which Nedney nails. Denver trails 23-16.
5:19 p.m. MST: With a seven-point deficit and no timeouts and 80 yards between his team and the end zone, the Broncos face their biggest possession of the season. It begins with a 3-yard Mike Bell run on first-and-10.
5:20 p.m. MST: Cutler finds Javon Walker, but the ball skips in and out of the wideout’s hands.
5:21 p.m. MST: False start, Denver, Erik Pears. Now third-and-12. The situation grows a little more grim.
5:22 p.m. MST: Mike Bell behind Rod Smith, Ben Hamilton and Tony Scheffler for a 24-yard catch-and-run that puts a little CPR into the Broncos’ season.
5:23 p.m. MST: Bell for eight more yards. Broncos taking their time, huddling between plays. Clock down to 4:10.
5:24 p.m. MST: Cutler to Walker for three yards. First-and-10 from the San Francisco 47. The crowd seems nervous and tight.
5:25 p.m. MST: Cutler for David Kircus, 11 yards, first down to the 36. Less than three minutes remain.
5:26 p.m. MST: A draw play to Mike Bell gains just one yard. Denver huddles before second-and-9. Cutler with a straight drop, and locates Brandon Marshall across the middle at the San Francisco 16. Two-minute warning.
5:28 p.m. MST: Mike Bell does it by himself for seven yards on a screen for Cutler. Clock ticking, down below 1:40. No huddle for the Broncos.
5:28 p.m. MST: Touchdown, Tony Scheffler. PAT is good.
5:29 p.m. MST: Did the Broncos leave too much time for a response? Ninety seconds remain.
5:30 p.m. MST: The rookies got the Broncos to the end zone. It’s now up to the veterans on defense to keep the 49ers out of field-goal range. Fingernails are down to nubs from Grand Junction to Jefferson City as the Chiefs and Broncos’ fans sit nervously awaiting this result.
5:31 p.m. MST: Kickoff return to the San Fran 34. That continues to be a bugaboo.
5:32 p.m. MST: Niners with second-and-5 from the 39. Smith under center. Blitzed by a horde of Broncos; there’s bringing the house, but that was bringing the mansion … Smith tosses it softly for Gore, who can’t quite hang on.
5:33 p.m. MST: Handoff to Gore, who is three yards short of the first down. Five seconds difference between the game clock and play clock.
5:34 p.m. MST: Overtime. “We will toss the coin at midfield for the overtime.” Where else would it be tossed — in the tunnel? In the broadcast booth?
5:35 p.m. MST: San Francisco calls heads. It is tails — for a second coin toss today.
5:39 p.m. MST: Crowd going bonkers as overtime begins. Nedney’s kickoff sails 71 yards and is returned 28 yards.
5:40 p.m. MST: Flanker screen to Marshall goes for just one yard — although it actually went about a foot … Second-and-9, and Smith takes the pass and runs right for the sticks. First down.
5:41 p.m. MST: Back-to-back plays to Mike Bell up the middle leave Denver about a yard and a half short of the first down … third-and-a-long-1 from the Denver 46. Bell collided with Bryant Young on the second of those carries; Bell stays in while Young leaves, a little shaken up.
5:42 p.m. MST: Bell loses his footing as he takes the handoff … he nearly lost the ball, but falls on it. That leaves fourth-and-4 from the 43, and sends Paul Ernster onto the field to punt.
5:43 p.m. MST: Ernster uncorks a 46-yard punt … nice and high, fair caught. Just what the Broncos desperately needed. Crowd chanting “Defense.” Most of the spectators are on their feet.
5:43 p.m. MST: Gore picks up six yards on first down — right up the middle.
5:44 p.m. MST: First down, Niners after Smith finds Gore for six more yards.
5:46 p.m. MST: Another first down as Smith finds Michael Robinson open across the middle to the 49ers 40. About 25 yards away from field-goal range now.
5:47 p.m. MST: Now to midfield after Gore slams 10 yards up the left side. With injuries all around, the defense might be a little tired.
5:48 p.m. MST: Heavy doses of Gore now. Six yards up the middle.
5:48 p.m. MST: Gore can’t get anywhere as he looks to bounce outside. Third-and-4 from the 44 upcoming … biggest play of the year for the Broncos.
5:48 p.m. MST: Smith blitzed. His throw overshoots everyone. The “incomplete” chant has rarely sounded louder.
5:49 p.m. MST: With 7:01 left, Kircus calls for the fair catch at the Denver 11. Broncos desperately need at least a couple of first downs here to at least get some field position.
5:50 p.m. MST: Cutler’s first-and-10 pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage. Mike Bell slams forward for six yards on second down. Monstrous third-and-4 play awaits.
5:51 p.m. MST: Cutler for Walker … huge lunge by Walker for the first down.
5:52 p.m. MST: Tatum Bell back in the game … he gets two yards on a screen pass. Clock down to 5:15. Broncos taking their time between plays.
5:53 p.m. MST: Clock down to 4:52 as flags fly … false start on Ben Hamilton puts the Broncos back at their 19 with second-and-13.
5:53 p.m. MST: Forty Niners call timeout.
5:54 p.m. MST: Cutler for Brandon Marshall … he dives for the ball, and can’t quite hang on. Instead of first-and-10 at the 40, it’s third-and-13 from the 19. Clock stopped with 4:45 left.
5:55 p.m. MST: Ernster needs another punt like he uncorked earlier in overtime … and he gets it, but Brandon Williams returns it to the 49ers 39. The net yardage is 42.
5:57 p.m. MST: First-and-10 from the 39 … and a reverse gets the 49ers to the Denver 41.
5:58 p.m. MST: Smith under pressure and throws incomplete to the left side. Crowd on its feet, but nervous.
5:58 p.m. MST: Second-and-10 from the Denver 41 … Gore goes left out of the I-formation for two yards.
5:59 p.m. MST: Third-and-8 from the Denver 39 … the way Nedney has been booming it on kickoffs, this IS field-goal range … but it’s academic after a 14-yard completion to Gilmore in front of Karl Paymah. Just 3:16 remains in overtime … and possibly the Broncos’ season.
6 p.m. MST: I-formation … Gore up the middle for four yards to the 21. The stadium is deathly silent after that run. Some spectators have turned and headed towards the exits.
6:01 p.m. MST: Gore up the middle for three more. Two-minute warning.
6:03 p.m. MST: Niners choose to kick on third down. Nedney, a former Bronco, sticks the stake in the heart of his former team with a 36-yard field goal. Ballgame, Broncos lose, 26-23.
Tags: San Francisco 49ers