SANTA CLARA — Fans who have been reading about Brian Hoyer’s training-camp heroics probably are wondering what the fuss is about.
The 49ers’ starting quarterback, who has looked masterful on the practice field, including during mid-week scrimmages with the Denver Broncos, seemed clownish against them on Saturday, especially during back-to-back plays in which he tripped over his own feet on one and then lost his grip on the ball as he was attempting a pass on the other.
The Broncos recovered the fumble and turned it into a field goal. On the ensuing series, Hoyer’s over-the-middle pass to Marquise Goodwin was slightly behind the receiver, who couldn’t control the ball and allowed cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris to wrestle it free for an interception.
That, too, turned into three points for the Broncos. Backup running back Tim Hightower lost the ball on the 49ers’ next offensive possession, meaning four, first-half series from the starters ended with: punt, fumble, interception, fumble.
Adding to that dud: The Broncos began the game without seven defensive starters, including Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. The four regulars who did begin the game were on the sideline early in the second quarter.
Hoyer finished the half 8-11 for 89 yards and a 58.5 passer rating. He did connect three times for 44 yards with Goodwin, whom the Broncos had trouble covering in Wednesday’s joint practice. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who promises to be a big part of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, had his first catch of the preseason, one that went 21 yards and which Juszczyk punctuated by bulldozing a Broncos linebacker.
Rookie starter — Rookie Lorenzo Jerome made his second straight start at free safety, stopping a short pass play for a 1-yard gain on the game’s first play and then making a tackle at the goal line on Denver’s second series.
Jerome, who played at St. Francis University, has been substituting for Jimmie Ward, who is expected to return from a hamstring injury in the upcoming week. He’s one of several undrafted players who have made an impression this summer and, of that group, he has the best chance of landing a spot on the 53-man roster.
Ward, DeForest Buckner (ankle) and Joshua Garnett (knee) are would-be starters who did not play. Ward and Buckner are expected to be ready for the Sept. 10 opener against the Carolina Panthers; Garnett could take a little longer to come back from surgery earlier this month.
Defensive ends Aaron Lynch (ankle) and Ronald Blair (groin) also did not play, nor did receiver Aaron Burbridge (hamstring) and cornerback Will Redmond (ankle).
Familiar faces — The 49ers’ team captains for Saturday’s game — guard Zane Beadles, running back Kapri Bibbs, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Dekoda Watson — had a theme: They all played for Denver earlier in their career.
Bibbs and Watson were with the Broncos last season. Beadles, who started the game at left guard, was there from 20010-13, and Dumervil played in Denver from 2006-’12.
On the other side, Broncos tight ends coach Geep Chryst served as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2015. Their head coach, Vance Joseph, was a 49ers assistant from 2005-10.
Et cetera — Last week against the Chiefs that 49ers were victimized by a blocked punt and a blocked field goal. On Saturday, they had a turnover on Denver’s first punt of the game when it was ruled that the ball touched Jaquiski Tartt as he was running down field.
* Eli Harold unexpectedly started the game at strong-side linebacker ahead of Ahmad Brooks. The 49ers coaches may be evaluating Harold and Watson, who also plays the position and who is a regular on special teams coverage units.
* Unlike last year when prominent 49ers and Broncos kneeled during the anthem, all the players on both sides were on their feet during Saturday.