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Colin Kaepernick had a front-row seat for history.
Only, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback didn’t exactly have much of a chance to appreciate the NFL record set by Peyton Manning, who broke Brett Favre’s career mark for touchdown passes Sunday night during the Denver Broncos’ 42-17 victory.
No, Kaepernick was way too busy trying to figure out how to spark a stagnant offense.
“Peyton’s able to put up a lot of points,” Kaepernick said. “We knew we were going to have to score points, regardless.”
Especially on this night, with Manning so motivated.
The five-time MVP surpassed Favre with an 8-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas late in the second quarter, giving Manning 509 touchdown passes. He pushed his total to 510 in the third quarter with his fourth scoring pass of the evening before taking most of the final quarter off.
“He’s a very smart player,” Kaepernick said of his counterpart. “He knows where he wants to go with the ball, how he wants to attack different defenses.”
Manning’s final numbers: 22 of 26 for 318 yards.
Kaepernick’s weren’t quite as impressive: 24 of 39 for 263 yards and an interception. Of course, he also was on the run most of the night and got sacked six times.
Part of that had to do with his patchwork offensive line. The 49ers (4-3) were already missing Mike Iupati (concussion). In the third quarter, center Daniel Kilgore was carted off the field with what might be a broken left ankle.
“Onward,” said San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team heads into a much-needed bye week. “We’ll rally. Our team will be good at that.”
Little mistakes hurt the 49ers against Manning and the Broncos (5-1). Like when Anquan Boldin took his eyes off a pass on third-and-goal from the 4 in the second quarter and the ball fell to the turf. So they settled for a 22-yard field goal from Phil Dawson.
Kaepernick also threw a costly interception in the third quarter, one that set up Manning’s fourth TD of the night — a 40-yarder to Thomas that made it 28-10.
This is one game film the 49ers might rather burn than view again.
“You don’t throw it away,” Kaepernick said. “You see what you did wrong and make sure you correct it so it doesn’t happen again.”
The 49ers were almost extras in this episode of the Peyton Manning show. Nothing they threw at him even remotely confused him.
This didn’t help their cause, either: San Francisco was missing inside linebacker Patrick Willis (strained toe) and cornerback Chris Culliver (hamstring, shoulder). So in stepped rookie Chris Borland for the All-Pro Willis, and former Bronco Perrish Cox for Culliver.
Not an ideal situation.
“We never make any excuses. We give credit where it’s due — the Broncos came out and played better football than we did,” Willis said. “It showed on the scoreboard.”
Willis said it was tough being nothing more than a spectator as his teammates struggled.
“I’m not here to say that if I’d have been out there the score would’ve been any different, or to say I would’ve stopped that offense myself,” Willis said. “I’m not saying that by any means.
“To watch it, that hurt. … We’ll watch film tomorrow, put this film behind us, go into this bye week, clear our heads of anything that’s happened in first half of the season and get ready for the second half.”
After Manning’s record-breaking touchdown pass in the second quarter, the celebration was on, but not before some good-natured ribbing from his receivers.
Thomas tossed the souvenir ball over Manning’s head and to Emmanuel Sanders, who then lobbed it to Wes Welker. From there, Welker tossed it back to Sanders, who then threw it to Julius Thomas — all of Manning’s favorite targets getting into the act.
Finally, the ball was handed off to Manning near the sideline as the crowd cheered. Favre and Broncos boss John Elway, himself a Hall of Fame QB, gave video tributes to Manning on the scoreboard.
“Those guys are all great athletes and my vertical leap isn’t what it used to be. I haven’t played keep-away since I was 8 years old,” Manning said. “That is something I will always remember.”
NOTES: Kaepernick showed up for his postgame news conference wearing his pink “Beats by Dre” around his neck. Only this time the brand name was taped over. He was recently fined $10,000 for wearing that brand of headphones. The league’s contract is with Bose. … Backup QB Blaine Gabbert threw a 20-yard TD pass to WR Bruce Ellington with a minute left.
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