SANTA CLARA–Kyle Shanahan had never seen Brian Hoyer do it.
Hoyer didn’t even remember the last time it happened to him.
But with the clock winding down in the first quarter, a 49ers’ offense that wound up making too many mistakes on Saturday evening made a baffling, bizarre error.
On 3rd down and 11, Hoyer dropped back to pass, and as he cocked his arm back to throw, the football slipped out of his hand, flew up in the air, landed on the ground and was recovered by Broncos’ defensive end Shelby Harris.
Though no Broncos’ player touched Hoyer in his drop, and no Denver player appeared to put significant pressure on Hoyer on the play, the 49ers’ quarterback lost control of the ball, and lost control of another 49ers’ drive.
“I was getting ready to rip it to (Jeremy) Kerley,” Hoyer said. “He ran a double move route and I thought he was going to go in and I went to throw it and I was going to throw it hard and literally I think my arm even went forward and I was looking around like what happened to the ball. My quarterback coach asked me when’s the last time that happened to you and I think maybe a few years ago in practice it happened one time. I’ve never really had that happen in a game. So it’s like the worst feeling. You go to throw the ball and all of a sudden you’re looking around and you have no idea where it is and it literally is the worst feeling that I’ve had as a quarterback.”
Hoyer’s fumble was a confounding, once-every-few-years type of a play that wound up defining a tough offensive night for San Francisco’s starting unit. It was the type of mistake that Shanahan couldn’t become too alarmed about, because it was simply an unfortunate play that’s uncharacteristic of a quarterback with Hoyer’s experience.
“I didn’t need to talk to him, I saw it and it slipped,” Shanahan said. “He went back to throw and it just slipped out of his hand so, unfortunate for him.”
Though there wasn’t much Hoyer could do about the giveaway, it did mark the second time the 49ers had turned the ball over on Saturday evening against the Broncos, even though it was only San Francisco’s second offensive series. Earlier in the quarter, a Broncos’ punt bounced off the calf of a 49ers’ player, which allowed Denver to recover and set up the team’s first touchdown of the night.
After taking a 7-0 lead off of one 49ers’ turnover, Denver benefited again from the Hoyer fumble, which took the quarterback’s head coach by surprise.
“I’m sure it’s happened to him in his life, he’s played quarterback for a long time, but it doesn’t happen very much,” Shanahan said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen it that I can remember.”
Following Saturday’s 33-14 loss to the Broncos, Hoyer said he couldn’t give a reason for why the ball slipped out of his hand, but he didn’t think his grip was an issue.
“I mean I couldn’t tell you,” Hoyer said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on out there and all I know is I went to go throw the ball and my arm went forward and the ball wasn’t in it.”