SANTA CLARA — Ronnie Bell was the top target in the 49ers' 21-20 preseason win over the Denver Broncos, but it’s the incompletions that remain on the rookie receiver’s mind.
Bell finished the night catching passes from all three quarterbacks that took the field on Saturday evening at Levi’s Stadium. The Michigan product caught seven of his nine targets for 114 yards. That's impressive for a rookie receiver, but two mishaps will haunt him for a while.
“After having having such a great game all you can think about is the one,” Bell told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday. “In the heat of battle, it’s next play. It’s not hard to move on. But now, it’s all I can think about. Just got to keep pushing and correct my mistakes.”
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Right before the end of the half, Bell caught an 8-yard pass from Sam Darnold, but when he turned to make a football move up the field, the ball was dislodged from his arms by two Broncos defenders. Luckily for the rookie, tight end Troy Fumagalli was able to recover the ball.
Later at the beginning of the third quarter, Bell was unable to grab pass from Darnold. The ball went through the receiver’s hands, glanced off his helmet into the arms of Broncos cornerback Essang Bassey for an interception.
The play was eerily similar to when Bell was unable to hold onto a ball in the club’s first preseason contest facing the Las Vegas Raiders. What should have been a touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to Bell ended up in the hands of Raiders cornerback Sam Webb for a turnover.
“I feel like it’s a huge blessing for coach to call my number and the quarterbacks to trust it, especially me putting two balls in the ground,” Bell said. “For them to still want to come back to me is big time.”
San Francisco 49ers
Bell was on the field for 48 offensive plays, the most of any offensive player. The wideout’s extensive playing time was partially due to the team being without Ray-Ray McCloud III (wrist) and losing Danny Gray (shoulder) on the opening kickoff.
Not only was Bell on the the field for the offense, but also the seventh-round pick contributed to return duties with one return apiece on punts and kickoffs. Coach Kyle Shanahan appreciates the playmaking abilities of his young receiver but stressed the need to eliminate the mistakes.
“He's missed two of those, which were very similar,” Shanahan said after the game. “Both of them led to picks. But, I think all you saw the plays he has made. Just with the ball in his hand breaking tackles, I think that's a lot for a guy to do that in his first two games as a punt returner and as a receiver.
“Shows that he can hang with our group and hopefully he can clean this stuff up because we did give him a lot of opportunities. So, by no means was he perfect, he's still got a long way to go and he has got to get better.”
Bell will have another opportunity to show he can play with less mistakes on Friday evening when the club hosts the Los Angeles Chargers at 7 p.m. PT.