HERTFORDSHIRE, England — The site of Sunday's game between the 49ers and Broncos has a retractable roof. But Wembley Stadium's top is only partially retractable, meaning the field isn't protected from the elements, but the fans are.
This somewhat unusual feature isn't a problem for the Niners, who, apparently, wouldn't mind if Wembley also had a sprinkler system without an off switch.
The 49ers have done little to disguise their weather preference for Sunday's game — the wetter the better. Playing with a quarterback making his first start in three years against the Broncos, owners of one of the NFL's most prolific passing offenses, San Francisco is hoping for more of the periodic rains that have marked the first four days of their European adventure.
“Yeah, pretty much,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “We're a mudder football team.”
In contract, the Broncos are a pass-happy bunch. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton is on pace to throw for 4,891 yards this season — that would rank third in NFL history — and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, a former 49er, ranks second in the league in receiving yards and has 14 catches of more than 20 yards, an NFL best.
In contrast, Denver (2-5) ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (68.4), average yards per rush (2.9) and is the only team in the league without a run of more than 20 yards. Making matters worse, their leading rusher, Knowshon Moreno, tweaked a nagging hamstring injury Wednesday in practice although coach Josh McDaniels expects Moreno to play Sunday.
“It doesn't hurt,” Niners defensive end Justin Smith said of possible game-day rains. “And if we can get them in a running game, that's even better.”
Of course, not much has gone right for San Francisco (1-6) this season. And there's no guarantee the weather will cooperate. Sunday's forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain with a game-time temperature of 50 degrees.