Dres Anderson missed the end zone. It had been nearly two years since his last touchdown. That made his game-winning, 30-yard touchdown catch against the Denver Broncos even sweeter.
The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver spent his entire rookie season on the Non-football Injury List in 2015. Anderson also finished his college career on the shelf at Utah. That's why you won't find the wideout ever taking his game reps for granted.
"I'm just grateful to be back on the field. The past couple of years I've been going through some things," Anderson said. "It was a grind like no other. You've got to go through it to truly believe how hard it is. I'm excited for this opportunity."
The 49ers had the ball on the Broncos 30-yard line with a 24-17 advantage and 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. Anderson and quarterback Christian Ponder both diagnosed that Denver came out in Cover-0, meaning the cornerbacks had no help over the top.
"The middle of the field was wide open," Anderson said. "I just had to beat my man and run to the green grass."
Anderson did beat his man on a post route. Ponder, with the help of a crucial blitz pickup from Kendall Gaskins, avoided pressure and delivered a perfect ball to the middle of the end zone.
"Christian put it up there, and I made a play on it," Anderson said. "It felt like slow motion. I knew when the ball got to me I had to grab it because (the defender) was going to hit me in the back. I knew he was coming."
There was no planned touchdown celebration. Anderson's first instinct was to check with the referee to make sure he secured the ball as he fell to the ground.
Then, still seated in the end zone, the receiver raised his arms simultaneously with the ref to signal the score.
"I'm going to get my celebration game up," Anderson joked. "Right there it was just hype-ness. I was excited."
San Francisco's equipment staff secured the ball for Anderson to make sure it got back to the Bay Area safely. Anderson added that his phone was blowing up with congratulatory texts. The second-year pass-catcher hopes his touchdown in San Francisco's 31-24 preseason victory is the first of many to come in 2016.
"I'm just trying to do my best to help this team in any way: special teams or offense," Anderson said. "I (want to) stay healthy and make plays every time I'm on the field."