The San Francisco 49ers hosted the Houston Texans at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday for their first of four preseason exhibition games. The Texans were able to come out on top at the end of four quarters, 24-13. While it was not the most entertaining game, both sets of coaches were able to watch their players take part in a competitive game and assess where certain individuals stand.
On the 49er’s side, quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat out of the preseason game due to shoulder soreness on his throwing arm, which left the start to Blaine Gabbert. The two are supposed to battled it out for the starting job, but as long as Kaepernick is on the sidelines Gabbert can only better his chances. Although, it must be said that Gabbert did not do anything extraordinary to elevate his chances of earning the number one spot after one game. He instead delivered some good moments and a dose of underwhelming moments – especially early on in the contest.
On the other side, the Texans have their own injuries to deal with. Linebacker Brian Cushing was rested and star defensive end J.J. Watt sat out as well due to a back injury, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. While glorified linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is once again on the sidelines due a knee soreness. Though sitting Clowney out is said to be precautionary, all Texans fans are holding their breath as they are more than aware of the track record the linebacker has created in the past two seasons – in which he has only started 11 games. Therefore, Houston will be hoping Clowney can get back to participating with the team this upcoming week to ease the fans anxiousness.
Gabbert began the game unconvincingly as he could not connect basic passes to his open teammates. On the first play, running back Carlos Hyde ran a flat route and Gabbert mistakenly threw it behind Hyde for the incompletion. On the ensuing play he failed to throw an accurate pass to his receiver on a slant route, followed by another incompletion on the attempted screen pass to Hyde. Three easy throws and three incompletions. Not the way you show the coaching staff that you are ready to lead a team into the regular season. On 49er’s second drive, Gabbert’s situation went from bad to worse as he under-threw a pass to wide receiver Quinton Patton after peddling backwards after the snap. On the next play, Gabbert handed the ball off to Hyde and Vince Wilfork was there to lay a critical hit and force the ball loose. Linebacker John Simon was aware of the loose ball and picked it up to take it to the house from 41-yards out. The fumble return was the first score of the game which gave the Texans and eventual 7-0 lead. Though after two unproductive drives for Gabbert and the offense, the third was one to be satisfied about. Gabbert was able to show off his mobility in and outside of the pocket on the drive, converting a third down with a 13-yard run. Best play of the game came on the Texans 43-yard line, second and ten, Gabbert was able to find Vance McDonald open on the right side of the field for the 43-yard touchdown and level the score at 7-7. The touchdown play would be the last play for Gabbert and it was much needed after the extremely poor start.
The former first round pick did not exactly help his case for the starting job with the inconsistent passing, but did get some sort of redemption with the touchdown which has to give him confidence going into the next week’s game. You have to take the good with the bad and that was the exact situation for Chip Kelly and his coaching staff. In terms of offensive scheme, the 49ers were able to run 50 plays in the first half with the implementation of Kelly’s fast paced offense. The quality of the plays will be important to note as running plays quickly just for the sake of being fast paced will not do damage to an opponent’s defense.
Houston’s quarterback, Brock Osweiler, put in a performance that paralleled Gabbert’s in that it was nothing amazing or something that got the fans raving about their new quarterback. Osweiler threw 4-7 for 27-yards and was sacked once in the three drives he took part in. He obviously did not take any chances down the field and was a much conserved play caller. Perhaps with another week to learn the offense, Osweiler will get his chances to take some chances down the field. Texans fans will definitely be looking for more from their quarterback who oddly enough is a Super Bowl champion, although rarely appearing on the field for the Denver Broncos last year.
Both teams have lots to work on, but for now they will be happy that they got their first preseason game under their belt. Next, the 49ers will head to Denver to take on the Broncos on Saturday, August 20. While the Texans will host the New Orleans Saints on the Saturday.