A week ago in the 49ers’ exhibition opener against the Vikings, the play of newcomer Brandon Jacobs was one of the highlights.
The way the big former Giants running back picked up short-yardage first downs and showed a burst past the line of scrimmage seemed to indicate the Niners’ backfield could be one of the best in the NFL this season.
Saturday night, however, Jacobs’ early injury in the 49ers’ 20-9 loss in Houston to the Texans – and then a later injury to rookie running back LaMichael James -- gave the Niners and their fans a scare and provided reasons No. 1,037 and 1,038 why coaches pray before every exhibition game that they can just survive the meaningless matchups without suffering key injuries.
Both Jacobs, who took a hit to a knee in the first quarter, and James, who suffered some kind of damage to his left foot or ankle in the fourth quarter, were carted off the field and taken in for X-rays to assess the damages.
Early reports indicated that the injury to James – who was reported able to walk with a limp shortly after the game – may not be serious.
The injury to Jacobs, however, could be more severe.
Jacobs took a direct hit on his left knee on a tackle by Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson after picking up 8 yards on his first carry on San Francisco’ second series of the game. X-rays on the knee Saturday night were negative, the team reported, but the severity of the injury may not be determined until Sunday, after the team returns home to San Francisco and Jacobs can undergo an MRI. Head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters after the game he believed Jacobs would be sidelined for a while, but that his injury isn’t season-ending.
Should Jacobs or James be sidelined for any length of time, it would be an unfortunate occurrence for the 49ers, who have been working the two into the offense and were looking forward to the versatility the two would provide this season.
Fortunately, the 49ers’ backfield is deep.
Frank Gore – who started Saturday night – picked up 12 yards on just two carries, and second-year pro Kendall Hunter again looked good, averaging 7.7 yards per carry (46 yards on six rushes), with a long gain of 17.
The play of Hunter and linebacker Eric Bakhtiari were among Saturday night’s highlights. Bakhtiari, trying to make the team as a backup outside linebacker and special teams player, had seven tackles to lead the 49ers. Wide receiver Randy Moss also made his first catches in a 49ers uniform, picking up 24 yards on three receptions.
In the battle of the backup quarterbacks on the 49ers roster (starter Alex Smith exited after completing five of his nine passes), Colin Kaepernick was 4-of-8, Josh Johnson 4-of-6 and Scott Tolzien 4-of-9 – with none throwing an interception.
San Francisco could muster just three David Akers field goals and gave up an 87-yard punt return to Trindon Holliday in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for Houston.
The Niners' third exhibition game is Sunday, Aug. 26, at Denver against Peyton Manning and the Broncos at 1 p.m.