When the 49ers took the field Thursday night for their final exhibition game of the summer, the team’s primary goal was obvious:
Don’t let anybody important get hurt.
Most of San Francisco’s starters on offense and defense never took the field against the Texans in what eventually was a 40-13 49ers victory in Houston against a team that also sat most of its regulars.
Though head coach Jim Harbaugh had said quarterback Colin Kaepernick would play, he didn’t, so struggling backup Blaine Gabbert started – and struggled some more.
Gabbert completed just 4-of-11 passes for 60 yards, with one of those passes going for a 14-yard touchdown to long-shot tight end Asante Cleveland. Gabbert’s final summer performance gave him a summer stat line of 22-of-47 passes completed for 186 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a QB rating of 54.0.
But in a night where it was Backups vs. Backups and one final night for rookies and free agents to state their case before the final 53-man roster is set on Saturday, there were some highlights.
- Running back LaMichael James, with his first extensive action after suffering an elbow injury that sidelined him early in training camp, carried the ball six times for 39 yards and had one 17-yard burst.
- Speedy rookie wideout Bruce Ellington showed what kind of a threat he can be, catching three balls for 35 yards, including a 13-yard scoring pass from No. 3 QB Josh Johnson. He also returned a kickoff 26 yards and had a 44-yard punt return.
- Rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland, locked in a battle with veteran Michael Wilhoite to replace NaVorro Bowman the first half of this coming season, returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown.
With the final preseason game out of the way, the real drama begins – first to determine the final cuts, and then the start of the regular season.
On Sept. 7 at Dallas, the 49ers will trot out their A Team again when the game actually means something.