By: Joe Lami
SANTA CLARA,Calif.—Chip Kelly introduced his famous up-tempo style of offense to 49ers’ fans on Sunday in Santa Clara, as San Francisco lost to the Houston Texans 24-13 for their first pre-season game of the year. It did not start off well, as the Niners went three-and-out just 41 seconds into the contest.
The second drive didn’t get much better, as Carlos Hyde put the ball of the turf, which was picked up by Houston linebacker John Simon and brought back 41 yards for a touchdown, making it 7-0 Texans.
However, San Francisco was able to shake the nerves out as Gabbert led an 80-yard drive that was capped off a beautiful touchdown pass to Vance McDonald. McDonald was left open along the left sideline and beat one man for the 43-yard score. Gabbert’s only touchdown of the day came on his last throw of the day, as he was taken off for Thad Lewis. Gabbert finished the contest four of ten passing for 63 yards and one score. Kelly commented on the play of Gabbert, mentioning that he was up and down, but once he got settled he did a nice job.
Thad Lewis, marked as San Francisco’s third string quarterback on the depth chart backed-up Gabbert after Colin Kaepernick was ruled out early Sunday afternoon due to soreness in his throwing shoulder, something he had been battling with all week during practice. Kelly mentioned after the game that he knew Kaepernick wasn’t fit enough to play after practices on Saturday. “It wouldn’t have been fair for him to play if he wasn’t 100%” Kelly added. Kaepernick is expected to be healthy enough to play against Denver next Saturday, in which he’s expected to get first team reps.
For those fans not familiar with Lewis, he has been bounced around from team to team since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Last season, he was brought in by Kelly in Philadelphia as a potential backup option for the Eagles.
Kelly has liked Lewis so much that he has decided to bring Thad with him to his new gig in San Francisco. Lewis saw the majority of snaps on Sunday, finishing 12 of 21 for 97 yards and zero touchdowns.
Much anticipated draft pick, John Driskel came in to finish the game in the fourth quarter after Lewis went down with a lower leg injury. Driskel, a sixth-round pick of the 49ers’’ in this past year’s draft came off of the third best season in Louisiana Tech history, throwing for over 4,000 yards.
Best known for his time as a Florida Gator, in which he led the Gators to a 12-2 season in 2012. Injuries plagued him after that, forcing him to redshirt and eventually lose his starting job before transferring to the Bulldogs.
Driskel finished the day with 4 of 12 passing for 20 yards, but was efficientt on his feet, rushing for 61 yards on five attempts.
San Francisco’s ground attack was very strong, as they finished with 236 yards. Mike Davis led the way with 72 yards on only five carries. Carlos Hyde was only able to get 27 yards on the same work load.
Other notable 49ers’ rookies to see lots of playing time were first-round picks DeForest Buckner and Joshua Garnett. Buckner finished with three tackles, while Garnett looked very strong coming in as the team’s second string left guard. Kelly has loved the play of the former Duck so far, “he’s been pushing and has played well all camp,” he added.
Garnett isn’t expecting to become the team’s starter as the left guard, but is working his hardest at improving his game. Through training camp, he mentioned that he’s been working on his double team, something that he struggled with at Stanford. Through his first game, improvement has been shown but there is still a lot of work left to do, especially with his pad level and foot positioning at the NFL level.