After watching the San Francisco 49ers lose, 20-9, to the Houston Texans in both teams’ second preseason game, many thoughts rose to the surface and must have given head coach Jim Harbaugh plenty of food for thought as the crucial third preseason contest approaches next weekend with the first set of cuts looming.
First, we pointed out five key factors to watch in this one. Let’s review:
1. The receivers: Randy Moss showed some speed and sudden acceleration not seen in his game for quite a while. He was impressive enough that the Houston secondary played off him in hopes of compensating in case the big receiver beat them on a route. Still, Moss had three catches for 34 yards, leading all San Francisco receivers.
The rest of the key group of receivers didn’t fare so well, though the offensive line (we’ll get to that) didn’t make things easy for the quarterbacks. Kyle Williams had two catches while Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn, Chris Owusu had one reception each while rookie Bryan Tymes, low on the depth chart but a big, talented receiver who could wind up on the practice squad, had a pair of receptions for 18 yards.
2. The pass rush and linebackers: Linebacker Eric Bakhtari may have nailed down the fourth outside linebacker spot with his seven-tackle performance. He also had a nice quarterback hit as well as a sack, though the latter was called back on a penalty. Without linebackers Aldon Smith (hip) and Ahmad Brooks (knee), Bakhtari started alongside Parys Haralson. Other than sacks from linebacker Joe Holland and rookie safety Michael Thomas, the pass rush didn’t show a lot.
3. The secondary, especially safety Trenton Robinson: The unit didn’t have a spectacular performance and a few young guys were getting picked on all night. Robinson himself, trying to secure a spot on the final 53, had a lone tackle.
4. Offensive line depth: Not great, the Houston pass rush was all over the four San Francisco quarterbacks, harassing them into mediocre performances, just 10 offensive first downs and zero offensive points.
5. The backup quarterbacks: All four — Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien and Josh Johnson — had similar stats with Smith leading the way with five completions and Johnson leading with 64 yards passing. Unlike last week, when Tolzien and Kaepernick each stood out, this week as a unit the quarterbacks were mediocre. Smith also took too many hits from an active Houston pass rush.
We also saw running back Kendall Hunter establish himself as the clear No. 2 back with a solid performance (six carries, 46 yards). Backups Brandon Jacobs (knee) and LaMichael James (ankle) were taken off the field for X-rays, but neither is thought to have sustained any major injury.
James also saw some action on punt returns but did little to impress. Regular punt returner Williams didn’t see any action on returns because the team wanted to see what James could do.
In the kicking game, David Akers went 3-for-3 on field goals, with one a long of 55 yards, but punter Andy Lee, who averaged just over 53 yards per punt, and his punt coverage unit had one brought back for a touchdown by Houston returner Trindon Holliday..