© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The first quarter of Saturday’s contest between the 49ers and Houston Texans highlighted the type of entertaining, scoring-filled football you hope to see in a preseason game. Both starting offenses yielded touchdowns on opening drives.
The final three quarters featured mostly reserves. And that’s where the scoring halted.
Both teams traded field goals in the third quarter to make the score 10-10 entering the fourth quarter. 49ers third-string quarterback Nick Mullens led a 10-play, 69-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that resulted in a Robbie Gould made field goal, giving the 49ers the 13-10 edge. Mullens, who also staged a late-game comeback in the Thursday preseason opener, finished 6 for 7 with 87 yards and an interception. C.J. Beathard, comparatively, was 10 for 17 with 82 yards.
The Texans responded. Quarterback Joe Webb hit receiver Vyncint Smith for a 41-yard touchdown with 27 seconds remaining to make the score 16-13. The play was reviewed and ultimately upheld. The extra point was missed, giving the 49ers one last chance for a field goal to send the game to overtime. But time eventually ran out on the 49ers, as Victor Bolden caught a 32-yard pass to end the game.
The Texans prevailed, 16-13. With the loss, the 49ers are now 1-1 this preseason.
These preseason games are about starters getting quality reps, giving the reserves much-needed playing time as they battle for roster spots, and most importantly, staying healthy. And for the most part, the 49ers did. Guard Erik Magnuson was the sole 49ers player to leave the game with an injury. He suffered a hamstring strain. Last Thursday, six 49ers players were injured, including five in the opening 15:07 of the game.
The starters’ workload typically progresses into the third game, where they will play the majority of the first half. They rarely play in fourth game.
The 49ers’ offensive starters played two drives Saturday, while Houston’s played just one. And for exception of a couple bad penalties and a tipped pass, the 49ers offense clicked.
Jimmy Garoppolo led an 87-yard touchdown drive to open the game. The offensive starters played the subsequent drive and marched down the field. But two Weston Richburg penalties — the 49ers committed 15 altogether— backed them out of the red zone. Garoppolo slightly overthrew Dante Pettis on the ensuing play, he couldn’t corral the pass, and the Texans intercepted the ball. That was that for the starting offense.
Garoppolo completed 10 of his 12 attempts for 136 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. He converted on six third downs in two drives. Marquise Goodwin added three catches for 61 yards, including a 40-yard catch up the left sideline on the first third down of the game. The 49ers’ starting unit converted six third downs and one fourth down.
The 49ers defense, however, did not fare as well. The Texans easily marched up the field for a 79-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown to Bruce Ellington. The play was covered poorly, with Ellington sitting in an open pocket that Jaquiski Tartt was late to cover.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson completed five of eight passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He did not play beyond the first drive.
Among the additional highlights was an Emmanuel Moseley interception. Fellow rookie Tarvarius Moore dove and tipped the pass, and Moseley scooped it up. In the fourth quarter, Mullens targeted running back Joe Williams in a crowded area, Williams dropped the ball, and it was tipped for an interception.
Williams, the 2017 fourth-round pick, did not help his case of making the 53-man roster. He rushed eight times for 18 yards. Alfred Morris, who signed with the 49ers earlier this week to give them running back depth, did not play, which was surprising. Jeremy McNichols ran 10 times for 28 yards. Raheem Mostert did not record a rush.