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49ers Force Three Turnovers

Posted Aug 27, 2011

For a grand total of nine seconds on Saturday night, the 49ers held all the momentum in their preseason matchup against the Houston Texans at Candlestick Park. While the 49ers would probably like to forget the final 59-plus minutes of the game, there were flashes of positivity to hang their hats on.

Still, there’s no getting around the 30-7 loss.

“The turnovers were a plus, but it was the details that were disappointing,” said defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who recovered a fumble in the second quarter. “All the points that Houston scored were because of missed tackles, not being where we needed to be. They just executed on each one of them.”

In a game marred by miscues and poor execution, the defense’s ability to create turnovers was a major bright spot for the 49ers.

Of all the takeaways on Saturday, none were sweeter than Ahmad Brooks’ interception on the first play of the game. Backed up deep into his own territory, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub tried to dump off a short pass in the right flat when Brooks nabbed it from the air and made a short run to the end zone untouched.

The 49ers’ 7-0 lead would be short-lived, as Houston would score on its next two possessions before putting the game out of reach. Though they went into halftime trailing 24-7, the 49ers were able to force three takeaways before the intermission.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you’re beaten thoroughly in pretty much all phases,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I don’t think defense was quite as bad as special teams and special teams wasn’t quite as bad as the offense.”

Following Brooks’ highlight, Madieu Williams was the next 49er to make a play on defense.

With less than four minutes left to play in the first half, Williams jarred the ball loose and Jean Francois emerged from the pile with the pigskin. Though the outcome wasn’t wanted, Williams was happy with the defense’s ability to make plays.

“Absolutely. That’s something that (defensive coordinator Vic) Fangio has been preaching – to see the defense get their hands on balls,” Williams said. “The turnovers are a positive sign, but we had plenty of opportunities to get off the field on third downs and didn’t get the job done.”

But the change of possession didn’t lead to any points for San Francisco, as the offense went three-and-out on its next drive. On Houston’s following possession, the 49ers were able to force another turnover.

This time it was caused by linebacker Larry Grant, who ran up behind Houston tight end Owen Daniels and punched the ball loose, sending it flying several yards down field into the hands of safety C.J. Spillman.

“All my life I’ve been coached to put my eyes on the ball,” Grant said. “I saw he was holding the ball a little loose and I put my eyes on the ball and fortunately the ball came out.”

Aside from the select moments on defense, Harbaugh was also pleased with the development of some of his young players. Namely, cornerback Chris Culliver and defensive linemen Demarcus Dobbs and Ian Williams.

Culliver, a rookie out of South Carolina, has been regularly featured as the team’s nickel back throughout camp. On Saturday, the rookie racked up a team-high seven tackles, while Harbaugh was quick to point out his tight coverage on the evening.

Listening to Carlos Rogers, who started at cornerback after missing last week’s matchup, the 49ers defense still has plenty up its sleeve.

“Hopefully we will have a lot more than this,” Rogers said. “We’ve been really kind of mellow on defense, run a kind of base defense so you don’t see a lot of things we’ve practiced. … So, this was just a little preview and hopefully once the season starts, we’ll get it.”

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