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Backups Come up Big: Borland, Cleveland, Osgood, Nelson Talk Highlights

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Because of Jim Harbaugh's "battlefield decision" to sit his starters, 49ers reserves had an opportunity to step up, and they did.


HOUSTON – Jim Harbaugh made “a battlefield decision” on Wednesday before the San Francisco 49ers preseason finale against the Houston Texans. 

Many of his starters wouldn’t play.

Meaning that many of his reserves would have an extended opportunity to make plays.

Many of them did in the 49ers 40-13 win at NRG Stadium.

“Like we told the team after the game, there were guys that played the best games of their careers tonight,” Harbaugh said. “That was exciting and what we wanted to see, what we asked them to do. So many guys responded in that way.”

We caught up with four of them after the game to ask about their performance and whether it affects their role on or chance to be a part of San Francisco’s regular season roster.

Tight end Asante Cleveland | 14-yard touchdown catch from Blaine Gabbert in the first quarter

The play: “It was just a corner route. I motioned across the formation, so that gave me the opportunity to read the defense that I was going across. I saw that the guy who was covering me had inside leverage, and I was running an outside route, so I figured I had a chance.”

The payoff: “With the amount of plays that us young guys got to get, I feel like I definitely put a good showing on tape and hopefully made a case for myself. The biggest thing for me is playing both tight end and fullback these past few games. I think I did a good job of helping my chances, not only on offense but on special teams as well.”

Linebacker Chris Borland |34-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter

The play: “My first score since the state championship in high school. It was one of those plays where everything came together. It was a joy. I’m fast enough. They had some guys hawking me down, but I got into the end zone.

“Pre-snap, they had a pretty big split between the second and third receiver. Often times, that’s a tip for an out route by the third receiver, so I was keyed into it before the snap. We were in Cover 2, though, so I had deep responsibilities. I was looking for it, and it paid off.”

The payoff: “Mike (Wilhoite) had a tremendous camp, so I think he has a great shot (at starting at inside linebacker). Whatever happens, I’ll work hard… I have some things to work on… Early on (in camp), I was playing hesitant, but I got more comfrot

Tight end Kyle Nelson | 5-yard and 2-yard touchdown catches in the fourth quarter

The play: “It was just slow-motion. I can’t even remember. Very surreal. Words can’t describe it. All of the coaches, including (tight ends) coach (Eric) Mangini, put unrelenting faith in me to play tight end and help me with the plays. Everyone here wants everyone to succeed.”

The payoff: “I just want to do whatever the team asks me to do. I want to be a 49er, stay here.”

Specialist Kassim Osgood | A safety on a blocked punt in the fourth quarter

The play: “When you’re on special teams, you hope to get blocks or fumble recoveries or score… It’s good to go out with a bang. I’m just trying to make every play that I can.”

The payoff: “Hopefully this sets it up to make their decision hard. I want to stay on this team another year… I just need to make as many plays as I can, go out there and have fun, live in the moment and whatever decision they make, I know it will be best for the team. Hopefully, I’m a part of that.”