INDIANAPOLIS -- The San Francisco 49ers "dress rehearsal" against the Indianapolis Colts yielded some mixed results. Indianapolis led 9-6 at the half and went on to win 23-17. Let's dive into what we saw from the 49ers starters in Week 3 of the preseason.
1. Alfred Morris was sensational for the 49ers. The veteran running back started and ran well throughout the first half. Morris racked up 84 yards on 17 carries (4.9-yard avg.). He exhibited patience, vision and the ability to fall forward at the end of runs. Morris was also perfect in short-yardage situations, moving the sticks on every such opportunity. It's hard to imagine Morris not making this roster, especially given his NFL resume. Morris is a guy you'd feel comfortable with being a dependable replacement if Jerick McKinnon or Matt Breida ever go down during the regular season. He might end up being the 49ers short-yardage back regardless.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo made some nice throws but was unspectacular overall. The first-team offense played the entire first half and even one series into the third quarter. Garoppolo finished with 135 passing yards on 9-of-19 passing. He didn't get much help as the team's pass catchers dropped five passes. Garoppolo also had a few regrettable decisions and was lucky that a few of his throws weren't picked off. The quarterback's longest completion was a 47-yarder to Pierre Garçon.
Still, San Francisco was able to move the ball fairly consistently as the starters racked up 213 total yards. The problem was that the 49ers went 0-for-3 in the red zone. Kyle Shanahan opted to go for it once on 4th-and-1 deep in Indianapolis territory, but the 49ers couldn't convert.
3. San Francisco's starting defense was a bright spot overall. The group opened the game with three consecutive stops against Andrew Luck and the Colts first-team offense. Jeremiah Attaochu recorded a third-down sack on the Colts first drive. The pass rush remained fairly disruptive throughout the first half and probably should have had more than one sack.
The run defense was fantastic. Colts running backs were limited to just five yards on 11 carries. It was Luck who was able to sneak free of the pass rush and beat the 49ers with his legs. A 15-yard scramble on 3rd-and-13 led to Indianapolis' lone score of the first half. A few plays later, Luck hit Eric Ebron for a 15-yard touchdown.
4. Penalties killed the 49ers throughout the game. San Francisco finished with a whopping 10 penalties for 98 yards, something that Shanahan will surely want to clean up in the regular season.
5. Richard Sherman made his preseason debut and recorded a pass breakup the only time he was targeted. Luck was looking for Ryan Grant, but Sherman was able to break it up from behind. Most importantly, Sherman made it through the half healthy. He was seen consistently communicating with Ahkello Witherspoon and Adrian Colbert between plays. Overall it was a very encouraging first impression from Sherman in a game situation.
6. There were two notable injuries for the 49ers. Reuben Foster (concussion) and Jimmie Ward (quad) left the game early. Foster should be cleared from the protocol by the time he returns from suspension in Week 3. It's unclear how severe Ward's quad injury is and whether or not it will impact his availability for Week 1.
7. Dante Pettis returned one punt for 21 yards. The rookie made a few Colts miss on his way up the right sideline. He could very well open as the team's starting punt returner. D.J. Reed and Trent Taylor are the other top candidates.
8. There were a few interesting lineup notes. Fred Warner (MIKE) and Malcolm Smith (WILL) started at inside linebacker. That might be the combination the 49ers roll with for the first two games in Foster's absence. Mike Person started at right guard, but Joshua Garnett saw a few series as well with the first-team offense. Those two appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse to start in Week 1 at that spot.
9. C.J. Beathard didn't play much, but he completed 7-of-8 pass attempts for 83 yards in the second half. His longest completion was a dart down the middle of the field for a 42-yard catch-and-run. Beathard also had, in my opinion, his best throw of the preseason. He took a shot towards the end zone for Pettis and placed his pass perfectly on the receiver's back shoulder. Pettis wasn't able to make the contested catch as the play resulted in an incompletion.
10. Nick Mullens completed a 35-yard deep ball to Aldrick Robinson that set up the 49ers lone touchdown of the game. Mullens capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper across the goal line. We're likely to see a bunch more of Mullens in the preseason finale next week against the Los Angeles Chargers.