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Vance McDonald Starts 2016 with 43-yard TD

Garrett Celek had two options when he caught the ball at the Houston Texans 29-yard line with one man to beat: run through the safety waiting for him or try to make a move and go around him.

The San Francisco 49ers tight end ultimately decided to put the shakes on Quintin Demps.

The result? A 43-yard catch-and-run for the 49ers first touchdown of the preseason.

"My initial thought was just to run him over," McDonald said of his first-quarter touchdown in Sunday night's preseason opener. "Then I decided to try and run around him, and it ended up working out."

McDonald saw the safeties rotate before the snap, which meant he'd be 1-on-1 against a linebacker. Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney fell down on the play, and Gabbert hit his tight end in stride. McDonald did the rest.

The long touchdown highlighted a productive first half for the 49ers offense. The first half of football in the Chip Kelly era resulted in 50 offensive snaps and 302 total yards.

"I thought we played really well in the first half," McDonald said. "It was really fun to see what we could do with the ones, tempo-wise and kind of wear the defense out."

"Fun" was the word McDonald reiterated when describing his initial game experience in San Francisco's new offense. The 6-foot-4 tight end caught both of his targets in the game for 54 yards and the previously mentioned touchdown. 

Days like Sunday show that McDonald is doing his part to build on a career year in 2015. The former second-round pick scored the first three touchdowns of his career last season and set career highs with 30 catches for 326 yards. 

Kelly has never been shy about using tight ends. Philadelphia Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek had a combined 102 receptions in 2015. That means there should be ample opportunity for McDonald and the rest of San Francisco's tight end corps to thrive in 2016.

"I think Chip's done a great job, the coaching staff, too, just keeping everything super fresh, and that's how we approached the game tonight," McDonald said.

McDonald was also asked to weigh in on the ongoing quarterback competition between Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. The tight end noted that everyone wished Kaepernick could have played in the game.

He was also complimentary of Gabbert's play against Houston.

"He came out, and we were really smooth," McDonald said. "I thought we operated well as an offense. I think Blaine handled himself really well tonight."

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