View photos from the 49ers first preseason game against the Houston Texans.
The Chip Kelly era got off to a quality start on Sunday night, but in the end, the result wasn't the desired outcome.
Kelly's San Francisco 49ers opened the 2016 preseason with an impressive first-half showing, but ultimately lost the game to the visiting Houston Texans, 24-13.
San Francisco's starters played for the majority of the first quarter against a quality AFC opponent. The offensive and defensive units provided several noteworthy plays while building a 13-7 advantage at the half. The team's youth was also on display throughout the evening.
"Overall, there was a lot of things to be excited about, but a lot of things to clean up," Kelly said.
Here's what we learned from Kelly's first game as 49ers head coach.
Gabbert Starts, Leads Offense to 7 Points
With Colin Kaepernick given the night off (shoulder soreness), Blaine Gabbert made the most of his time with the starting offense. Behind a line of left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Zane Beadles, center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Andrew Tiller and right tackle Trent Brown, Gabbert led the 49ers to a scoring drive on the unit's third possession of the game.
Following a three-and-out and a Pierre Garçon fumble that was returned 41 yards for a Houston touchdown, Gabbert calmly marched the offense to its first score of the game. Kelly kept his offense on the field to convert a 4th-and-1 from own 40-yard line and the unit converted on a short carry by Hyde. Gabbert proceeded to run for 13 yards of his own to pick up another first down. Two plays later, Gabbert connected with tight end Garrett Celek on a deep corner route down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. The fourth-year tight end snatched the ball out of the air and promptly darted up the field, splitting a pair of Houston defenders on his way into the end zone.
"I thought the ball he threw to Vance was outstanding," Kelly said.
Gabbert was replaced on the fourth San Francisco drive by veteran signal-caller Thad Lewis. Gabbert finished the night 4-of-10 passing for 63 yards with one touchdown pass and a quarterback rating of 95.0.
The Gabbert-Kaepernick competition figures to heat up next week when the 49ers face the Denver Broncos for multiple joint practices before a Week 2 preseason contest.
Starting Defense Keeps Houston off the Board
Jim O'Neil's defense had a Krispy Kreme-like performance on Sunday.
The unit handed out doughnuts left and right. Houston was held to 0 points with starting quarterback Brock Osweiler on the field for three drives. After giving up a 14-yard gain to Lamar Miller on Houston's first snap of the game, the 49ers defense settled down and forced a punt. The first series was highlighted by a Tramaine Brock pass breakup. The veteran cornerback swatted away Osweiler's second-down go route intended for DeAndre Hopkins down the right sideline. Hopkins finished the game with no catches and was targeted just once.
The starting defense rotated inside linebackers next to NaVorro Bowman and maintained its strong level of play throughout the first quarter. Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges and Ray-Ray Armstrong all took turns with the first defense in that order.
First-round draft pick DeForest Buckner played left defensive tackle with the starting defense in place of Arik Armstead, who took the night off due to an upper-body injury. Buckner was credited with three tackles in his preseason debut.
Houston managed to produce six first downs and 89 total yards in the first half. The Texans also converted only one of six tries on third down. The stingy performance bodes well for the defense heading into next week's workload in Denver.
Nickel CB Makes Timely Stops
Chris Davis entered the 2016 offseason as a relative unknown for San Francisco's defense.
This might not be the case after his performance against the Texans.
Following Brooks' sack, Davis tackled rookie Texans receiver Braxton Miller on third down, forcing Houston's second consecutive punt of the opening quarter.
On San Francisco's third defensive series, Davis broke up Osweiler's fourth-down pass intended to Miller inside of 49ers territory to turn the Texans over on downs.
Davis recorded three tackles (two solo) and the aforementioned pass breakup in an impressive showing. The cornerback of "Kick-Six" fame from his days at Auburn, just might be the clubhouse leader to play the important nickel cornerback role for O'Neil's defense.
Buckner wasn't the only first-round pick making his 49ers debut. Stanford guard Joshua Garnett made his first appearance at left guard.
Jeff Driskel entered the game at quarterback with 3:42 left in the third quarter. He replaced veteran signal-caller Thad Lewis, who left the game with a lower leg injury. Driskel picked up 61 rushing yards on five carries. As a passer, he completed 4 of 12 throws for 20 yards.
Fellow sixth-round draft pick, Kelvin Taylor, entered the game late and carried the ball twice for four rushing yards. He caught one pass for a 2-yard gain. Taylor also returned one kick for 12 yards in the fourth quarter.
-- Mike Davis rushed for a gain of 44 behind the right guard-right tackle combination. Davis' carry was the longest play from scrimmage by both teams. Davis led all rushers with 72 yards on five carries. He also caught two passes for 17 yards.
-- Phil Dawson made his first field goal of the preseason from 25 yards out to give San Francisco its first lead of the game, 10-7 with 1:45 left in the first quarter. He later added a 50-yard make to close out the first half.
-- Anthony Davis entered the game at right tackle for San Francisco's fifth drive of the game. Second-year guard Ian Silberman joined him on the right side of the line.
-- Cornerbacks Dontae Johnson and Keith Reaser worked with the second-team defense. Johnson tied with Wilhoite for a team-high five tackles. Reaser added two tackles and a pass breakup.
-- Jerome Simpson led the 49ers with three receptions. He totaled 29 receiving yards with those grabs.