Observation Deck: San Francisco 49ers

In what was a battle between backups and guys that will not be on an NFL roster Saturday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers offense finally found that elusive rhythm. Not that it will help much with the staters.

Consider: The 49ers offense could only gain 45 total yards in 14 plays over their first four drives, then compiled 97 yards yards and two touchdowns in 13 plays over its next two drives.

Rookie Chris Borland had a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown and veteran Kassim Osgood blocked a punt for a safety while third-string quarterback Josh Johnson made his case for the 49ers to keep three QBs after completing 14 of 17 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns with an interception returned for a touchdown.

Also, Houston Texans defensive ends J.J. Watt and No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney did not play.

Here are some other thoughts on the 49ers' 40-13 defeat of the Texans at NRG Field in both teams’ exhibition finale. The 49ers, who trailed 6-0, finished the exhibition season with a record of 2-2.

  • The 49ers sat all of their projected starters at the beginning of the game except for three players -- nose tackle Ian Williams, who is replacing the injured Glenn Dorsey, center Daniel Kilgore, who is in his first year as a starter, and right guard Joe Looney, who is holding it down while Alex Boone continues his holdout. Right tackle Jonathan Martin also saw some time. Blaine Gabbert started under center for Colin Kaepernick, despite coach Jim Harbaugh saying after Sunday’s exhibition victory over the San Diego Chargers that Kaepernick would play.

  • Speaking of Gabbert, he looked uncomfortable early, completing just 1 of his first six passes for 11 yards and appeared slow in his reads. Then he somehow completed a 32-yard pass to tight end Derek Carrier between two Texans defenders on 3rd and 2 and found a comfort zone. In all, Gabbert completed 4-of-11 for 60 yards with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Asante Cleveland. Gabbert, though, took a hard shot late in the second quarter and was replaced by Johnson.

  • Looney, meanwhile, took full advantage of his reps, pulling to the left and pancaking linebacker Jeff Tarpinian to spring running back LaMichael James for a 17-yard run on the last play of the first half. Looney also came in at center to close out the first half, giving the 49ers another option with rookie backup center Marcus Martin’s knee injury last week. .

  • James was a busy man. He had six carries for 39 yards, including that 17-yard pickup, and also returned three kickoffs.

  • Sure, Harbaugh gave most of his starters the night off to close out the exhibition season. But he was in midseason form as far as his hysterics with what he perceives to be bad or one-sided officiating goes. Harbaugh was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second quarter. Of the 49ers’ final exhibition game.