SANTA CLARA – Colin Kaepernick applied a bit of pressure to Blaine Gabbert during a pregame warmup, as he appeared to serve notice he is ready to resume the quarterback competition.
Gabbert then put together a solid showing during his three drives against the Denver Broncos defense, which pitched a shutout in its exhibition opener last week against the Chicago Bears.
The 49ers got better as the week went along against last year’s Super Bowl champions. The 49ers struggled mightily in a joint practice on Wednesday, and played better the next day.
On Saturday, the 49ers held their own against last year’s Super Bowl champions when the starters were in the game. The 49ers ended up with a 31-24 victory in the second exhibition game for both teams.
Gabbert completed 6 of 9 pass attempts for 69 yards and exited the game as he did in the 49ers’ exhibition opener last week against the Houston Texans: After being at the helm of a touchdown drive.
Kaepernick and Gabbert opened training camp in a competition with the two players splitting the first-team practice snaps. Kaepernick, however, has not been able to mount a challenge after being sidelined with arm fatigue.
Kaepernick last participated in a full practice on Aug. 10. He is dealing with an issue with an arm muscle, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. The 49ers’ plan is for Kaepernick to resume practice and play Friday night when the 49ers return to action against the Green Bay Packers.
Two hours before kickoff on Saturday, Kaepernick participated in a 30-minute throwing session that included more than 50 throws. Kaepernick was seen airing it up with seven throws of 40 yards or more to receiver Bruce Ellington.
Gabbert did nothing to harm himself on his final drive of the evening. He completed passes to DeAndrew White and Vance McDonald of 17 and 19 yards, respectively. Running back Carlos Hyde, who had a 20-yard run on the drive, accounted for the final four yards with a touchdown.
Reid’s pick six: Free safety Eric Reid, who is playing this season for a multi-year contract, received a nice gift from Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian early in the second quarter. Reid stepped in front of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to pick off Siemian.
Reid took it back the other way, clearing the hurdle of Siemian’s tackle attempt at the 5-yard line for a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. The score tied the game at 7-7 with 14:52 remaining in the first half.
Sitting it out: In addition to Kaepernick, others who did not suit up for the game were defensive linemen Arik Armstead (shoulder), DeForest Buckner (leg) and Glenn Dorsey (rehabbing knee injury from last season), linebacker Aaron Lynch (eye), running back Shaun Draughn, and wide receivers Bruce Ellington (ankle) and DeAndre Smelter (hamstring).
Injury report: Backup inside linebacker and special-teams ace Nick Bellore sustained a knee injury in the third quarter and was immediately ruled out. Bellore had four tackles, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery before exiting the game.
Rookie receiver Bryce Treggs sustained a knee injury in the first half and did not return. With Ellington sitting out, Treggs was the second slot receiver to enter the game after White. Treggs caught a 25-yard pass from rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel in the second quarter. Treggs signed with the 49ers an an undrafted free agent from Cal.
Tony Jerod-Eddie, who started at left defensive tackle, left the game with a chest injury. He remained sidelined for the remainder of the game. Outside linebacker Eli Harold had the wind knocked out of him when he collided with teammate Tank Carradine, who was pass-rushing from the other side.
This ‘n’ that
--Rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel entered the game after Gabbert and completed six of seven pass attempts for 66 yards. He also rushed three times for 14 yards.
--Newly signed quarterback Christian Ponder, who signed with the 49ers on Tuesday, played the final quarter after Gabbert and Driskel. Ponder’s first two passes were completed to Jerome Simpson, his teammate for the 2012 and ’13 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
Ponder supplied the go-ahead points with a 22-yard touchdown run with 10:08 remaining in regulation to cap a 15-play, 75-yard drive. He then tossed a 30-yard touchdown to Dres Anderson, giving the 49ers a 31-17 lead.
--Outside linebacker Marcus Rush had an outstanding first half with two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. Rush spent his entire rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent from Michigan State. He added a third sack in the third quarter. A fourth would-be sack got out of Rush’s grasp when Paxton Lynch broke free and scrambled for an 8-yard gaine.
--Carradine, who had a strong week of practice, had four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the first half.
--Running back Mike Davis, who opened the exhibition season with a nice showing against the Texans, did nothing to help his roster chances on Saturday. Davis lost two fumbles. During his three-year career at South Carolina, he lost six of his seven fumbles.
--Running back DuJuan Harris failed to take advantage of his opportunity with a fumble at the goal line in the third quarter.
--The Broncos have their own quarterback competition to find Peyton Manning’s replacement. Siemian started and completed 10 of 14 attempts for 75 yards and the interception to Reid.
--Chris Davis, who has the inside track to being the team’s top nickel back, had another strong showing. He played the entire first half and broke up two passes. He also made a tackle short of the sticks on third down to force a punt.
What's next: The 49ers return to practice on Monday. The 49ers’ third exhibition game of the summer will take place Friday night against the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium.