SANTA CLARA – Blaine Gabbert ran unopposed Sunday afternoon in the 49ers’ quarterback competition.
But it was not until his final snap of the team’s exhibition opener that he tasted even a little success.
Gabbert hit tight end Vance McDonald on a crossing route in the first quarter after Houston Texans linebacker Brandon McKinney fell to the ground. McDonald made a move up-field, cut back and turned the play into a 43-yard touchdown.
The play produced the 49ers’ only touchdown in their 24-13 loss to the Texans in front of a sparse crowd at Levi’s Stadium.
Gabbert completed four of 10 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while Colin Kaepernick was held out of the game due to a tight throwing shoulder. Gabbert and Kaepernick split first-team practice snaps through the first nine practices of training camp.
But Kaepernick was held out of practices Thursday and Friday. He is expected to be able to participate in practices this week against the Denver Broncos before the teams play Saturday night.
Gabbert did not have a stellar performance on Sunday, as he threw wildly to running back Carlos Hyde on his first two attempts of the game. He also was off-target with low throws to Quinton Patton and DeAndrew White.
After the 49ers’ first-team offense was on the field for three possessions, quarterback Thad Lewis took over with the second team.
Before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a lower leg injury, Lewis completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 97 yards.
Rookie Jeff Driskel, a sixth-round draft pick, closed out the game. He completed four of 12 passes for 20 yards. Driskel, the fastest quarterback at the combine, showed his running ability to 61 yards on five rushing attempts.
Davis stepping up: Chris Davis continued his surge to win a spot as the team’s top nickel back. While cornerback Jimmie Ward remained on the outside for passing downs, Davis came onto the field to cover the slot receiver when the 49ers went with five defensive backs.
Davis stopped Braxton Miller for 4 yards after the completion on a third-and-9 play to force a punt. On the next series, Davis broke of a fourth down pass from Brock Osweiler intended for Miller.
Starting cornerback Tramaine Brock also had a good showing, breaking up a pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins and stopping Will Fuller for a 4-yard completion on a third-and-7 play.
Sitting out: Free safety Eric Reid announced Sunday on Twitter that his wife gave birth to a girl, which serves as a very good reason the 49ers excused him from practice Friday and Sunday's game.
Others who did not participate in the game were defensive linemen Arik Armstead and Glenn Dorsey, wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Eric Rogers, and safety L.J. McCray.
Armstead missed four practices last week due to a left shoulder injury. Dorsey and McCray are returning from ACL injuries. Smelter battled a hamstring issue in the offseason. Rogers is out for the year after sustaining a torn ACL during the first week of training camp. The 49ers have yet to replace him on the 90-man roster.
Fumbling it away: Running back Carlos Hyde presented the Texans with a gift on the 49ers’ second possession when he coughed it up while trying to squeeze between nose tackle Vince Wilfork and Christian Covington. Linebacker John Simon scooped up the loose ball and took it back 41 yards for a touchdown.
In the middle of the second quarter, the 49ers were threatening to score when DuJuan Harris lost a fumble on a first-and-goal play from the Texans’ 2-yard line.
This ‘n’ that
--Running back Mike Davis, who gained just 58 yards on 35 rushing attempts as a rookie, had 72 yards on five carries in the first half. Davis set up a short Phil Dawson field goal with a 44-yard run.
--Dawson made field goals of 25 and 50 yards.
--The 49ers had 302 yards of total offense in the first half, including 141 on the ground. The 49ers led 13-7 at halftime before the Texans reserves outplayed the 49ers’ backups on both sides of the ball in the second half.
--Right tackle Anthony Davis had a rough return to action, as Texans outside linebacker Eric Lee beat him cleanly with an outside move to drop Thad Lewis for a 7-yard sack on a third-down play in the second quarter.
--Linebackers Ahmad Brooks, Nick Bellore and Shayne Skov recorded sacks for the 49ers.
--Outside linebacker Tank Carradine did not the edge on a run play that netted the Texans an 11-yard gain. But, showing that he could have value as a nickel pass-rusher, Carradine’s pressure resulted in a third-down incompletion.
--Texans quarterback Tom Savage hooked up with tight end Stephen Anderson for a 7-yard touchdown pass against the coverage of Kenneth Acker in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Acker had a pass interference and missed a tackle to enable running back Akeem Hunt to score on a 9-yard TD pass from Savage.
What's next: The 49ers have a day off on Monday before returning to work for a short workout on Tuesday. The team will then travel to Colorado for practices Wednesday and Thursday against the Denver Broncos. Those teams will play Saturday night.