Following a pair of very positive results at home in their first two appearances of this preseason, the Texans take to the road for Saturday’s clash with the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
What will be an important upcoming season for Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and his staff has gotten off to a promising beginning, with Houston recording victories over two 2010 playoff participants to begin their preseason slate. The team kicked things off by outlasting the New York Jets by a 20-16 count at Reliant Stadium on Aug. 15, then followed up with a 27-14 verdict over visiting New Orleans this past Saturday.
Houston’s high-powered offense was operating at full throttle against the Saints, accumulating 436 total yards and 25 first downs on the evening. A revamped defense also performed well for a second straight week, with the group producing four sacks and three turnovers in their test with Drew Brees and New Orleans’ cast of weapons.
Through its initial two outings, the Texans’ defense has come up with 11 sacks and four takeaways.
Houston also ran the football with authority in Saturday’s win, finishing with 208 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. 2010 rushing champion Arian Foster, back from a mild hamstring injury that kept him out of the opener, delivered a 28-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and ended with 47 yards and two scores on only five attempts.
Ben Tate, a second-round pick in last year’s draft who missed his entire rookie campaign due to a broken ankle, added 95 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries for Houston.
San Francisco, meanwhile, showed significant improvement in its second preseason game under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. After struggling in all phases in a 24-3 road loss to New Orleans on Aug. 12, the 49ers put forth a better showing that resulted in a 17-3 triumph over Bay Area rival Oakland last Saturday at Candlestick Park.
Harbaugh’s first NFL preseason victory was overshadowed, however, by a couple of ugly incidents involving attendees. Two fans attending the game were shot in the Candlestick Park lot while exiting, while another suffered serious injuries in a bathroom fight.
In response to the events, the 49ers will place additional security for this game and have recommended to the league that its series with the Raiders be discontinued.
As for the game itself, the Niners also got it done on the ground, amassing a total of 239 rushing yards against Oakland. Rookie Kendall Hunter led the charge with 105 yards on nine rushes, with most of the damage coming on a 53- yard touchdown burst in the third quarter.
Quarterback Alex Smith rebounded from a rough night in New Orleans to complete 8-of-13 throws for 126 yards, though he was intercepted once.
Harbaugh will take a different approach than most coaches in this week’s test, revealing earlier in the week that several backups will be sprinkled in with the first-team units early on. That plan will provide an extended look for rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the team’s intended signal-caller of the future who’s currently behind Smith on the depth chart.
Kaepernick’s pro debut didn’t go well, with the second-round draft choice tossing two interceptions and hitting on just 9-of-19 throws for 117 yards versus the Saints. He was considerably sharper last week, however, making good on 6-of-8 attempts for 52 yards in the Oakland win.
Smith and Kaepernick won’t again have the services of young wide receiver Michael Crabtree, with the 2009 first-round selection still recovering from a lingering foot injury. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who’s been inactive for the first two weeks with a hamstring injury, also won’t play.
Houston will be without standout inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (Achilles) for a second consecutive game, but cornerback Johnathan Joseph is expected to suit up for the first time in a Texans uniform on Saturday. The free-agent acquisition had been sidelined with a groin strain.
These teams have never previously faced one another in the preseason, but have split two regular-season matchups in the past. The 49ers posted a 20-17 overtime win over Houston at Candlestick Park in 2005, with the Texans exacting revenge with a 24-21 home triumph in 2009.