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Cohn: Promising 49ers opening drive ends with the same old story

  • LaMichael James breaks through the offensive line on the first drive of the game. The 49ers played the Denver Broncos in a preseason game at Candlestick Park on Thursday, August 8, 2013. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO — The 49ers' real offense, its regular-season offense with a few exceptions, played one whole series, and only one, against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night in the first game of the preseason.

Personal note of sympathy: I hope you weren't sucker enough to buy a ticket for that folderol.

Well, anyway, the official offense, the non-Colt-McCoy, Scott-Tolzien-you name-him offense, did play that one series. In the interest of all of us learning something — you and me — here is a detailed play-by-play analysis of the 13 plays that consumed seven minutes plus seven seconds and showed us a thing or two about the offense of the NFC champs.

49ers vs. Broncos Preseason

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First-and-10 at the 49ers' 24-yard line: LaMichael James ran around left tackle for 5 yards.

The meaning of the play: No way would coach Jim Harbaugh risk the health and welfare of his starting running back Frank Gore in a silly game like this. So, James was the designated battering ram. Plus, the 49ers need to know if James is a real NFL back or an overdeveloped flea. He's only 5-9.

The 49ers will rest Gore whenever possible this season to preserve him for the playoffs. Second-banana back Kendall Hunter is still unable to play and may not be ready for the season opener against the Packers. And James may have to play a significant role in regular-season games. A gain of 5 yards on the first offensive play was encouraging for the diminutive back and the team.

Second-and-5 from the 29: Much-lauded quarterback, the eloquent and highly-talkative Colin Kaepernick, sprinted to his right and hit tight end Vernon Davis with a laser for 12 yards.

The meaning of the play: This play proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Kaepernick knows who Davis is. Rumors had swirled through the locker room that Kap — as the players affectionately call him — never had met Davis, even near the Coke machine. Others said Kaepernick simply has a blind spot for the painter/pass catcher.

Kaepernick certainly couldn't see Davis during games last season and used him mainly as a decoy. Maybe the team fitted out Kaepernick with special contact lenses. This play gives the 49ers hope that, when things matter, Kaepernick will throw the ball to Davis.

First-and-10 at the 41: James ran up the middle for 5 yards.


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