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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.

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.

The meaning of the play: This shows James can run up the gut of the defense, right into those big bad men, without getting murdered. The 49ers need a backup back who can run up the middle and keep defenses honest.

Second-and-5 from the 46: Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for 10 yards.

The meaning of this play: This reminds us that Boldin is a great possession receiver. With Michael Crabtree out with an Achilles (or without an Achilles), the 49ers need Boldin. He's just what the doctor ordered.

First-and-10 from Denver's 44: James ran up the middle for 6 yards.

The meaning of the play: See first-and-10 at the 41.

Second-and-4 from the 38: Kaepernick hit Boldin for 4 yards.

The meaning of the play: See second-and-5 from the 46.

First-and-10 from the 34: James ran around right end for 9 yards.

The meaning of the play: James is very fast. He's so fast you can't actually see his legs move. They're a blur. Further meaning of the play: Up to this point, the Niners were wasting the Broncos defense. So far, San Francisco's offense had been a precision machine.

Second-and-1 from the 25: D.J. Harper ran up the middle but lost 1 yard.

The meaning of the play: Who the heck is D.J. Harper?

Third-and-2 from the 26: Kaepernick scrambled to left tackle for 6 yards.

The meaning of the play: Kaepernick is as good a scrambler as scrambled eggs.

First-and-10 from the 20: Fullback Bruce Miller ran up the middle for no gain.

The meaning of the play: Miller needs to do better than that.

Second-and-10 from the 20: Niners right tackle Anthony Davis was flagged for a false start. Loss of 5 yards.

The meaning of the play: This particular maneuver, one of Davis' specialties, proved the big offensive lineman already has achieved midseason form. The Niners must watch him carefully to make sure he doesn't louse up good drives like this one. Make no mistake, the louse-up was on its way, and Davis initiated it.

Second-and-15 from the 25: James around right end for a loss of 1 yard.

The meaning of the play: A defender can knock down James if the defender blows on James with all his might. James got hit and flopped to the ground like someone whacked him on the coconut with a sledge hammer. Then he flipped like a mackerel.

Third-and-16 from the 26: The Broncos flushed Kaepernick from the pocket. Kaepernick ran right and hit Marlon Moore for 12 yards.

The meaning of the play: Kaepernick threw a perfect pass and showed he can put touch in addition to heat on his throws. Unfortunately, Kaepernick's throw netted 12 yards, and the 49ers needed 16 for the first down. The Niners had to go for the field goal on fourth down, which they made.

Additional meaning, if you can stand the naked truth: The Niners, who often fail in the red zone, failed yet again on this drive. They got to the red zone, then went backward and had to settle for a field goal. The drive was reminiscent of the awful, game-losing drive of the Super Bowl, the Niners swiftly moving down the field but not knowing how to enter the promised land.

You could say this one drive, the only drive that mattered in Thursday's game, demonstrated everything we already know about the Niners' offense — the great, the good, the ugly. It was a familiar story. I was hoping for a different ending.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.