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SANTA CLARA

I praise the 49ers for winning 28-0, but I refuse to take them seriously.

Few teams in the NFL exist at the 49ers level or below, a level that does not admit the light of day. The Niners lucked out in playing one of those teams. The team lower than them is the Los Angeles Rams, so bad L.A. should send them back to St. Loo.

I praise the 49ers for having Carlos Hyde. He is an elite running back when he can run. He opened last season murdering the Vikings defense. After the game, I heard Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner on his phone, Turner walking down the hall excitedly praising Hyde.

But Hyde got hurt and played only seven games last season. I’m reluctant to anoint him until he stays on the field.

I praise coach Chip Kelly for his good running game in general, maybe better than good. I praise him for running over the Rams defense like a garbage truck ruining a daisy field. The Rams defense had the tensile strength of a daisy field. Hard to gauge the Niners offense against a sad bunch like the Rams.

Still, I praise the Niners running game.

I praise the Niners defense for taking Rams running back, Todd Gurley, out of the game, Gurley a superb running back. I know why the Rams went Gurley-less. The Rams have no quarterback. Oh, they have a guy, Case Keenum, but he is not worth discussing. The Rams also have Jared Goff from Cal, the first player taken in this year’s draft. The Rams gave up lots of draft picks for Goff, setting them back for years. But Goff did not dress for the game. Couldn’t beat out Keenum who is not worth discussing.

Because the 49ers noticed the Rams have no quarterback, they were able to devote extra defenders to Gurley and render him a moot point. Unlike the Rams, other teams in the league have qualified quarterbacks, which makes the 49ers win nice, but far from definitive or even important.

Last year, the 49ers beat the Vikings, a good team, in their first game. That was a false spring. A false fall. A false everything. It’s appropriate to be cautious now, even though the Niners beat the inexcusable Rams.

And here’s the big one. I praise 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert for playing OK. Sometimes, he threw the ball effectively against the confused Rams — he threw one TD pass. And many times he ran well. He is a brave runner. On the 49ers second TD drive, he ran 9 yards toward the goal line and took a big hit and stood up, and the Niners scored on the next play.

All praise to Gabbert for his guts.

But other times he was plain old Gabbert. I want to be precise here. I have called him Checkdown Charlie for throwing short of the sticks when he needs to throw past the sticks, or to the sticks. Checkdown Charlie interfered with Gabbert several times against the Rams. Checkdown Charlie is not who Gabbert wants to be. Not who anyone wants to be.

Take what happened at the end of the 49ers first drive. They were at their 38-yard line and needed 2 yards for the first down. Two measly yards. What did Gabbert do? He completed a pass to Quinton Patton for 1 yard. One yard? The Niners had to punt.

Checkdown Charlie.

That play had nothing compared to what happened early in the second quarter. The Niners bravely went for it on fourth down at the Rams 36. And Gabbert completed the pass to Torrey Smith. He really did. It’s just that the completion, which reached Smith’s shoelaces, lost 2 yards and the Niners came up short and gave up the ball on downs. Smith looked — how shall we say this? — disgusted, morally outraged.

Gabbert threw more completions for loss. And there were the usual passes behind receivers. Passes defenders knocked down like dead flies at the line of scrimmage. Passes right to defenders that the defenders dropped.

I have to mention the piece de resistance. Please let me. In the third quarter, Gabbert threw a pass, had it deflected at the line, and then caught it himself. He caught his own deflection. Brilliant in its way. Loss of 16. Niners punted.

So, I praise the Niners for winning, even though the game was among the worst in the annals of sport, and totally unwatchable. The Rams and Niners actually prepared for this one? But I refuse to take them seriously. Coming up, the Niners play Carolina and Seattle. Don’t have to win. Just be respectable.

Then we’ll talk getting serious.

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.

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