A 49ers fan celebrates a touchdown during a preseason game against the Houston Texans at Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 14. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Smile, Faithful: It’s Gabbert’s show for worse or worser

Nobody freak out. It was the first NFL pregame game, for goshsakes.

But if you want say a novena for the Santa Clara 49ers, that would be fine.

What stood out in a mostly meaningless 24-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday was the godawful play at quarterback. Specifically, that of Plain Blaine Gabbert, who displayed zero leadership ability and couldn’t even make routine throws.

If not for his touchdown pass to a wide, wide, wide open Vance McDonald — the defender fell to the ground — he would have had all of three completions and 20 yards to show for three series. And the offense would have been minus-7 on the scoreboard.

You want scary? After 15 days of preparation, here’s how the first series unraveled:

First down, Pass behind open receiver in the flat.

Second down, Run up the middle for a yard.

Third down, Short pass thrown at the feet of an open receiver.

“Up and down,” coach Chip Kelly called Gabbert’s stinker.

No, down and downer was more like it.

Remember, this was against a Texans defense that was without three of its best players — Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing and … uh … J.J. Wattshisname.

Colin Kaepernick never looked better. He watched the game on the sidelines with a tired shoulder. Third-stringer Thad Lewis tore his ACL and is lost for the season, while rookie Jeff Driskel played like one.

But forget Kelly’s blarney about a quarterback competition. Unless Gabbert throws 49 consecutive incompletions, he’ll be the Week 1 starter. After three surgeries in the offseason, Kap isn’t close to game shape. And no way can the job be handed to a guy who asked to be traded and lost the little respect he had in the locker room as a result.

So Kaepernick will have to earn back his starter role. Balls is thinkin’ as early as Week 2 or as late as Week 6, when the Niners are on the road and the boos are less audible.

EMERGENCY PLAN: Hold it. There may be a way to take the ball out of Gabbernick’s hands and keep the defense off the field at the same time.

It’s called the Jekyll and Hyde offense — Carlos Hyde to the left, Carlos Hyde to the right, Carlos Hyde up the middle.

When Hyde didn’t cough up the ball, as he did for the first Texans touchdown, he looked to be the one (only) Niner you wanted on your fantasy team. On one notable effort, he shrugged off a tackler then bowled over another on a 22-yard advance. Lest we forget, the guy was on pace for nearly 1,100 yards before he went down in Week 7 last season.

And if that doesn’t work, Kelly can call the next best play: the scramble. The three QBs combined for 89 yards on the ground. Or 22 percent of the total offense.

HURRY UP AND WAIT: The Niners had 302 yards but only one touchdown at halftime, which was pretty much the typical Kelly offense: a whole lot of nothin’.

RAY-RAY OF HOPE: Stat-wise, coach Jim O’Neil’s defense more than held its own, although the Texans dumbed down their game plan for newcomer Brock Osweiler, their $72-million quarterback. The play selection couldn’t have been more vanilla if Ben & Jerry’s had served it.

Still, the front seven looks to have possibilities, especially if Aaron Lynch stays in shape during his four-game suspension and Ray-Ray Armstrong doesn’t bark at dogs on game days.

The unit forced nary a turnover, however, and that won’t cut it because the O will need all the field position it can beg, borrow and steal in the real season.

JUST ASKIN’: So what was your favorite Kenneth Acker play: the 14-yard pass interference penalty that set up a touchdown or the air tackle on the play that scored it?

JUST SAYIN’: The rap against linebacker Nick Bellore is that he’s too white. But after a sack and two other tackles for losses, he also looks to be too smart.

CHOKE’S ON THEM: Giants fans were subjected to more B.S. on Sunday — as in blown save — when the bullpen gagged on a 7-1 lead in the final three innings. It’s the kind of killer loss that can haunt a team for the rest of the season.

Manager Bruce Bochy actually referred to the disaster as “a little hiccup,” which tells you just how bad the bullpen had been this season. It has a National League-high 21 blown saves, and washed-up Santiago Casilla owns a half-dozen of them. Had Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller or Mark Melancon been acquired before the regular trade deadline, the latest choke would never have happened.

But there’s still time to make a lesser move before the waiver trade deadline this month.

Nutcase Jonathan Papelbon, anyone?

Papelbon is in the midst of an awful season himself, so awful that the Washington Nationals granted his request to be released last week. As Bryce Harper can tell you, the guy is capable of a hissy fit at any moment. The 35-year-old also is one of the few available closers with World Series experience.

Papelbon has a history with Chicago Cubs operations chief Theo Epstein, and speculation is that they’ll be reunited soon. He prefers to close out games, however, and the rival Cubs already have Chapman for the role. If the Giants made such an offer, it might be hard to turn down.

Sure, any such move reeks of desperation, but what are the Giants if not a desperate team?

ANOTHER FEAT OF KLAY: Leave it to the Warriors’ Klay Thompson to have an OKC moment at the Rio Olympics.

Thompson went off for 30 points in a narrow escape against France in overtime, which brought to mind his ballistic performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Good thing, too, because the way Team USA continued to play defense, which is to say like a bunch of lazy asses, it wouldn’t have advanced to the quarterfinals without him.

In other words, it’s time for Draymond Green to kick someone in the groin.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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