SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Jarryd Hayne continued to dazzle and a defensive lineman scored a touchdown. That just about sums up what happened Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
The former Austrailian Rugby League star backed up his eye-opening performance Week 1 of the preseason in Houston by returning his first three punts 34, 27 and 23 yards, all in the first quarter. And in the third , he threw a stiff arm on a Cowboys' defender en route to a 23-yard run before finishing with 54 yards on eight carries.
Over two preseason games, Hayne has combined for 258 total yards, including kick and punt returns. He's ability to change field position was a key in the 49ers' thorough 23-6 defeat of the Cowboys and improving to 1-1 in the exhibition season.
"Obviously the guy is doing really well," head coach Jim Tomsula said. "He’s making a great case for himself absolutely. And I think that’s the story in itself. You’ve got a guy that’s never played the game and he’s come out to be in the conversation of making a 53-man roster on an NFL football team."
Without Reggie Bush or Bruce Ellington available to return punts, Hayne has seized an opportunity to make the unprecented conversion from Australian Rugby League to the NFL by making the 49ers' 53-man roster.
At this point, San Francisco would have a hard time cutting him, knowing he would likely catch on to another team. But despite his early success, Hayne remains focused on improving as a running back, which could lead to a more expanded role.
"I’m still a long way off from where I want to be. I want to be able to go into games confident that everything I do, I’m comfortable with," Hayne said. "I’m still learning, it’s only my second game, it’s still very fresh. So for me, I’m just taking in as much as I can and wanting to get better every game."
Purcell's has been one of San Francisco's best defenders through two preseason games, after registering six tackles in just 23 snaps last week against the Texans.
"I had to make sure I didn’t get caught. I didn’t want to get caught by the quarterback or an offensive lineman," Purcell said.
San Francisco's defensive line might be the deepest and most versatile position group on the roster. Purcell's ascension gives the 49ers a surplus of valuable players.
"How about my man, pick-six," said Tomsula, formerly Purcell's position coach. "He made the play and he took off. That’s the fastest I’ve seen him run, I’ll tell you that.”
San Francisco added three field goals, two from Phil Dawson and one from backup Corey Acosta. Quinton Patton blocked a Tom Hornsey punt and recovered it in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and proceeded to jump into the stands at Levi's Stadium. "I’ve always wanted to do it. I just jumped into the crowd," Patton said.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick played the game's first two series, completing 2-of-5 throws for 13 yards. He was unable to connect with Torrey Smith on a third-down throw from Dallas' 7-yard line to the end zone, and hasn't thrown a preseason touchdown pass since August 2013 against the San Diego Chargers. Kaepernick's pass was well thrown to Smith's back shoulder, but cornerback Corey White did well to wrestle the ball away.
Smith signed a five-year, $40 milliion deal in the offseason to give San Francisco much-needed speed on the outside. Sunday marked the second time in the preseason the duo failed to connect on a key play. Last week in Houston, Kaepernick overthrew a streaking Smith deep down field. They've taken time during special teams periods to go on the side field and build their chemistry.
"In practice, we have good reps together," Kaepernick said. "In the game, the plays haven’t taken us to him very much. So, we had one shot tonight, other than that, we keep working and hopefully we’ll get more looks in the preseason.”
Backup Blaine Gabbert completed all six of his passes for 21 yards. He lost 12 yards on his stat line when Patton turned a 2-yard reception into a 12-yard loss in the second quarter by running backwards. Patton, battling for the third receiver role, totalled two yards on three catches. The 49ers dialed up just 17 passes for their three quarterbacks, completing 11 for 50 net yards.
They ran the ball 38 times for 155 yards between seven players. Hayne's eight attempts led the team.
Running back Carlos Hyde - coming off a two-carry, six-yard performance against the Texans - received seven carries for 39 yards Sunday. Tight end Vernon Davis, defensive end Darnell Dockett and NaVorro Bowman made their first preseason appearances. You can read all about Bowman's three-tackle debut here.
-Tomsula said tight end Vance McDonald (ankle), defensive end Tank Carradine (leg) and Dahl (back) will have their injuries evaluated this week.
-The 49ers will have Monday off and return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon. Following practice, the team will fly to Denver to have to joint practices with the Broncos before they play each other in Saturday's preseason game.
Follow Chris Biderman on Twitter.
E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com