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Thursday, August 7, 2014
Observation Deck: San Francisco 49ers

By Bill Williamson

BALTIMORE -- It is accurate to say the first players on defense for the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night did not play well. However, it's inaccurate to say the 49ers' first-team defense was torched in a 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The team was without five starters who are expected to start Week 1 at Dallas -- seven total if you count the injured NaVorro Bowman and Glenn Dorsey. Starters Justin Smith, Ray McDonald (who along with Dorsey make up the 49ers' starting defensive line), Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Tramaine Brock didn't play.

The only Week 1 projected starters to play in the second drive were linebacker Michael Wilhoite and cornerback Chris Culliver. The Ravens raced 80 yards on 10 plays on their first drive, but any worry that the defense, a 49ers' hallmark, will endure a season-long struggle is unnecessary.

Here are other thoughts on the 49ers' first preseason game of the year: