HOUSTON (AP) Rookie Tom Savage looked like a polished pro leading the Texans to the winning touchdown and 2-point conversion against Denver last week.
How he plays in Thursday's preseason finale against San Francisco means even more as he tries to overtake Case Keenum for the backup quarterback job behind Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Keenum will start and Savage will follow, trying to make one last impression on Coach Bill O'Brien. But O'Brien said their game performances won't be the deciding factors, only part of the bigger picture.
''I've been in situations like this where two guys are really competing in New England,'' said O'Brien, the Patriots' former offensive coordinator. ''A lot of times the guy that played well in the fourth game, he ended up being the No. 2 guy. But I think conceptually you always look at the body of work and then you determine within that body of work how they played in those games and in those practices, and you try to add it up that way.''
O'Brien says he's likely to keep all three because of how well each of them has grasped the offense. The tale of the tape so far? Keenum is 20 for 35 for 184 yards and threw an interception at the goal line to end a promising drive against Atlanta. Savage is 11 of 14 for 90 yards, 5 for 6 on the winning drive in Denver.
Keenum, who started eight games last season, was surprised to find out this week that O'Brien said that Savage had closed the gap. But Keenum was as excited as anyone to see Savage's winning drive in Denver.
''We're all on the same team,'' Keenum said, ''and all of us quarterbacks feel the same way and we're all competitive and I think we all want to win, so it was fun.''
O'Brien said starter Ryan Fitzpatrick probably won't play, along with most of the other first-teamers. O'Brien is still evaluating the kicker competition between Randy Bullock and Chris Boswell.
San Francisco, meanwhile, awaits a decision as early as Thursday on a league suspension for linebacker Aldon Smith for his legal issues. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is prepping the other linebackers as if Smith will be out for an extended period. Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier are likely to step in, as they did when Smith missed five games last year to undergo treatment following a DUI arrest.
Fangio is also considering rookie Aaron Lynch, who had a sack and two tipped passes against the Chargers. Lynch, a fifth-round pick, worked himself into shape after pulling both hamstrings over the summer.
''He played well in that game, there's no denying that,'' Fangio said. ''He had a lot of production and played well and had some good plays even when they weren't the type of plays that showed up on the stat sheet, playing the run and etc.''
Colin Kaepernick will probably get one series for the 49ers after taking several hard hits in last week's win over San Diego. He's 12 of 22 for 115 yards in the preseason and doesn't seem too concerned about the lack of production by the offense so far.
''I've never seen worrying help anyone's problems or help them get better,'' he said. ''So, we're not going to worry.''
The depth on the offensive line has been an issue in the preseason, with right guard Alex Boone holding out for a new contract, rookie center Marcus Martin out with a knee injury and right tackle Anthony Davis missing time after shoulder surgery.
Teams must cut their rosters to 53 players by Saturday.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this story.
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