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Mike Purcell dominates the trenches for 49ers in exhibition

Offensively and special teams-wise, Australian rugby import Jarryd Hayne's breakout performance in the San Francisco 49ers' preseason opener at Houston this past weekend was the story of the game for the Niners.

Defensively, another guy thought to be a fringe candidate to make the initial 53-man roster was the rage.

Nose tackle Mike Purcell, a practice squad refugee who has all of two NFL games on his résumé, dominated the trenches during the Niners' first-half goal-line stand against the Texans.

Per Pro Football Focus, Purcell had a +4.2 grade with five stops in his 23 snaps. The gamebook credited him with six tackles, including when, with the Texans at the Niners' 1-yard line, Purcell burst through the line and dropped Alfred Blue for a three-yard loss with about three minutes to play in the first quarter.

"The way Michael played, you feel great for him," said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, the former longtime Niners D-line coach.

"No. 1, he's a father, he's a husband, he's a hard-working guy. He's a good person, great teammate. He's got all those things and he's got a lot of ability. You root for him, you pull for him, it excites you, but again ... (this is only) Year 3 in development."

The Texans ended up going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and were kept out.

The 6-feet-3, 303-pound Purcell, who spent the entire 2013 season and the first 14 weeks of the 2014 season on the Niners' practice squad, is listed second at nose tackle on the team's depth chart, behind Ian Williams.