SAN FRANCISCO - For the second straight season, the 49ers had to finish a game without a starting defensive linemen who was forced to the sideline with an arm injury.
Left defensive end Ray McDonald went to the locker room after suffering what he described as a "sting" in his right biceps. McDonald said it occurred during his third-quarter sack of Matt Schaub when he was fighting off blockers on his way to the quarterback. He'll have an MRI today.
"Yeah, I am," he said when asked if he was concerned. "But it's not that bad. I'll see (today)." Both Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie filled in at defensive end from that point forth, and Jerod-Eddie had a key interception to snuff out a Texans drive late in the third quarter. But with another defensive lineman, Ian Williams, already out for the year with a broken ankle, the 49ers would have to make additions if McDonald misses an extended period.
One option is ex Raiders and Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour, a free agent. CBS Sports reported Sunday that the 49ers had contacted Seymour, who turned 34 Sunday, presumably after Williams went down, but that they couldn't agree on compensation. Seymour has been voted to seven Pro Bowls over his career.
The 49ers also have two rookie defensive linemen on the non-football injury list. Second-round pick Tank Carradine suffered an ACL injury 11 months ago. Fifth-round pick Quinton Dial is recovering from a torn toe ligament, which required surgery in January.
Both are eligible to begin practicing with the team next week. However, both missed the entire offseason, and it's unlikely either could get up to speed with the defense in the immediate future. The team's right defensive end, Justin Smith, missed the final two games of the season last year after partially tearing his triceps tendon. He returned for the playoffs but never was at full strength.
Wilhoite steps up - With Patrick Willis watching from the sideline, NaVorro Bowman again lead the 49ers in tackles -- 13 -- while Willis' understudy, Michael Wilhoite, also came though with a big game.
Wilhoite finished with 11 tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage. He also had his first career sack and added two stops on special teams. The 49ers defense was without Willis and Aldon Smith for the second straight game. Willis still is recovering from a groin strain suffered Sept. 22 while Smith is in a treatment program for substance abuse.
Willis warmed up for more than a half hour before the game but never went at full speed. He consulted with strength coach Mark Uyeyama, head trainer Jeff Ferguson, and finally, Jim Harbaugh, before heading back into the 49ers' locker room.
"W" delayed in D.C. - The government shutdown got personal for Donte Whitner. The 49ers safety had wanted to be introduced for Sunday's game with his new surname, "Hitner," stenciled across his back. He filed the paperwork to change his surname in his native Ohio last week.
But the federal government shutdown means his name change can't be processed, Whitner said. That means he's stuck with a "W" in front of his name until the morass in Washington, D.C. is fixed. Whitner caused one of San Francisco's four takeaways Sunday when he stripped the ball from Texans running back Ben Tate and recovered the football.
Et cetera - Both the NFL Network and FOX Sports reported that the 49ers were one of the teams who inquired about free-agent quarterback Josh Freeman. Looking to replace No. 2 quarterback Colt McCoy, the 49ers signed John Skelton last week.
* Jon Baldwin started the game opposite Anquan Boldin at wide receiver. Colin Kaepernick targeted him twice - including on the 49ers' first offensive play - but both passes were incomplete.
* The 49ers entered the game as the second most-penalized team in the league. They committed three for 17 yards against Houston, well below their nearly 10-per-game average.
-- Matt Barrows