The San Diego Chargers took a trip up north to Santa Clara at Levi's Stadium, but dropped week three's preseason matchup against the San Francisco 49ers 21 to 7.
The 49ers won the toss and opted to receive, and Corey Liuget crashed through the line on first down to stuff Frank Gore for a two-yard loss. On third down Eric Weddle jarred the ball loose from Colin Kaepernick and it appeared the Bolts recovered. However, he was ruled down by contact and though Head Coach Mike McCoy challenged, the refs ruled that while it was a fumble, they couldn’t determine who clearly recovered. Taking over at their own 24-yard line, Philip Rivers and the offense went to work. A seven-yard rush by Ryan Mathews and a 15-yard catch-and-run by Keenan Allen pushed the ball to midfield. However, two plays later on 3rd-and-2 and quick pass to Mathews went for just one yard, bringing Mike Scifres out to punt. After a first down, Liuget came up with a monster play, speeding around the outside to hit Kaepernick for a strip sack. Kendall Reyes fell on the ball at the 14-yard line, setting Rivers and company up in the red zone. On 3rd-and-3 Danny Woodhead caught a ball over the middle, bringing up 4th-and-1, but Mathews was unable to bounce it outside and couldn’t get to the sticks. The 49ers took over at their own five-yard line, and after one first down Defensive Coordinator John Pagano’s defense forced a punt, setting up the offense at their own 25-yard line. A Mathews 14-yard run and then an 11-yard catch by Antonio Gates on 3rd-and-5- pushed the ball into San Francisco territory. Another third-down conversion by Woodhead was followed by what appeared to be a 25-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Mathews. However, Allen was called for an illegal block in the back near the end zone, and the ball was placed on the 10-yard line. On the very next play, Gates shook free from the defense and Rivers placed a perfect dime to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead as the first quarter came to a close.
The 49ers began the second quarter with their best drive of the game, marching into the red zone. However, Liuget took over with a batted pass then a tackle for loss before Donald Butler deflected a third-down pass to limit the damage to only a field goal. Just over five minutes into the second quarter the Chargers led 7-3. Kellen Clemens replaced Rivers on the next drive as the Bolts went three-and-out. The Chargers second string defense came on the field as the 49ers took over at their own 21-yard line. They allowed a first down before forcing a Blaine Gabbert incompletion to give the ball back to the offense. Unfortunately the offense went three-and-out again, and Gabbert navigated San Francisco’s two-minute offense down the field. He hit Vance McDonald for a five-yard touchdown to give the home team a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
Brad Sorensen kicked off the second half under center as each team combined for five straight punts to kick off the quarter. Josh Johnson took over at quarterback for the 49ers and kicked off the first sustained drive of the half for either squad. However, a sack by Doug Worthington led to an eventual third down stop as Kavell Conner laid out David Reed on third down to force the sixth punt of the quarter. On third down Sorensen tried to thread the needle to Marion Grice, but the ball was tipped and Jimmy Ward came down with the pick at the San Diego 23-yard line. The quarter came to a close with the Niners on the 10-yard line.
Colton Underwood crushed Johnson on the first play to force an incompletion. Then, Crezdon Butler had strong coverage on Reed to keep the home team out of the end zone as they took a 13-7 lead. Sorensen and the troops couldn't muster much offense, punting back to San Francisco who took over at it's 36-yard line. The 49ers gave their running backs a heavy dose of the ball and churned out a number of yards on the ground into San Diego territory. It culminated with Glenn Winston's 27-yard scamper into the end zone and two-point conversion to give San Fran the 21-7 advantage.
Sorensen continued in at quarterback for the Bolts. An incomplete pass to Reese was followed by a five-yard run by Grice. Sorensen tried to reconnect with Reese and failed, but an illegal contact penalty on 49ers linebacker Shayne Skov gave the Chargers a first down. Sorensen connected with rookie wide receiver Torrence Allen for a gain of two. Allen took a big hit but was able to retain possession for his first NFL catch. The Chargers QB reconnected with Reese for a gain of four, but a sack on second down pushed the Bolts back to their own 38. On third-and-13, A short pass to Brelan Chancellor for a gain of 10 wasn't enough and the Chargers punted.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson entered as the fourth 49ers quarterback of the day. A short run by Winston and short passes to wideouts Devon Wylie and David Reed weren't enough to move the chains and the Niners were forced to punt.
Chancellor took the reigns as the punt returner and muffed the catch but fell on it at the San Diego 15. Going no huddle in the shotgun formation, Sorensen found tight end Jake Byrne for a short gain of five and subsequently found Chancellor for a gain of 19-yards. After an incomplete pass to Allen, Sorensen, on third down, found Byrne for seven moving the chains into San Francisco territory. Allen had a gain of 15 after a short pass up the middle from Sorensen and Grice ran down to the Niners 18-yard line after a run of 15. Just before the two minute warning, still in no huddle, Sorensen found Byrne again for eight-yards knocking on the door of the end zone. With the ball at the 10 on a second-and-two, Reese had his second drop of the day but an offensive pass interference penalty on tight end Ryan Otten backed the team up to the 49ers' 20. Next play, Niners cornerback Darryl Morris cut in front of Otten and picked off Sorensen.
The Niners in victory formation, took a series of knees to end the game.
The Chargers’ starting offense and defense had an effective first quarter. Philip Rivers and the team had a 7-0 edge after 15 minutes with 85 yards through the air and 36 on the ground. Defensively they surrendered just 17 yards with an impressive minus-two through the air. However, the team gave up 21 straight points when the majority of the starters came out, eventually falling 21-7.
It was Over When…
Down by 14 with 1:55 remaining, Brad Sorensen looked for a quick strike to Ryan Otten. However, it was picked off by Daryl Morris, allowing the 49ers to take a knee and secure the victory.
Play of the Game
Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have a sixth-sense, and it was on display for the first touchdown of the game. On first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Gates froze Craig Dahl with a shake-and-bake move as he neared the goal-line. Rivers found his tight end wide open in the end zone to give the Bolts the 7-0 lead.
Stat of the Game
Philip Rivers played only a quarter, going 9-of-10 for 85 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 135.4.
“Defensively you look at the way they got after the quarterback (and) the way they defended the run. They got the ball on the ground a couple times there (and) that’s what we’ve got to do. We got after quarterbacks and shook the football. Those turnovers will come over time, so they did a nice job overall as a unit. That’s exactly what we wanted to see.” – Head Coach Mike McCoy
“We played pretty well. We came out and tackled as a defense. We did a good job and executed what the coaches told us to do all week which was to tackle and be sound. We were motivated as a team.” – Defensive End Corey Liuget
“I expect it (from Antonio Gates). I’ve seen him do it so much, it’s nothing new. This just proves that he still has it. Everybody asks if he’s got it; he just proved it.” – Tight End Ladarius Green
“It was big to play the way we did. We wanted to come out above all else and just have fun, have energy and remember what it’s like to enjoy your teammates and pull for each other. We got so much into camp mode we got worn out, so we wanted to have fun. When we play together like guys are supposed to play, we can be very good. Hopefully the guys understand that.” – Safety Eric Weddle
“It felt great to be back out there. It’s been a long time for me since September, so for me to be out there with the fellas I didn’t care how many plays it was. It felt great.” – Outside Linebacker Dwight Freeney
Odds and Ends
The 49ers outgained the Chargers 301 yards to 254. They held a 129 to 59 edge on the ground and 185 to 169 through the air.
The Bolts struggled in third down efficiency, converting just 4-of-14 for 29%
Antonio Gates and Jake Byrne tied for the team lead with three catches.
Marion Grice led the way with seven carries for 36 yards.
Kavell Conner paced the club with seven tackles.
Corey Liuget turned in a standout performance in limiting playing time, recording four tackles, including two for loss, plus one sack, a forced fumble, a pass defensed and a pair of QB hits.
Kwame Geathers and Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe were both carted off the field with knee injuries. Neither returned.