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49ers Top Chargers in Preseason Finale

Posted Aug 29, 2013

San Francisco scored five touchdowns on Thursday night, as each of the team's three quarterbacks accounted for at least one score.

Jim Harbaugh had three goals for his football team this preseason.

No. 1: Avoid injuries.

No. 2: Win games.

No. 3: Improve.

The 49ers seemed to accomplish all three as they topped their host San Diego Chargers, 41-6, on Thursday night, pushing their exhibition record to 3-1 entering a Sept. 8 opener against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park.

"I loved watching our team," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh's quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, added: "I don't know how much momentum you can take from the preseason, but we're ready to focus on getting ready for Green Bay."

Kaepernick started the game and was 3-of-4 with 64 yards through the air. His final pass, a side-armed sling to Quinton Patton, turned into a 43-yard touchdown. Patton, who started in place of Anquan Boldin, was the benefactor of a well-executed screen play. He also showed his speed, juking Chargers cornerback Marcus Cromartie to the inside and then out, toward the sideline.

PHOTOS: 49ERS AT CHARGERS

In addition to Boldin, offensive veterans Frank Gore and Kyle Williams also didn’t see action as precautions. Kaepernick’s wasn’t long for this night either.

The 49ers’ opening drive – seven plays for 77 yards and the score – was the quarterback’s last. He traded his helmet for a cap, his cleats for a pair of sneakers.

“He looked sharp,” Jim Harbaugh said on the field at halftime.

Running back LaMichael James (knee) and offensive tackle Adam Snyder (hand) left the game with apparent injuries. The severity of both was unknown.

Even fewer San Francisco defensive starters played Thursday. Ten of the team’s expected 11, including rookie free safety Eric Reid, sat.

The team’s second-string defenders took advantage of their playing time. The front seven, in particular, gave Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst all kinds of trouble: Dan Skuta earned a sack and nearly caused a fumble early, and rookie Corey Lemonier recorded a sack for a second straight week. In the defensive backfield, safety Craig Dahl and cornerback Traimaine Brock snagged interceptions.

But no defender made a bigger splash than Cam Johnson.

The second-year outside linebacker Johnson rush through to Whitehurst on back-to-back plays in the second quarter: on the first, he earned a sack of Whitehurst; on the second, Whitehurst saw Johnson coming and, as a result of the pressure, threw an interception to inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite.

The latter result gave the 49ers offense possession at the Chargers’ 11-yard line. Four plays later, McCoy connected with Anthony Dixon on a five-yard touchdown pass in the flat.

Lining up at right outside linebacker on the following drive, Johnson charged from Whitehurst’s blindside, earning his second sack of the game. Johnson appeared to injure his left arm later on but did return.

“I love the guys that are playing, competing their hearts out,” Harbaugh said at halftime. “Cam Johnson has made a couple of incredible plays.

"Cam Johnson played his heart out," Harbaugh added postgame.

Another linebacker helped create a turnover late in the third quarter: Nate Stupar tipped a Brad Sorensen pass, and backup safety Craig Dahl intercepted it. That set up a 40-yard field goal from Phil Dawson, who earlier connected from 47 yards out. He missed from 52 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Dawson finished the preseason 9-of-11 on three-point tries.

McCoy started the third quarter but was replaced by B.J. Daniels with about six minutes remaining in the period. McCoy, who was named the 49ers No. 2 QB after last Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, was 8-of-15 for 56 yards.

The star of the game, Johnson, wasn’t done when he returned from the sideline. The 2012  seventh-round draft pick blocked the Chargers punt on San Diego’s last play of the third quarter. Johnson covered the ball in the end zone for the 49ers’ third touchdown.

"It was just a punt rush," Johnson said on the field postgame. "I just wanted to go get it... I was actually kind of exhausted, but I was happy to make a play.

"I have been working hard all offsason it's fianlyl good to see the results."

The team’s fourth touchdown may have provided the best highlight of the game: With less than 10 minutes remaining, reserve wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins bobbled a pass from Daniels into the air, re-caught it, and broke two tackles on his way to the end zone, turning it into a 45-yard score.

Daniels also connected with fellow rookie Chuck Jacobs on a 15-yard touchdown. In addition to the two scores, Daniels finished the game 5-of-9 for 76 yards. He also rushed six times for 54 yards.

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