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Gamer: 49ers Score First Touchdown, Win versus Chargers at Levi's® Stadium

Posted Aug 24, 2014

In their second preseason game at their new home, San Francisco accomplished a lot of firsts against San Diego.


The lead:
 
As it turned out, some meaningful firsts didn't happen until the San Francisco 49ers second preseason game at Levi's® Stadium.

The first earthquake – a 6.1 on the Richter scale struck Napa, Calif. and surrounding areas early Sunday morning, but the stadium held its ground and the game went as planned.

The first second field – a completely new one appeared to hold up well after the organization replaced West Coast Turf-provided sod this week.

The first 49ers points – Phil Dawson nailed an early 39-yard field goal after missing twice last week against the Denver Broncos.

The first 49ers touchdown – tight end Vance McDonald's six-yard reception from Blaine Gabbert's right arm ended a two-game drought.

And the first win – the 49ers (1-2) topped the San Diego Chargers (1-2), 21-7, in Santa Clara.

And while the first-team offense struggled at times, San Francisco finally resembled itself in its third exhibition contest.

The quote: "Some good things. Moved the ball," Jim Harbaugh said postgame. Thought our precision was better on offense, defense and special teams."

The injury report: Safety Bubba Ventrone, who is mainly a special-teamer, suffered a hamstring injury that was announced in the second quarter. He was ruled out from returning to the game.

In the third quarter, fullback Will Tukuafu suffered a concussion and didn't come back.

In the fourth quarter, center Marcus Martin went down and was carted off of the field with a knee injury and didn't return. Many of his teammates gave him high-fives before he was driven into the locker room.

The scoring: Full stats here.

The notes: Veterans Kassim Osgood, Ray McDonald and Mike Iupati represented the team as captains for the pre-kickoff coin toss.

–McDonald, along with fellow defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ian Williams and cornerback Tramaine Brock made their preseason debuts in the starting lineup. Safety Craig Dahl started in place of Antoine Bethea, who suffered a concussion last week against the Denver Broncos. Bethea was working out on the field pregame.

Michael Wilhoite started alongside Patrick Willis at the inside linebacker spots. Wilhoite has been trying to fend off a group of reserves led by rookie Chris Borland competing for the right to play in place of injured All-Pro NaVorro Bowman.

–On the first-team offense, Jonathan Martin again started for Anthony Davis at right tackle. Davis returned to practice this week and has said he remains on track to play in the team's regular season opener Sept. 7 in Dallas. The rest of the offensive line was intact, although left guard Mike Iupati struggled mightily and veteran Adam Snyder replaced Joe Looney at right guard in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, Looney returned and Snyder filled in for Iupati. Also, Marcus Martin worked at center, in Daniel Kilgore's stead, as most of the starting five played the entire first half.

–Second-year wideout Quinton Patton was the offense's third wide receiver in three-wideout sets. Stevie Johnson, who was suited up and is expected to fill that role in the regular season, was "working through something" minor over the last week. Johnson entered the game midway through the second quarter. Veteran wideout Brandon Lloyd didn't dress.

–In the return game: Reserve running back LaMichael James lined up as the kickoff returner, while rookie wideout Bruce Ellington was the top option on the punt-return team until James, who was wearing an elbow brace, and Devon Wylie saw action there, too, in the second half.

Frank Gore played one series before his day ended. Rookie running back Carlos Hyde replace him on the first unit, and he ran for 20-yards on one first-half scamper behind fullback Bruce Miller. James got his first carries on the fourth series of the game and was featured at times.

Colin Kaepernick fumbled during each of the team's first two possessions. The second fumble was lost, giving the Chargers the ball at the 49ers 14-yard line. Four plays later, on 4th-and-1, Wilhoite stepped in front of Willis to make a series-ending tackle.

–Speaking of highlight defensive plays, cornerback Chris Culliver showed his recovery speed by breaking up a long, on-target pass from Phillip Rivers toward tight end Ladarius Green on the first play of San Diego's third series.

–Willis and Dahl were bested on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates just before the conclusion of the first quarter.

–San Francisco responded with the 39-yarder from Dawson, who also connected from 28 yards in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick set Dawson up with completions to Anquan Boldin (10 yards) and Vernon Davis (16 yards) during a 12-play, 55-yard drive, the offense's fourth of the game.

–Kaepernick finished the game 6-of-12 passing for 59 yards. He also carried the ball twice for 13 yards.

–Gabbert replaced Kaepernick midway through the second quarter. On his second series as signal-caller, Gabbert completed passes of 17 yards and 19 yards to McDonald and Ellington, respectively. Then he found McDonald on a six-yard, play-action pass for the team's first touchdown in its new building. McDonald spiked the ball into the back of the north end zone, as the 49ers took a 10-7 lead.

–A couple of rookies made big plays to halt the Chargers first offensive drives of the second half: Benefitting from defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie collapsing the pocket, Borland flew into the backfield for his first NFL sack; and 6-foot-5-inch outside linebacker Aaron Lynch batted a pass away at the line of scrimmage.

–Reserve quarterback Josh Johnson replaced Gabbert, who was 7-of-11 midway through the third quarter. Johnson found wideout David Reed for a 22-yard gain on his first pass attempt. The team's fourth quarterback, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, didn't enter the game until midway through the fourth quarter.

–Lynch and fellow rookie Dontae Johnson each tipped a pass late in the third quarter that was intended for running back Marion Grice before a third 49ers first-year pro, Jimmie Ward, hauled in the interception, his first. The turnover gave the team the ball at the Chargers 23-yard line, preceding Dawson's 28-yarder.

–Lynch continued his breakout performance with a fourth-quarter sack. He has emerged as a pass-rushing force.

–The game's final points were scored five minutes into the fourth quarter when rookie running back Glenn Winston went untouched on a 26-yard touchdown run. San Francisco then converted a two-point conversion on a pass from Johnson to wideout Lance Lewis.

–Cornerback Darryl Morris secured another Chargers turnover by picking quarterback Brad Sorensen on the other side of the two-minute warning.

–Oakland Raiders gneeral manager Reggie McKenzie was in attendance, watching the action from the press box.

–Foghorn energizer of the game: Santa Clara mayor Jamie Matthews.

The advance: The 49ers face a short turnaround with their fourth and final preseason game against the host Houston Texans on Thursday night. The team also must trim its roster from 90 players to 75 by Tuesday afternoon.

The review: Readers, we're working on a new layout for game stories this season, and we thought the preseason would be good proving ground. What do you think of the "Gamer" as we have it now? What would you like to see? Let us know in the comment section below.