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What We Learned from 49ers vs. Chargers

Posted Aug 24, 2014

Instant analysis from San Francisco's third preseason game of 2014, a home matchup against the San Diego Chargers.

The San Francisco 49ers scored their first touchdown and won their first game of the 2014 preseason.

We learned a lot of valuable information from the victory, especially on the first-team units, who saw their most action of the preseason to date.

Here’s a look at instant postgame analysis following San Francisco’s 21-7 win.

Kaepernick Can Take a Hit

Colin Kaepernick fumbled on both of San Francisco’s first two possessions. The 49ers quarterback, however, picked himself off the new turf without hesitation.

The first big hit came when Kaepernick scrambled on a third-and-12 play and lost control of the ball. San Francisco's signal-caller was hit and high and low by three San Diego defenders. The 49ers recovered the ball. Kaepernick later fumbled on the second series when Chargers defensive lineman Kwame Geathers broke through San Francisco’s offensive line and delivered a jarring hit on the 49ers quarterback.

The turnover, however, didn’t cause any damage. San Francisco’s defense responded with a fourth-and-one stop on its own 5-yard line.

Kaepernick saw the field for four drives. He was hit four times. The offense picked up two first downs, 14 total yards on its first 12 plays. However, Kaepernick led the offense on a scoring drive on the fourth possession.

Fourth Drive Was the Charm

Kaepernick looked sharp firing back-to-back first-down passes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

He went on to complete five consecutive throws to start the drive, but had two passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, including a third-down pass from San Diego’s 22-yard line. As a result, Phil Dawson connected on a 39-yard field goal to finish off a 12-play, 55-yard scoring drive that took 6:09 off the clock.

It was San Francisco’s first scoring drive since the team’s opening drive against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 of the preseason.  

Kaepernick’s day was finished afterwards. He completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 59 yards against the Chargers. Kaepernick fumbled once, was sacked once and posted a 64.2 quarterback rating.

Defensive Starters Produce Goal-line Stand

Michael Wilhoite helped his case to be a starter on defense with a solid tackle on a fourth-and-1 run by Chargers running back Ryan Matthews.

Wilhoite rallied to the football and made the stop just short of the first-down marker at San Francisco’s own 5-yard line. The turnover on downs got the ball right back to Kaepernick and the 49ers offense.

Third WR Watch

Quinton Patton entered the game as San Francisco’s third receiver on a third-and-12 play on the opening drive. Brandon Lloyd was not in uniform; Stevie Johnson was, but he did not play until later in the second quarter.

Patton and Johnson saw extensive work in the second quarter, both caught passes from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Most notably, Patton caught a first-down inside the red zone and had his helmet popped off by a pair of San Diego defenders.

What did Patton do after the play?

He got up and stretched both arms wide as he walked towards the end zone. It was a little bit of a Rod Tidwell-type of moment, for those of you who’ve watched Jerry Maguire.

Veteran Starters Make Preseason Debuts

Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Ian Williams, Patrick Willis and Tramaine Brock made preseason debuts.

Chris Culliver turned in the most impressive play from the first unit. He broke up a 40-yard Philip Rivers pass to tight end Ladarius Green. Despite the deep pass breakup, the Chargers kept driving down the field and capped the game’s first scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. It would be their only lead of the game.

Snyder Works with First-team Offensive Line

Veteran guard Adam Snyder lined up at right guard with the first-team offense for San Francisco’s fourth offensive possession.

Joe Looney, uninjured, returned to action for San Francisco’s fifth offensive possession, the first with Blaine Gabbert under center.

Snyder moved to left guard for Mike Iupati on the fifth drive and promptly opened up a huge running lane for rookie running back Carlos Hyde. The second-round draft pick ran for a gain of 20 on the play.

James Showcases All-around Talent

LaMichael James did more than return punts and kicks in his preseason debut. James suffered a dislocated elbow in a 1-on-1 pass-blocking drill four weeks ago. On Sunday, James looked gritty as a pass-blocker.

He demonstrated an excellent cut-block on a blitzing linebacker, allowing Gabbert to rifle a 17-yard pass to tight end Vance McDonald.

James carried the ball, caught it out of the backfield and looked solid as a blocker against San Diego.

Vance Catches First TD with 49ers

McDonald finished off the final first-half drive with a 6-yard touchdown catch from Gabbert. It was McDonald’s first touchdown in any game of his 49ers career.

The second-year tight end caught a team-high three passes for 29 yards in the first half.

Gabbert completed 5-of-7 pass attempts on the drive for 58 yards on the 49ers first scoring drive of the 2014 preseason.

Gabbert posted a 137.0 quarterback rating in the first half. The 49ers totaled 10 first downs and 154 total yards in the second quarter alone.

Ward Records Interception

First-round draft pick Jimmie Ward continued to line up as San Francisco's first-team slot cornerback, a role he's held for the entire preseason. Ward also saw action at free safety next to Craig Dahl with the second-team defense.

Ward's top play of the day was a third-quarter interception on Chargers quarterback Brad Sorensen. Ward dove forward to catch a tipped ball. It was very similar to his first training camp interception on Kaepernick.

Ward nearly scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. A quarterback hit by rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch caused the ball to come loose and into Ward's arms. Ward ran it back into the end zone, but the San Diego quarterback threw an incomplete pass, as it was ruled by officials.

Jim Harbaugh's challenge was denied, leaving him 0-for-2 in the game.

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