The 49ers came up short in their quest to go undefeated in the preseason for the first time since 1992. A sloppy beginning to the game and a lackluster second half caused the 49ers to fall 26-7 to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
The 49ers avoided any major injuries to their key performers, which made the game a success after all according to head coach Mike Singletary. Only wide receiver Dominique Zeigler was lost to a sprained ankle in the second half.
"The biggest thing we wanted to achieve tonight was not getting anybody hurt; we accomplished that for the most part." Singletary said after the game.
Nate Davis was unable to lead the 49ers to a third straight come from behind victory in the preseason, but the rookie was responsible for the 49ers only points of the game when he completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jason Hill late in the first half.
"It was good to play against that defense," Davis said of his opportunity to play over three quarters against San Diego's defense. "But I just have to keep staying in my playbook and try to get better every day."
Davis was the only 49ers quarterback to produce points in the preseason finale.
Starting quarterback Shaun Hill (3-of-4 for 20 yards) did not score on his only drive of the game. Hill finished the preseason without throwing a touchdown pass, but after the game he was not concerned.
"We moved the ball a little bit," Hill said. "We weren't able to get any points, but it was good to at least get out there and run some plays and get things started out there."
The beginning of the game was quite a rocky start for Hill and the 49ers.
The Chargers led off the game with a quick Nate Kaeding onside kick that was recovered by cornerback Antoine Cason. It gave San Diego outstanding field position that they capitalized on.
Despite missing starters like quarterback Phillip Rivers and running back LaDianian Tomlinson, the Chargers were able to score on their first offensive possession. Backup quarterback Billy Volek completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver and special teams ace Kassim Osgood over cornerback Nate Clements.
Hill's only drive resulted in two first downs but eventually stalled. Davis came into the game on the team's second drive after Osgood's touchdown catch, but was unable to score initially.
However, he put together a 7-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in the team's first and only points of the game in his fourth series.
On the first play of that drive, Davis found Jason Hill for a 12-yard completion. He finished the scoring drive by finding Hill again with a 21-yard touchdown pass. Davis finished the first half 10-of-14 for 102 yards and the aforementioned touchdown pass.
"I felt good just getting the opportunity," Hill the wideout, said of his increased involvement. "I felt like I made a couple of plays today."
A couple of uncharacteristic penalties marred the first half for the 49ers, including personal foul penalties and pass interference penalties. But overall it was a relatively even first half. Both teams picked up eight first downs and the Chargers outgained the 49ers by six yards of total offense [164-159].
In the second half, Davis took all of the snaps, but was unable to put any points on the board. He completed 3-of-9 passes in the game's final 30 minutes for 13 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the young reserves on the 49ers defense also struggled at times. They allowed the Chargers to move the ball against them throughout the game, totaling 346 total yards. The only plus for the 49ers defensive reserves was that four of San Diego's six scoring drives resulted in field goals.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Diyral Briggs supplied the 49ers only turnover of the game when he sacked Chargers third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and knocked the ball loose at the same time. Fellow undrafted rookie, defensive lineman Pannel Egboh recovered the fumble.
Briggs' play was quite impressive considering the importance of making a lasting impression on the league's talent evaluators.
"It was their last opportunity to show not only this team what you can do, but every team out there that you belong on an NFL roster," Shaun Hill said of the importance for players like Briggs. "This was important for a lot of guys out there tonight."
Singletary said afterwards that he thanked his 73 players for their contributions. With roster cuts looming, Singletary was pleased with the effort displayed throughout the offseason by all of his players.
"I'm very thankful that we've come to the end of the preseason," he said. "I thanked our guys for everything they've done. Obviously, we have to make cuts tomorrow, but our young guys got a lot of opportunity to play and we had a lot of time to see who is going to stay and who is going to go."