The San Francisco 49ers return to action this week following their Week 9 Bye to host the Los Angeles Chargers for "Sunday Night Football." This matchup marks the 16th meeting all-time between the 49ers and Chargers and just the second time that Los Angeles will have visited Levi's® Stadium in the regular season. This Sunday, the 49ers will look to end the Chargers five-game win streak between the two teams and finish the Week 10 contest with a 5-4 record on the season.
"We needed to get away a little, physically and mentally... but we're itching to come back," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Everyone's got a lot of energy and we're fresh to go and ready to grind again."
For this week's Four Downs, 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares and 49ers Spanish insider Jesús Zárate have joined me to break down several storylines ahead of the team's Week 10 contest against Los Angeles. We also answer questions directly from the Faithful exclusive for the 49ers Supporters Club. To get your questions answered, sign up for the 49ers Supporters Club here.
1st Down: Biggest Takeaway from First Half of the Season?
@LindseyLares: Setting a new standard
My biggest takeaway from the first half of the season is that this team is incredibly hard to beat when they play complementary football. The best example of this was the 49ers Week 8 game against the Los Angeles Rams. With the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense playing lights out, the end result was a second half shutout of LA and 21 unanswered points through the final two quarters of the game. San Francisco is heading into the second half of the season with some good momentum and new standard they've set for themselves. It's going to be really exciting to watch.
@JesusZarate87: Team resiliency
The first half of the season was a roller coaster of emotions for the 49ers. It was difficult to see players getting hurt almost every week and going through the four losses. But, it had a lot of happy moments too with the games won and the trade for running back Christian McCaffrey who brought a lot of excitement to The Bay. My biggest takeaway through the team's first eight games is the resilience that the 49ers have. The team kept improving no matter what obstacles they faced in that first half of the year and that just shows that San Francisco is battle tested and ready for any challenge.
@BriMcDonaldTV: Growing optimism
Although the 49ers weren't able to play consistently through their first eight games, San Francisco seems to be pretty optimistic for the second half of their season. The team closed the first half with an even 4-4 record, and with some key players such as LB Azeez Al-Shaair, RB Elijah Mitchell, DL Jordan Willis and OL Colton McKivitz coming back from injury, the 49ers have all the right tools for a second-half surge.
2nd Down: Which Player Are You Most Excited to See Back on the Field for "SNF?"
It's going to be great to see Mitchell back on the field and a revamped running back room/ground game crew. I say that because wide receiver Deebo Samuel also factors into this along with McCaffrey and Mitchell. There was so much anticipation for Mitchell headed into his sophomore season and his injury caused a bit of a setback for him but now, it's go time. He's appeared healthy and eager at practice this week, so I expect he'll be out there on Sunday and putting out some nice numbers on the ground.
I am very excited to see Samuel back on the field on "Sunday Night Football." He missed the recent game against the Rams, so I can't wait to see him again in uniform ready to go. He was back at practice this week after dealing with a hamstring injury, and the Bye definitely looks like it helped Samuel in his recovery. I'm looking forward to see him play with McCaffrey, both with a full week of practice. That should be a lot of fun to watch and a nightmare for opposing defenses.
In Shanahan's final address to the media ahead of the team's contest on Sunday, he announced that Al-Shaair would be activated from the team's Injured Reserve list after participating in a full week of practice. I'm excited to watch him reunite with linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw and work to limit the Chargers run game. In fact, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans stated that the reassembled linebackers group "symbolizes" the 49ers defense, and that the addition of Al-Shaair enhances the unit's "speed, athleticism and physicality."
3rd Down: Which Chargers Player Must the 49ers Contain?
@LindseyLares: RB Austin Ekeler
The interesting part of this matchup is that the 49ers also have to worry about facing a dual-threat running back on Sunday. The 49ers have their work cut out for them with Ekeler playing a big role on the Chargers offense. He's racked up 427 rushing and 381 receiving yards and scored a total of 10 touchdowns in 2022. On the plus side, the 49ers defense gets their trio of starting linebackers back this week – Al-Shaair, Greenlaw and Warner – which should make containing Ekeler easier.
@JesusZarate87: QB Justin Herbert
The Chargers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but I think the 49ers must limit the damage that a quarterback like Herbert can do. Don't give him time to find his targets because Los Angeles' offense is fourth in the league in passing yards, averaging 275 per game. If the 49ers are able to make Herbert feel uncomfortable all day with pressure, they should have a great chance to succeed on defense.
@BriMcDonaldTV: WR Josh Palmer
The Chargers offense will enter Sunday night without its top two wideouts. On Friday, Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) were both ruled out for the Week 10 matchup. Both receivers also missed LA's last game against the Falcons, and in that contest Palmer was Herbert's main target. The wide receiver notched 106 yards on eight receptions in the Chargers win over Atlanta, so containing him will be a major key to success for the 49ers.
4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for the Week 10 Matchup Against the Chargers?
@LindseyLares: I predict the 49ers will put together another 2nd half shutout and win 27-14 on Sunday.
@JesusZarate87: I believe San Francisco's defense will not allow more than 200 yards against the Chargers. They have the players upfront to bring the pressure on Herbert and guys in the secondary like Charvarius Ward to shine in coverage.
@BriMcDonaldTV: Elijah Mitchell will score his first touchdown of the 2022 season.