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What We Learned: 49ers 31 - Chargers 21

View images from the 49ers preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers.

SAN DIEGO -- The San Francisco 49ers closed out their exhibition season with a 31-21 victory against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

View behind-the-scenes photos from Qualcomm Stadium as the 49ers prepare for the preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers.

A vast majority of the team's starters did not dress for the preseason finale. That list included: Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Garrett Celek, Garrett Celek and the entire starting offensive line (Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Anthony Davis and Trent Brown).

Defensively, Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, NaVorro Bowman, Eli Harold, Ahmad Brooks, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner were among those who sat out.

Blaine Gabbert also didn't play against San Diego, meaning Colin Kaepernick got the start.

49ers score on opening possession

San Francisco got the ball first and promptly marched down the field.

Kaepernick completed his first four passes and took off twice for 30 yards rushing. The 49ers converted both of their 3rd-down attempts: The first on a 9-yard completion to Bruce Miller and the second on a 14-yard pass to Dres Anderson. On Anderson's catch, the wideout absorbed a huge hit and made an impressive grab in traffic.

The drive culminated with a 1-yard DuJuan Harris touchdown run to put the 49ers up 6-0. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt came up short as Harris was stuffed at the goal line.

Kaepernick finished the possession 6-of-8 passing for 58 yards and added 30 yards on two carries.

The signal-caller played the entire first half. A 10-minute touchdown drive for the Chargers kept San Francisco's offense on the sideline for much of the second quarter, but Kaepernick finished the half with a second scoring drive.

Harris picked up a 4th-and-1 attempt near midfield with a 15-yard run up the right sideline. Kaepernick followed with a nifty conversion on 3rd-and-3. The quarterback scrambled out of pressure, sprinted to the left sideline and dove at the sticks to move the chains.

The 49ers closed the second quarter with a 32-yard field goal from Phil Dawson to give them a 9-7 advantage going into halftime.

Kaepernick's night was complete after completing 11-of-18 passes for 103 yards and four carries for 38 yards. San Francisco didn't turn the ball over in the first two quarters and converted on 4-of-6 third downs.

New faces in the starting lineup

The 49ers starting o-line went as follows from left to right: Colin Kelly, Joshua Garnett, Marcus Martin, Andrew Tiller and Norman Price.

Blake Bell and Bruce Miller started at tight end while Aaron Burbridge and Anderson got the nod at wide receiver. Mike Davis got the first reps at running back.

Tony Jerod-Eddie, Ronald Blair III and Garrison Smith started on the 49ers defensive line. Garrett Celek, Michael Wilhoite, Shayne Skov and Aaron Lynch were the linebackers. In the secondary were Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson and cornerback with Marcus Cromartie and L.J. McCray at safety.

Another Ponder-led comeback

Christian Ponder had another impressive showing in the preseason. The veteran pulled the 49ers back from a 21-9 deficit. A 21-yard connection to Je'Ron Hamm on 3rd-and-15 was the biggest play of Ponder's first scoring drive. The quarterback's 1-yard touchdown made the score 21-16 San Diego with 5:53 remaining.

San Francisco wasted no time getting the ball back. Marcus Rush forced a fumble on a sack, and Demetrius Cherry recovered the loose ball.

Two Kelvin Taylor runs for 19 total yards got the 49ers to the Chargers 5-yard line. On the next play, Ponder took off once again, this time on a scramble up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown run. Taylor ran into the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt to put San Francisco up 24-21.

Ponder finished the game 8-of-14 passing for 101 yards as well as four carries for 10 yards and two touchdowns. The signal-caller finished the preseason with three rushing touchdowns and four total scores.

Niner Nuggets

  • Rashard Robinson grabbed an interception in the third quarter. Chargers rookie quarterback Mike Bercovici was looking for Dom Williams down the left sideline but didn't see Robinson sitting on the route. The rookie fourth-round pick made a leaping play on the ball and came down with the pick.
  • Mike Davis ripped off a 25-yard run in the second quarter for the 49ers longest play from scrimamge. The second-year running back finished the game with 37 yards on five carries. Harris ran the ball nine times for 28 yards.
  • Rookie ball-carrier Kelvin Taylor had an impressive fourth quarter. The sixth-round pick ran the ball nine times for 56 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run to put the game on ice. The score put the 49ers up 31-21 with 1:48 remaining.
  • Rush closed out his stellar preseason in style. The pass-rusher posted two sacks, forced a fumble and grabbed an interception to help seal a 49ers win. Rush finished with six total sacks in San Francisco's final three exhibition contests.
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