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What We Learned from 49ers vs. Chargers

View select images from the San Francisco 49ers final exhibition tuneup before the 2015 regular season.

The San Francisco 49ers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday in the team's preseason finale. On the third play from scrimmage, rookie quarterback Dylan Thompson hit Bruce Ellington on a quick slant that the receiver took 70 yards to the house.

The 49ers ultimately won the game, 14-12, to end their exhibition season.

A vast majority of the 49ers starters got the night off, including Colin Kaepernick, NaVorro Bowman, Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Joe Staley and Alex Boone.

That meant guys like Thompson, Ellington and others had the opportunity to see extra playing time as they tried to impress the coaching staff one final time before the looming roster cuts.

Many players, especially the rookies, did just that. Thompson goes the distance

It was assumed going in that Kaepernick wouldn't play. It did surprise people, however, to see backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert also sit this one out. That meant that Thompson got the start and played all four quarters as the only other quarterback on the 49ers roster.

After throwing a strike to Ellington on the long touchdown, Thompson followed the score up with a two-point conversion on a pass to Quinton Patton. It was certainly a special series for Thompson as he opened the game with his first touchdown pass as a professional football player.

The former South Carolina quarterback was working with some familiar offensive skill players. In addition to Ellington, who played college ball with Thompson, tight end Busta Anderson and running back Mike Davis were also Gamecocks.

Thompson's best pass of the night came early in the fourth quarter. With DeAndrew White running up the right sideline, the quarterback threw a perfect back-shoulder pass that his receiver secured for a 31-yard gain. The drive concluded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Anderson on yet another back-shoulder throw from Thompson.

Not only were Thompson and Anderson college teammates, but they're also best friends, which is just awesome.

On the night, Thompson completed 17 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.


On the 70-yard score, Ellington lined up in the slot on the right and ran a quick slant to the middle of the field. The second-year wideout already had separation when Thompson hit him in stride, and Ellington did the rest, sprinting away from every Chargers defender in pursuit on his way into the end zone.

The receiver finished the contest with three catches for game-high 86 yards and the touchdown.

Ellington also showed well on special teams. On his first punt return, Ellington took it 26 yards up the left sideline. A personal foul for a late hit added 15 yards to the return. On his next punt return, Ellington got loose thanks to a crushing block from rookie tight end Blake Bell. Once he got into space, Ellington turned on the boosters and took off downfield, finally being brought down deep into Chargers territory.

Unfortunately, a hold brought the play back, but it still displayed the receiver's ability to evade defenders and accelerate to top speed nonetheless. Ellington had three punt returns in total that went for 44 yards.


White made his first big play of the preseason. The undrafted receiver has been a standout on the practice fields throughout camp, but he had yet to translate that success into game action. That changed Thursday night against the Chargers.

In the second quarter, the former Crimson Tide receiver ran a go-route up the left sideline. Thompson threw up a jump ball that White was able to rise up and grab amidst tight coverage on the play. The impressive catch went for 36 yards. White also caught the 31-yard pass described above.

The rookie ended the game with three catches for 77 yards.

White also had an impressive 34-yard punt return in the second quarter. The rookie receiver topped that with a 36-yard punt return on his next rep at the beginning of the third quarter. White had three punt returns for 70 yards in all.**

"Hayne Plane"**

Jarryd Hayne was active on special teams, both as a return man and on coverage units. In addition to making a tackle as a gunner on punt coverage, Hayne returned three punts himself for 43 yards.

As a running back, Hayne carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards. The Australian rookie also caught two passes for 17 yards.

Hayne's best play of the night came on a screen pass in the third quarter. Hayne took the short pass from Thompson for 12 yards, but as the play ended, the 'back lowered his shoulder and trucked a Chargers defensive back.

It was the first time Hayne has shown off his strength and power as a runner, and it was very impressive.

Other notes

  • Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser got the start at cornerback for the second straight game.
  • None of the starting offensive line, including new first-team right guard Jordan Devey, saw the field against the Chargers.
  • Kendall Hunter started at running back, carrying the ball 10 times in the game for 21 yards.
  • Davis also saw plenty of action. The rookie had seven carries in the game for 33 yards.
  • Marcus Cromartie sealed the win with a late interception of Chargers quarterback Brad Sorensen
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