Niners overcome scrappy Chargers

The 49ers are finally over .500.  It wasn’t easy getting there.  The Chargers came to play.  They started fast but didn’t have the stamina to finish.  Though they have a depleted offensive line, defensive line and wide receiver corps, the Chargers are stockpiled with inexperienced talent.  The Niners eventually wore the Chargers out.


Not a great start…

The Chargers started fast and made a statement.  They drove right down the field and scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter.  The Niners secondary was taken by surprise during the first possession of the game.  Justin Herbert took advantage of two blown coverages on their first drive.  The Niners responded by driving the ball all the way to the Chargers 2-yard line but could not punch it in for a tying score.  They settled for a field goal.  The Niners defense forced a fourth down on the Chargers next possession.  It was the Niners ball.  First play of the Niners next possession looked promising.  Brandon Aiyuk made an awesome catch and as he was coming down with the ball, Derwin James planted his head on the football and forced a fumble and turnover.  The Chargers were able to convert the turnover to a field goal early in the 2nd quarter.


Kittle Awakens the Offense

The 49ers offense went three and out the next two possessions in a row.  The 49ers defense was more successful forcing a three and out on one drive and allowing only a field goal on the second.  Once again, late in the 2nd quarter, it looked like the 49ers were destined for their third 3 and out in a row.  It was 3rd and 12 and Jimmy Garoppolo found George Kittle over the middle for a 21-yard gain.  Up until then Jimmy G had been playing with happy feet.  He was quite concerned about the Chargers pass rush.  Getting a completion to Kittle finally settled him and the rest of the team down.  The next play, was about to break down until Ray Ray McCloud burst past his defender, caught the ball and ran for a 33-yard gain.  This play was very important because Ray Ray was supposed to sit in the flat.  He saw his quarterback in trouble and that he was matched up on a linebacker, so he burst down the sideline giving Jimmy G a wide-open target.  A few plays later and Jimmy G sneaks into the end-zone.  The Niners offense was finally alive and well in the game.


Dominate Defense

The 49ers defense was outstanding tonight, particularly in the second half.  After giving up a touchdown they only allowed 3 field goals in the first half and they held the Chargers to zero points in the 2nd half.  In fact, they held Justin Herbert to a season low of 196 yards passing.  They stuffed the run holding the Chargers to just 51 yards rushing.  Finally, they only allowed the chargers to convert six of sixteen third downs.

The defensive line kept constant pressure on Herbert.  Nick Bosa, Charles Omenihu and Jordan Willis all collected sacks.  If they weren’t sacking the quarterback, they were affecting his throws.  They either forced him to throw early, throw it short or throw it away.  The best illustration of the 49er’s defensive dominance in the second half came on the Chargers last offensive play of the game.  It was first and ten and the Chargers had 77 yards to go with only 53 seconds and no timeouts.  Bosa forced Herbert to step up into the pocket.  As he stepped up Omenihu broke off his offensive lineman and grabbed Herbert’s arm just as he released the ball.  The ball sailed high and Talanoa Hufanga snatched the game ending interception.  That play was the culmination of everything the 49ers defense did all night long against the Chargers.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (54) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (51) celebrate during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Offensive Playmakers

The Niners offense benefited greatly with Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, Jauan Jennings and Kyle Jusczyk back in the lineup.  Jennings was a key component to their success tonight as he caught 4 catches for 40 yards, three of which for 3rd down conversions.  His last two catches were crucial.  It was early in the fourth quarter, and the Niners found themselves in a 2nd and 20 situation.   Jimmy G found Jennings for a 12-yard gain.  Then on 3rd and 8, Jennings caught the ball short of the line to gain but juked the defender and ran for the first down.  The Niners ended up scoring the go-ahead touchdown that drive.  Jauan Jennings did his job.


Run the Damn Ball!

The Niners rushing attack looks much better with Mitchell back in the lineup.  Christian McCaffrey started the game off, but it was clear the Chargers were ready for him.  They weren’t ready for the steady running of Mitchell.  He ripped off 89 yards on 18 carries in his first game back since week one.  The Niners ran the ball 41 times to 28 passes.  This will be the key to their success as they strive to make a playoff run.  Given that the Niners have two dynamic runners, they can split the load giving opposing defenses fits.  Coach Shanahan is starting to show how he can manipulate defenses by having Deebo and McCaffrey in the back field.  During the first drive of the game, the Niners were on the Chargers nine-yard line.  Deebo and McCaffrey lined up in the back field.  Then McCaffrey motioned left and Deebo had a wide-open lane to run for seven yards.  We can expect more plays like that in the future.


It’s not over till it’s over!

Though the Niners scored a go-ahead touchdown midway thru the 4th quarter, the Chargers still had life.  The defense forced a three and out and the 49ers were also forced to punt on their next possession.  Despite that, this is where the 49ers really won the game.  Mitch Wishnowski managed a perfect punt, downed by Samuel Womack III on the Chargers one yard line.  The Chargers had 99 yards to go, and they were facing an eager 49ers defense.  The Niners forced the Chargers to turn the ball over on downs.  Coach Shanahan milked the clock, and though they were unable to score a touchdown, they kicked a field goal and left Justin Herbert 53 seconds to travel 77 yards.  Hufanga ended the game for both teams on the next play.



A lot of credit must be given to the Coach Brandon Staley and his Chargers.  He had the defense ready for the 49ers.  He was missing only Joey Bosa.  Despite that, the Chargers made life difficult on the 49ers, particularly in the red-zone.  The Chargers gave the 49ers some great red-zone film to study as they move into the second half of their season.

We are halfway thru the season, and it appears the 49ers have finally found their feet.  They are still waiting on Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw to rejoin the team.  The Niners still have tough games ahead.  Though their record is 5 and 4, the future is bright.  Coming from behind to win is good for the 49ers to experience.  They have had to do that four out of their last five games.  No matter the circumstances they always know they are in the game.  Next week the 49ers are on to Mexico to take on the Arizona Cardinals.

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