This is the live blog for the 49ers fourth and final exhibition game. I will updating this frequently throughout the game with extra observations and analysis.
7:10 Frank Gore isn’t playing, so Kendall Hunter gets the first three carries of the game, rushing for 19 yards. He’s the second-best running back on the Niners by a wide margin.
7:11 As soon as I write that, Hunter rips off a 21-yard run for a first down. He looks like Ray Rice right now.
7:14 On 3rd and 3 from the San Diego 10, Alex Smith barely completes a pass to Ted Ginn, who rips the ball away from the cornerback. That’s the second nice catch he’s made on the drive. The first he caught a few feet over his head.
7:15 On 2nd and goal from the 1, Smith hands the ball off to Anthony Dixon, who pounds it into the end zone for a touchdown. 7-0, and a great drive for the Niners, mostly for Kendall Hunter. If Dixon’s going to have a role on the team, it will have to be as a short-yardage back, and he came through at the goal line this time.
7:19 If the Niners can establish the running game early in regular season game like that are right now, they’ll have a fighting chance to win every week. Two very talented backs in Gore and Hunter.
7:24 NaVorro Bowman times his blitz perfectly, jukes Ryan Mathews and sacks Billy Volek. Middle linebacker blitzes will be a new weapon for the 49ers defense this year, and it already looks effective.
7:26 Anthony Dixon fails to convert on 2nd & 1, getting hit in the backfield, but converts on 3rd and 3 behind a strong block by Chilo Rachal.
7:28 Alex Smith tries to throw a fade to Braylon Edwards in the end zone. The throw is on point, and Braylon tries to catch it with one hand, but bobbles the ball as he drags his feet, and the pass is incomplete. That play will be a huge weapon for Alex Smith in the red zone.
7:33 On 1st and goal from the 1, Anthony Dixon runs the ball up the gut and gets the score. That’s two touchdowns and a first down for Dixon. 14-0 Niners. They look confident and in sync.
END FIRST QUARTER
Alex Smith finishes the quarter 8/10 for 45 yards. His QB rating was 85.4
7:41 Ryan Mathews runs 56 yards untouched for a touchdown. 14-7 Chargers. Will Tukuafu cut inside opening a huge hole outside for Mathews. Parys Haralson rushed up field and neglected to set the edge. Larry Grant got blocked downfield, and Mathews blew by the entire 49ers defense.
7:46 Kendall Hunter returns a kickoff 51 yards. He already has 102 all-purpose yards and the second quarter just started. Tim Ryan likes what he sees.
7:50 Colin Kaepernick under throws a corner-route to Lance Long and gets intercepted. Kaepernick looks great when he can throw a bullet to the sideline, but when he has to put touch on pass he struggles.
7:56 Keaton Kristic gets rolled up on and has to get carted off the field. It looks like his left ankle took the brunt of the force.
7:58 Demarcus Dobbs and Aldon Smith manhandles their blockers back into the pocket, and Aldon Smith picks up the sack. It looks like he’s going to play in situations where he can line up at defensive end, at least to start the season. Tim Ryan thinks he’s going to be a great player in this league. Says he’s “physically strapped up.”
8:02 On 3rd and 6, Kaepernick steps up in the pocket, pump fakes and scrambles for 8 yards and a first down. Good to see Niner quarterbacks roll out and make plays instead of just throw the ball away.
8:05 On 3rd and 3, Kaepernick stares down Ronald Johnson on a quick slant, and Marcus Gilchrist reads Kaepernick’s eyes, sticks his hand out and deflects the pass, and then it’s intercepted by Dante Hughes. That’s two picks in two drives for Kaepernick, but Ronald Johnson takes some of the blame for latest one. He didn’t fight hard enough to make the catch.
8:12 Todman drops a handoff for San Diego and Alex Joseph recovers the ball for the Niners. Kaepernick is back in the game at quarterback.
8:14 On 3rd and 9 Kaepernick gets sacked, but at least he didn’t throw an interception.
8:18 Demarcus Dobbs and Aldon Smith execute in the game what they’ve executed numerous times in practice drills — Dobbs ties up the tackle, Smith cuts inside, beats the guard and sacks the quarterback. That’s Smith’s second sack of the half, and both he and Dobbs are having great first halves.
END OF SECOND QUARTER
The players of the half were: Kendall Hunter, Aldon Smith, Demarcus Dobbs, Anthony Dixon and Alex Smith.
8:35 Chris Culliver gets beaten badly for the second time tonight. This was a gain of 26 yards. He’s behind both Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown at cornerback.
8:38 Antwan Applewhite sacks the Scott Tolzien after beating the right tackle on a speed rush to the outside. Aldon Smith and Demarcus Dobbs were also in Tolzien’s face.
8:44 Terrific run by Anthony Dixon. Bursts up the middle for 7 yards. No hesitation, no tap dancing.
8:46 On 3rd and 4, Kaepernick completes a short pass in the flat to Kyle Williams who turns the ball upfield, shakes one tackle and picks up 20 yards. Kyle Williams has seemingly locked up the 5th wide receiver spot.
8:49 David Akers hit a 49-yard field goal, 17-7 Niners. Kaepernick looked better on that drive. He didn’t convert the first down on his third down scramble, sliding short. But in a regular season game I’d expect he’d pick that up.
8:55 Scott Tolzien hits Laurent Robinson for a 39-yard completion on the right sideline. Chris Culliver had good coverage, but Tolzien put the ball where only Robinson could catch it – just over his right shoulder.
8:58 Alex Joseph just creamed Jordan Todman in the backfield. That was the hardest hit for the 49ers this preseason. Joseph has made the most of his opportunity after Keaton Kristick hurt his leg.
9:04 Josh McCown comes into his first exhibition game of the year. On the second play he fakes to Xavier Omon, rolls right, runs into two defenders, runs back to the left and completes a short pass to Omon, who gains 33 yards. Very nice play for both McCown and Omon. If McCown continues to play well, he could jump Kaepernick on the depth chart.
9:19 Tolzien completes another long pass, and this time Phillip Adams gets beat. He wasn’t close to the receiver, either. He needs to step up if he wants to make the team.
9:21 On 3rd down Aldon Smith beats the left tackle around the edge and puts both hands on the back of Scott Tolzien’s jersey but can’t hang on to him, and Tolzien scrambles 18 yards for a first down. Aldon Smith is having a monster game.
9:22 Laurent Robinson beats Phillip Adams again. First down, Chargers.
9:23 Tolzien finally throws a bad pass, and Chris Culliver picks it off in the end zone. It was an under thrown deep pass, and Culliver did a good job of turning his head and making a play on the ball.
9:26 And McLeod Bethel-Thompson enters the game. Harbaugh wasn’t just whistling when he said he’d try to play all his quarterbacks for once.
9:29 For his first pass in the NFL, Bethel-Thompson throws a very nice deep pass to Hastings, who does not catch the pass.
9:34 Scott Tolzien is picking on cornerback Corey Nelms, completing two passes in his direction. Tolzien is having a terrific game, and he’s looking like a nice backup quarterback.
9:38 Tolzien throws Nelms’ direction again, but this time it’s right to Nelms, and he lets the sure interception drop through his hands. Outside linebacker Kenny Rowe had pressure on Tolzien.
9:42 Phillip Adams runs the wrong direction and Scott Tolzien throws a 9 yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu. 20-17 Niners.
9:45 Bethel-Thompson killing the clock with kneel downs. The Niners win.
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