49ers struggle early before pulling out 22-16 win over Chargers

Very little has come easy for San Francisco this season.

The difference on Sunday night for the 49ers (5-4) is they were able to overcome their early mistakes and pull out a 22-16 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers (5-4). This is something they were not able to do during losses in the first half of the season.

Sunday night’s win showed the character of this team.

Each San Francisco win in the first half of the season came by at least 15 points, and none were particularly close in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers defense has been among the best in the league for most of this year. However, that wasn’t the case at the start of the game.

Justin Herbert was masterful on the Chargers opening possession. The third-year quarterback connected on all five of his pass attempts including a touchdown strike from 32-yards out to DeAndre Carter.

On the touchdown play 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga was caught out of position and Carter was left wide open on a deep corner route.

After the strong start, things went downhill for Herbert.

Playing without his top two receivers, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Herbert was unable to find his rhythm for the rest of the night. Over the Chargers final eleven possessions, the third-year quarterback was able to must only 16 completions on 30 attempts for 125 yards and one interception.

As has been the case so many times this season, the only reason this game was close in the fourth quarter was mistakes by the offense and special teams.

The 49ers opened their second offensive possession with a 19-yard strike over the middle from Jimmy Garoppolo to Brandon Aiyuk. The positive play ended in disaster when Aiyuk lost control of the ball following a hit from Chargers safety Derwin James. Los Angeles recovered the fumble leading to a Chargers field goal to extend the lead to 10-3.

After the teams traded possessions in the second quarter, it was the 49ers special teams turn to make a mistake.

Punting from their own 33, the 49ers allowed Chargers linebacker Nick Neimann to break through and get a hand on Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt causing it to travel only 17 yards.

Gifted terrific field position, Los Angeles took advantage. The Chargers drove deep into 49ers territory before the San Francisco defense stepped up to force another field goal.

The second half started out with the 49ers offense once again being unable to get into the endzone due to a mistake.

 Jimmy Garoppolo started the drive off with a 21-yard completion to Christian McCaffrey. From there the 49ers offense pounded the ball, picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground.

Facing third and goal at the Chargers eight, Jimmy Garoppolo fired a pass to his left to Brandon Aiyuk. The slant pass hit Aiyuk on the back shoulder, but the receiver was unable to hold on to the ball, forcing the 49ers to settle for a field goal.

The 49ers offense finally found itself in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 16-13, Jimmy Garoppolo engineered a 14-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. San Francisco faced three third down situations on the drive and Garoppolo converted on each of them. The first two saw Garoppolo connect with Jauan Jennings to move the sticks.

Then facing third and eight at the Chargers 26, Garoppolo and Brandon Aiyuk made the biggest play of the night. Los Angeles sent a blitz, but Garoppolo saw it early and turned the ball loose quickly to Aiyuk over the middle. The receiver came through, making the grab and fighting through Chargers defenders for a 24-yard gain.

On the next play, Christian McCaffrey took the ball into the endzone from two yards out to give the 49ers their first lead of the game.

The game was still in the balance late when Talanoa Hufanga made a diving interception of a Herbert pass. The interception was Hufanga’s fourth of the season and sealed the victory for San Francisco.

This article has 15 Comments

  1. If you looked at the stats without looking at the score, you would think it was a blow out. The Niners dominated in just about every category. But it was the old bugaboo of mistakes that kept the game close. The chargers did a good job early of defending the run but the Niners stuck to it. It was great to have Mitchell back.

  2. Why are there no game statistics for the 49ers vs Chargers? One of the main reasons I get the PD if sports game stats…ever since you switched printing the paper really sucks…and the website is seemingly useless to me…Where are the game stats? I’ve subscribed to the PD since 1976 & I’ve never been so disappointed…I’m seriously considering cancelling my subscription to the paper I’ve enjoyed reading for decades & going back to the San Francisco papers I grew up reading

    1. I’m afraid you’ll find most print newspapers pretty bad. They are dead, but they just don’t know it yet. I gave up on print years ago. Everything you need is on line and much quicker to access. I go to ESPN.com for most stats.

    2. Fred,
      You are not going to get stats there either.They put out a north bay edition that doesn’t include stories or stats on night or late afternoon games. Try any of the major sports web sitesIE CBS sports or ESPN.

  3. I keep telling myself a win is a win but that was a frustrating game. Not sure what it is but the 49ers always seem to come out of a bye week very flat. That seems to be a truth that has crossed several head coaches. Chargers were playing a bunch of practice squad guys on the d-line and the 49ers only managed 3.8 YPC. Defense looked great. Give them credit. May have been a different game if Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were able to play. 49ers have a winning record and they control their destiny in the division so it’s all good. BUT this team needs to get in a groove on offense.

    Oh and whomever in the league office decided Dre Greenlaw needed to be ejected should be fired. That was awful.

    1. This offense for whatever reasons leaves too many points on the field consistently. And we know the talent is not the issue.
      Watching Miami’s offense move the ball and score with ease makes you wonder who is the better play caller between KS and McDaniel. McDaniel is making Tua look like an MVP out there. That same Alabama QBs who always have success in college but strugles in the NFL. Tua was looking like another bust until McDaniel arrives.

      1. First off Tyreek Hill is better than Deebo, Waddle is better than Aiyuk, and Terrnon Armstead is just as good as Trent Williams.

        There is half of season of tape on the Dolphins, teams will make their adjustments and injuries will happen to their team. There is no denying they look great but it’s all new. Kyle Shanahan is on year 6, he is reinventing his offense.

      2. Shanahan and Kevin William share the same adjective – Overrated ……
        Last night Shanahan had an opportunity to show off his team AND his play calling. His play calling was inept. One pass to Kittle – huh? Another pass to RayRay that JimmyG somehow managed to not over-throw.
        Someone please give JimmyG a Valium before the game to prevent his overthrows and his exposing receivers to mid-section crunches.
        Williams feet look like he is mired in mud (as do those of McGlinchey).
        All-in-all —- the Defense saved them from the banged-up Chargers.

  4. My first and only game in person for the year.
    The weather was clear and crisp , the stadium was rocking. It was a hard tough win. The team looked energized and ready for the run to the playoffs.
    Buck up gang ,they are getting heathy at the right time of the season.And for those of you who what perfection on the field of play , remember there is another professional football team wanting win just as much as we do…
    Go 9ers!

    1. Agree. I think many people forget that the other team has players who also get paid. Nothing is easy in the NFL. Look at Buffalo and Green Bay, 2 teams highly rated pre season. For those of us who play a sport, we know that sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. The Niners outplayed the Chargers quite handily but sometimes the ball didn’t bounce their way.

      1. Felix, it’s obvious those losing teams weren’t taking suggestions posted online from their respective fanbases. If only…they’d be undefeated right now.

  5. I’ll take the win whether it’s a blow-out or a nail-bitter.
    My biggest takeaway last night was to see Mitchell running thru the tackles with power and determination.
    Jimmy played well enough to win and that’s all I need from him.

    The player that I was impressed with the most was Justin Herbert. Lacking his starting WRs did not make a difference in the first half. He was on point with the backup WRs.
    He is one of the best young guns in the league.

    Back to the 49ers. Love how our coaches made halftime adjustments that changed the trajectory of the game in the 2nd half.
    That was also impressive!

  6. “We were killing ourselves in the first half and we knew it,” Garoppolo told NBC’s Melissa Stark after the game. “Especially offensively, we were killing ourselves with mistakes. Once we cleaned those up, I thought we put together some good drives and put some points on the board.”

    There you have it! That explains why the 9ers are 5W – 4L, rather than 9W – OL……
    Once the 9er offense cleaned up the mistakes (in the 2nd half), they won the game……

    The only team that is beating the 9ers, is the 9ers………

    1. Once the 9er offense cleaned up the mistakes (in the 2nd half), they won the game

      Much to the consternation of those who are invested in writing off the Niners as a terrible 2nd half team, Shannie a terrible 2nd half coach.

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