San Francisco 49ers Overcome Slow Start to Top San Diego Chargers 21-7

The San Francisco 49ers endured yet another sputtering start, but ended up cruising to a  21-7 win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 3 of the preseason.

The 49ers grabbed their first points ever at Levi’s Stadium on the fourth drive of the game when Phil Dawson connected on a 39-yard field goal. However, overall the team’s starting offense struggled to move the chains. Tight end Vernon Davis isn’t overly concerned with the underwhelming display.

“One thing about the first team offense, once we get rolling, once we get into our zone, then it’s all down hill after that,” said Davis. “We can do whatever we want. Whatever we put our minds too. But it’s just about getting into that zone.”

The team definitely has yet to reach that zone, and the offensive line in particular was exposed early on leading to a fumble in the first quarter. Davis didn’t exactly offer a vote of confidence when asked whether the group was struggling.

“I can’t say at the moment because it’s so early, but as far as critiquing and judging, being judgmental, as far as the offensive line, I’m going to leave that up to the coaches because it’s not my job. My job is to go out there and help these guys anyway that I possibly can.”

Once again, rookie running back Carlos Hyde stood out. Hyde broke off a 20-yard run in the second quarter and finished his afternoon with 38 yards on six rushes. LaMichael James, who took the field for the first team since dislocating his right elbow, also saw plenty of action. James had had seven rushes but piled up just nine yards. As the running back explained afterward, one of his goals was to see how well his elbow had healed.

“I just wanted to go out there and get hit, you know, a lot. I really did get hit a lot, so I wanted to see how it would hold up. And how it felt after the game and what I can and what I can’t do wearing the elbow brace.”

With less than a minute to go in the opening half, the 49ers scored their first ever touchdown at the team’s new home, as Blaine Gabbert found Vance McDonald on a six-yard pass. The touchdown was also the team’s first of the 2014 preseason.

On defense, Michael Wilhoite continued to state his case to step in for the sidelined NaVorro Bowman. The 27-year-old, who totaled four tackles, made a big stop on Ryan Matthews at the 5-yard line, as the Chargers turned the ball over on downs during the second drive of the game.

Chris Borland, who is competing with Wilhoite to start at inside linebacker, also put in a strong showing. The rookie led the squad with five tackles and recorded a sack early in the third quarter.

First-round pick Jimmie Ward hauled in an interception late in the third quarter. The pick, which occurred after linebacker Aron Lynch had tipped the pass, set up a 28-yard field goal from Dawson. The kick gave the 49ers a 13-7 edge over the Chargers.

San Francisco then opened up a 21-7 advantage in the fourth quarter, as Josh Johnson orchestrated a 64-yard scoring drive. Glenn Winston ended the drive with a 27-yard touchdown run. On the day, the running back went for a team-leading 58 yards on eight carries.

Note: Brandon Lloyd did not dress for the game against the Chargers. On Friday, Harbaugh said that the receiver was dealing with an undisclosed injury. In the third quarter, Will Tukuafu exited the game with a concussion. In the fourth quarter, Marcus Martin left the game with a knee injury and had to be carted off the field.