Chargers Drop Defensive Battle Against 49ers
Following two joint practices earlier this week, the competition between the Los Angeles Chargers and the 49ers culminated in a preseason game Sunday afternoon inside SoFi Stadium. In a game highlighted by defensive effort and penalties, the Bolt’s offense never seemed to gain its bearings as they fell to San Francisco by a final score of 15-10.
Despite dominating the turnover battle (three to one), Los Angeles was unable to turn defense into offense and failed to capitalize on their opportunities. The Powder Blue finished with just 162 yards of total offense for a measly 2.6 yards per play.
The Chargers have looked extremely disciplined under first-year Head Coach Brandon Staley up to this point, but Sunday’s game was a different story. The SoCal squad finished with 12 penalties which cost them 105 yards. The costliest penalty came towards the end of the game with 1:49 left on the clock. The Chargers stopped the 49ers on downs but a roughing the passer call on Jesse Lemonier negated the defensive effort. San Francisco would go on to run the clock down and hold onto their five-point advantage.
Stick Gets The Start
Easton Stick got the start at quarterback for the Chargers but was unable to establish an offensive rhythm early on. Constant pressure from the 49ers’ defense made the young signal-caller uncomfortable, as the Chargers’ first possession stalled out around mid-field.
The 49ers began the game with a better tempo offensively, marching the ball deep into Chargers’ territory before throwing a costly interception. Facing a third-and-12, Jimmy Garoppolo had a wide-open Brandon Aiyuk over the middle, but the throw was high. The ball bounced off the receivers’ hands and landed into the lap of rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.
The teams exchanged punts and the Chargers found themselves pinned on their own eight-yard line. A negative run on first-down followed by an incompletion brought up third-and-11. Stick dropped back to pass but was denied an opportunity to throw. Defensive end Jordan Willis went low on left tackle Trey Pipkins, beating him easily. Willis was rewarded with a sack and a safety as he dropped Stick in the Los Angeles endzone.
Trey Lance had his team in field-goal range on the ensuing drive, but the Chargers secondary was able to force its second turnover of the evening. On another high throw over the middle, this time from Lance to Mohamed Sanu, the ball was deflected and again picked off by the Bolts. Tevaughn Campbell was credited with the interception after he ripped the ball off the fingertips of Sanu.
Stick’s Joe Montana Impression
With favorable field position, it was the Chargers’ turn to crack the scoreboard. A 49er pass interference penalty late in the drive gave Los Angeles the ball in the red zone.
From three yards out, Stick evaded the initial pressure by rolling out to the right. The young quarterback took off like he was going to run and forced the San Francisco defense to commit to him. Showing great awareness, Stick pulled up before making contact and delivered a strike into the chest of Josh Palmer who was open in the back of the endzone.
“Money Badger” Money from Deep
A quick three-and-out from Lance and Co. gave the Chargers the ball back on their own 33-yard line with more than four minutes left in the half. A huge 39-yard toss and catch from Stick to Jalen Guyton set up a deep Michael Badgley field goal. Badgely, who has struggled with distance kicks in the past, nailed the 50-yard boot.
Lance Leads Scoring Drive
The 49ers got the ball back with less than a minute left on the clock, but that was all Lance would need as he orchestrated a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive. A deep pass to Trent Sherfield down the right sideline led to a quick-hitting touchdown from Lance to Aiyuk.
Trailing 10-8, San Francisco elected to go for two. Lance scrambled to the right and would have scored but a holding penalty pushed the 49ers back, forcing them to bring out Robbie Gould for the extra point attempt. Gould’s kick bounced off the right upright as the Chargers took their two-point advantage into halftime.
Third Quarter Dominance
San Francisco controlled the third quarter with its swarming defense and clock-chewing offense. The only points of the period came off an impressive 11-play drive capped off by a beautiful touchdown pass from Lance. The No. 3 overall pick lasered the ball through tight coverage to Travis Benjamin who let his momentum carry him into the endzone, giving the 49ers their first lead of the game.
Chase Daniel took over quarterback duties in the second half but also struggled to get the Chargers’ offense rolling. He constantly resorted to the check-down and when he did try to move the ball downfield, he did not have good results. Daniel threw a bad ball over the middle to start the fourth that was intercepted by Jared Mayden and returned for a touchdown. However, the touchdown was nullified by a San Francisco holding penalty.
Third Times the Charm?
The 49ers were unable to turn the favorable field position into points as they gave the ball right back just a few plays later. Third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld fumbled the snap and the ball bounced around the center’s legs before Cole Christiansen dove on the pigskin for LA’s third takeaway of the contest. The game ended with six consecutive punts, a ton of defense, and minimal offense from both sides.
The Chargers conclude their preseason slate next week when they travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, August 28 at Lumen Field.