49ers 35, Chargers 3
Antonio Gates ran over the middle and caught the pass from
Philip Rivers. He took a couple steps and had the ball stripped by
C.J. Spillman and roll all over the damp Candlestick Park grass and
into the arms of a defender.
Not exactly the lasting memory the San Diego Chargers wanted
heading into the regular season.
Gates fumbled and Rivers threw an interception on the first two
possessions – both against San Francisco’s reserves – in San
Diego’s 35-3 loss to the 49ers on Thursday night. The Chargers
finished the preseason 3-1 and somewhat unsettled following such a
The one bit of good news: the game didn’t count.
”It’s something that’s definitely a rude awakening for this
team,” Gates said. ”I’m glad it happened. It’s one of those
things that happens and you’re upset, but it could be a positive
That would be one of the few positives.
Rivers went 8 for 10 for 89 yards and the interception in one
quarter for San Diego, which will be back in the Bay Area to open
the season on Monday Night Football Sept. 10 at Oakland. Rivers
also tried to dodge another mistake, but San Francisco 49ers coach
Jim Harbaugh had none of that.
Harbaugh hollered at the replacement officials when they didn’t
initially call intentional grounding on Rivers’ left-handed throw
under pressure with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. Neither
considered it a big deal afterward.
”The biggest thing that we’ve got to do is whoever has the
ball, when the play is over, we end up with it,” Chargers coach
Norv Turned quipped.
San Francisco had no problems picking up San Diego’s slack.
Delanie Walker caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from backup
quarterback Colin Kaepernick and starter Alex Smith handed off five
times before calling it a night. San Francisco also wrapped up the
Walker returned to action for the first time since the
exhibition opener after he injured his right knee during practice
on Aug. 12. He missed time late last season with a broken left jaw
before returning for the NFC championship, so the TD catch will
only serve as a boost heading into the regular season next
”I missed two preseason games, so just the opportunity to go
out there and play, I took advantage of it, and I had a great
time,” Walker said. ”I wanted to get my feet back under me, make
sure the knee was good. I felt like everything was perfect and had
a great game.”
Kaepernick connected with rookie first-round draft pick A.J.
Jenkins on a 12-yard score midway through the second quarter that
put the defending NFC West champion ahead 21-0. Kaepernick finished
12 for 18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns for the 49ers (3-1).
”Tonight was the first time I really felt like I just went out
there and let it loose and just played ball,” Kaepernick said.
”It felt good to finally get in a rhythm.”
Smith didn’t throw a pass in his short outing, handing the ball
to Kendall Hunter on the first four plays of the game and one more
to Jenkins. Anthony Dixon ran for a 1-yard TD.
”Just wanted him to go out and break a sweat,” Harbaugh
San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called out his
unit – particularly the backups – after a 29-24 win at Denver on
Sunday night in which the Niners fell behind 17-0 in the first
quarter before rallying in the second half to win. This time, the
49ers starters got the night off completely on a windy, chilly
summer evening along the bay.
Not that San Diego did enough right on offense to give the No. 2
defense much of a test.
San Francisco’s Josh Johnson, fighting for the No. 3 quarterback
job with 2011 holdover Scott Tolzien, threw a 51-yard touchdown
pass to Nathan Palmer in the third quarter and another late in the
period to Garrett Celek for 3 yards.
Walker’s first-quarter touchdown catch – and Kaepernick’s first
career TD completion as he begins his second season with San
Francisco – was set up by safety Trenton Robinson’s 22-yard fumble
Gates caught a 13-yard pass from Rivers, was stripped by
Spillman and Robinson recovered and ran.
”I didn’t realize how close he was to me,” Gates said. ”So
when I caught the ball, he was right there. It was kind of a
challenge for the ball at that point because I kind of carelessly,
loosely, brought the catch in. I know better than that.”
Two plays after the fumble, Walker caught the ball on a crossing
route to the left sideline and beat safety Atari Bigby at the 5
before spinning into the end zone for the Niners, who went 13-3
last year in a resurgent season under Harbaugh, the NFL Coach of
”He was fired up about that play and made a tremendous athletic
play,” Harbaugh said.
Darcel McBath intercepted a pass by Rivers on San Diego’s next
possession. The Chargers are counting on Rivers to carry the
franchise back to its old winning ways as a contender in the AFC
West after two years out of the playoffs.
It gets much harder for Harbaugh’s crew now.
San Francisco opens the season at Green Bay on Sept. 9 in a big
test for two teams that consider themselves Super Bowl
They would rather not rely quite so heavily on All-Pro kicker
David Akers and his NFL-record 44 field goals from 2011. Akers
missed a 47-yarder wide right on the last play of the first half
and went 8 for 9 in the preseason.
Nate Kaeding kicked a 27-yard field goal in the opening minute
of the fourth quarter for San Diego’s lone points.
”What was displayed today was not what we are about,” Gates
said, ”not what we worked this hard for.”
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and