The San Francisco 49ers left the newly sodded field at Levi's Stadium victorious for the first time this preseason after a 21-7 outing against the San Diego Chargers.
Leading up to the Sunday's victory, the Niners had yet to reach the end-zone and had scored a total of three points through their first two exhibition games. Despite the increased productivity on both sides of the ball, the Niners still looked a bit "off" in their third warm-up game before the season starts. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was pressured through out the first few series of the game before being spelled by backup QB Blaine Gabbert.
"We've got to work on that. We've got to be good in that area." said Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. "I thought our precision was better offensively, defensively and on special teams…productive plays, execution."
While the Niners racked up 21 points and set foot in the end-zone twice during Sunday afternoon's game, the first-team offense contributed to neither one. The first TD of the preseason came from a 6-yard pass from Gabbert to tight end Vance McDonald in the second quarter. The other, a 27-yard run from undrafted free-agent running back Glenn Winston in the fourth quarter.
Fox Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews asked Kaepernick why the first-team offense has struggled to put up points.
"I don't know. We're just not executing like we need to." answered the Niners starting quarterback.
Kaepernick would go on to mention that he is not worried by the lack of scoring from the starters so far because the games have not mattered. "I'll worry if this happens during the season."
The aforementioned pressure Kaepernick saw early on in the game from the Chargers and the lack of space for the Niners in the running game instantly brought back chatter about holdout right guard Alex Boone, While Joe Looney did not play poorly, it wasn't seen as up to par with what the Niners would normally expect from Boone. However, others on the O-line had trouble like Pro-Bowl left guard Mike Iupati and presumed backup center Marcus Martin.
Martin was forced to leave the game during the fourth quarter after he "got rolled up on in the pile on a running play." The third-round pick out of USC in this year's draft was in obvious pain and was carted off the field and taken back to the locker room. No specifics have been announced, only that he suffered a left knee injury.
Improvements with Gabbert and Josh Johnson proved vital in giving the Niners something positive to talk about today. Neither one turned the ball over while posting decent preseason numbers. Gabbert completed 7 of 11 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson was 5 of 8 for 52 yards, with eight yards on two carries.
The defense kept the opposing team in single digits for the first time this preseason, but did allow a first quarter touchdown to the opposing first-team offense. Be that as it may, linebacker Michael Wilhoite, who is still competing to win snaps as a primary replacement for the injured NaVorro Bowman, helped his cause and made a great play by stopping starting running back Ryan Matthews on a fourth-and-one run on the Niners own five-yard line.
Another key play came in the form of rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward. Looked as the primary nickel corner this year, the Niners first-round pick dove after a tipped pass from Chargers backup quarterback Brad Sorenson and came up with the interception.
The Niners final tune-up for the regular season will be this Thursday against the Houston Texans.
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