The San Francisco 49ers opened up their third preseason game with many variables. From the condition of the football field to whether the 49ers offense would generate points on the board, the team had many questions that needed to be answered as they faced the San Diego Chargers. A team in which the 49ers play again at home in Week 16, it was the 49ers who came out victorious as they won 21-7.
An offense that was clearly underperforming, as they scored a measly 3 points in their first two preseason games, the 49ers found some life as early in the second-quarter as 49ers K Phil Dawson connected on a 39-yard field-goal. A score made possible by QB Colin Kaepernick as he connected on three consecutive passes resulting in 33 yards, the 49ers earned their first scoring drive with their first drive of the second-quarter.
The Niners however weren’t done there as Kaepernick struck again, this time with 49 seconds left until halftime. A play that saw second-year TE Vance McDonald catch the ball on a six-yard out-route in the end zone, the crowd erupted with joy as they witnessed the first 49ers touchdown.
With the 49ers taking a 10-7 halftime lead, they would not stop there as they scored 11 unanswered points including a 27-yard touchdown by RB Glenn Winston in the fourth-quarter. An offense that is looking more like the team the Forever Faithful can expect during the course of the season, the offense faired pretty well despite their early offensive struggles (G Mike Iupati).
As the 49ers offense did their part, it was the defense that needed to show up. And despite the first-team defense struggling to find it’s groove, it was the play of fifth-round pick (No. 150) OLB Aaron Lynch that caught my eye. As 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh likes to say on how he would grade a player, “A-plus plus,” Lynch gets that and much more.
In the passing game, Lynch was routinely seen blocking passing windows with his elongated wingspan. A measurable that GM Trent Baalke covets, Lynch had no problem clogging up passing lanes while racking up a couple pass break-ups in the process. A perfect H-W-S outside backer, it was Lynch who wrecked havoc in the backfield, as he recorded three tackles (one tackle for loss), one sack, and two pass-break-ups.
I had the chance to catch up with Lynch after the game, as I asked how he felt playing heavier at 268 whereas he was around 250 in college and Lynch said, “It’s what my coaches want. So I’m just going to do what they want me to do. It’s definitely helping out with my shape though. Being in better shape, I’m not being as winded and it’s really helping out.” Boy is it. Lynch looked like he could be a temporary replacement for OLB Aldon Smith as he is surely to be suspended by the NFL, and with the suspension likely coming sooner rather than later do not be surprised if Lynch is used on obvious passing downs.
While Lynch shined it was third-round pick (No. 77) ILB Chris Borland who finally had a breakout game. He made a nice open-field special-teams tackle for the second time in three games while leading the team in tackles with seven including one sack. A nice day for him as he displayed his toughness, aggressiveness and ability to pursue, Borland did a solid job.
So with two linebackers doing their part, how did the secondary look? Aside from a few gimme plays up front, I thought the second-string played fairly well, especially first-round pick (No. 30) DB Jimmie Ward. The NIU product made a clean interception off a tipped pass by Lynch. A play that was very similar to Ward’s interception of Kaepernick in training camp, Ward is looking like the man for the job when it comes to the tip drill.
With the 49ers gearing for their last preseason game, they will first need to trim some fat on the roster as the mandated deadline from 90 to 75 players is August 27 at 1 pm PST.
C Marcus Martin left the game in the 3rd quarter and carted off the field due to an undisclosed injury. He did not return.
RB LaMichael James on field condition: “Honestly, it was bad. Yeah it was bad. My ankle did get twisted a little bit out there, first kickoff, yep!”