There isn’t much to see in the fourth preseason game — even if it’s a 41-6 beat down of the Chargers. I’m certainly not a fly in the wall when the NFL counts its advertising money, but the financial losses from getting rid of this game couldn’t be that significant, could they? At least Jim Harbaugh had mercy on us and played the offensive starters for one series. From there, the 49ers’ preseason finale melted in the direction of painful obscurity. It wasn’t without its entertaining moments though.
Quinton Patton gave us perhaps the biggest development from a 49ers-Chargers scrimmage in a while. He came on the scene after returning from a hand injury last Sunday, catching both of his targets from Colin Kaepernick including a 5-yard touchdown pass in the 49ers’ third offensive drive. His production against the Vikings wasn’t flashy, but it was solid. He ran his routes crisply, stayed on his feet and actually caught the balls thrown his way. No potshots there. None whatsoever.
But Patton flashed tonight. After catching a third-down conversion from Kaepernick early in the drive, the fourth-rounder took a bubble screen and — after recognizing a horrible block from Chad Hall — cut it to the outside and took it 43 yards to pay dirt.
For a team desperately in need of a standout performance at wide receiver, Patton has made as good a case as any to be Anquan Boldin’s complement. He doesn’t boast the dimensions of a player like Jonathan Baldwin or the speed of Kyle Williams, but he’s made the best of his opportunities this preseason. It’s something I doubt the coaching staff will ignore.
Kaepernick’s evening was finished after the scoring drive, and while his 3-for-4, 64-yard-with-a-bullet stat line was aided by Patton’s big play, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. It wouldn’t have been entirely shocking for Harbaugh to make a pitching change mid-drive, and after the quarterback survived the entire preseason without throwing a pick or getting sacked, everyone was glad to see his workday done after a handful of plays.
Watching the stock
Preseason winners are usually the teams with the deeper rosters, and the 49ers will have some tough cut decisions to make this weekend. They’re deep, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
– The first half was a reflection of a solid personnel choice by Trent Baalke. The 49ers felt comfortable with their newly found outside linebacker depth before they decided to cut Parys Haralson, and Corey Lemonier, Dan Skuta and Cam Johnson got a chance to show why they’ll be three of the 53 names associated with the 49ers come Saturday evening. Each had crushing sacks of Charlie Whitehurst before the second quarter closed, and Johnson blocked a punt before out-running everyone to recover it for a touchdown in the third quarter.
– Nnamdi Asomugha may have a leg up on Tramaine Brock in the race for third cornerback, but the latter stood out in the second half. He absolutely crushed Richard Goodman and added a pick in the third quarter.
– While the hope is only two inside linebackers ever see the field in 2013, Michael Wilhoite is reminiscent of Larry Grant in 2011. He’s had a spectacular preseason — he and Nick Moody have both played well enough to secure spots on the 53-man.
– His fourth-round slotting and spectacular preseason showing left little doubt Patton would make the roster, but he opened the game receiving kickoffs as well. He took two back for a total of 69 yards. LaMichael James hasn’t stood out in an facet of the return game however, and he left the game early with a knee injury.
– Lavelle Hawkins and Chad Hall both had opportunities to return kicks as well as see some extended time at wide receiver, but only one really made an impact. Hawkins made a spectacular fourth quarter play, tipping the ball to himself and catching it before hurdling a defender with Jahleel Addae bearing down for a huge hit. Hawkins bounced off of the hit and recovered, taking it all the way around the outside for a 45-yard score. He kept his helmet on.
– Matt Maiocco tweeted only five receivers he believed were a lock, and Hawkins wasn’t one of them. Plays like that one make it easier to forget the three unsportsmanlike conduct calls from Sunday, and if he doesn’t find a place on the 49ers, he’ll find an NFL job elsewhere.
– Jonathan Baldwin was one of those wide receivers, but he didn’t help himself tonight. He caught two passes for 11 yards, but dropped a few more, including a tough pass from McCoy in the endzone. It wasn’t an easy catch by any means, but we got a chance to see the hands Chiefs fans hated so much.
– B.J. Daniels saw a lot of action late, and while he showed off his legs again with plenty of read-option opportunites, he stood out most with a 14-yard touch pass to Chuck Jacobs for a late score.
– Poor Chad Hall. With all these wide receivers showing out, he was reduced to playing nickel back on defense.
– Adam Snyder left the game with a left hand injury. He went to the locker room for x-rays before returning with the hand wrapped in ice.