It didn’t seem all that likely that the 49ers would win their third preseason game when the first quarter ended. The Chargers were up 7-0 and had a 111-22 edge in total yards. The 49ers would go on to outscore the Chargers 21-0 and out-gain them 279-143 the rest of the way, and the (pre)season was saved.
I had a 49ers season ticket in 2001, when they went 7-1 at 3Com Park. The guy who sat next to me — who my friend and I called “Negative Nancy,” just not to his face — was never satisfied. They had a 24-14 lead over the Panthers? “They should be up by 30.” Jeff Garcia had a couple touchdowns and 250 yards passing? “I don’t like the way he jumps when he throws.”
We listed 13 standouts from yesterday’s game, the players who excited the fans and/or tantalized Troy Aikman with their basketball experience. Now, in the spirit of “Negative Nancy,” let’s look at seven players who were less than impressive, and most did their damage in the first quarter. Fair warning: lots of nit-picking here.
Colin Kaepernick: Let’s get this started by saying “it’s only preseason” in unison. OK, good. Now that we have that out of the way, we can ignore two fumbles (one lost, one called incorrectly on the field that wasn’t reversed because the recovery of said fumble was inconclusive), overthrowing Vance McDonald on his first pass, and mediocre numbers (6-of-12, 59 yards, no touchdowns). Don’t get it twisted — the 49ers aren’t running their actual offense and Kaepernick’s main task is staying healthy. He didn’t get a lot of help in that last category, due to the play of …
Mike Iupati (and the starting o-line): PFF graded him as the 49ers’ worst pass blocker last year, and he ranked 49th among 59 guards in that category according to Pro Football Focus. He didn’t look much better as a pass blocker on Sunday.
Joe Looney, Jonathan Martin and Adam Snyder missed assignments on running plays here and there, and even Joe Staley let Melvin Ingram get pretty close to sacking Kaepernick at the 49ers’ goal-line. Iupati struggled the most, but as a whole the team’s first-string o-line wasn’t great.
Yeah, it’s getting clearer each game that the 49ers really need Alex Boone. They lost Marcus Martin for the year (in all probability) to a knee injury sustained during Sunday’s game, so there goes one of their top backup interior linemen.
Offensive lines benefit from continuity. Just ask the … which team was I thinking about? Oh yeah, the 49ers! That doesn’t mean you can’t swap one guy out, and Daniel Kilgore didn’t make this list for a reason. He’s looked just fine since they said good-bye to Jonathan Goodwin. It also makes sense on paper to limit the amount they spend on guards, but if they aren’t going to trade Boone, and they could use him, it seems like this impasse could increase the likelihood of Kaepernick either not playing all that well or getting injured.
Michael Wilhoite: This was a perfect example of a Wilhoite game – several tackles with some mistakes mixed in. Wilhoite wasn’t good in coverage, allowing catches each of the three times he was targeted for 45 yards (per PFF). He also completely whiffed on a chance to tackle Ryan Mathews, who went on to rush for 14 yards on the play.
Craig Dahl: He made a good tackle in punt coverage, but he was the closest to Antonio Gates when he caught a touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, and he wasn’t all that close to the Chargers tight end. Either Dahl takes the blame for that play, or it was Patrick Willis’ fault. And I’m nowhere near ready to freak out about Willis, especially after he missed a bunch of recent practices and doesn’t need to prove himself until the games count.
Chris Culliver: He gambled early on, going for an interception and missing, which turned a four-yard catch for Keenan Allen into a 15-yard play. Culliver did get a PBU later in the game, but that was due to an underthrown pass by Rivers to Ladarius Green — not Culliver’s coverage.
Quinton Patton: Patton caught one 10-yard pass. His helmet was knocked off in the process, and he proceeded to embark on an over-the-top celebration while walking over 10 yards toward the north end zone. It was a display that almost certainly would’ve drawn a 15-yard flag if the game counted. “We don’t want to see that,” Jim Harbaugh said. “We talked to him about it.”
The Field: Besides LMJ appearing to occasionally lose his footing on kickoffs and punts, the newly-laid sod didn’t seem to create many problems for the players. It just looked bad on TV, and tales of its installation caused the team embarrassment all week. The 49ers will probably figure out a way to make the field look pristine and play safe by Week 2, but the situation was baffling.