Here’s our report card from the 49ers’ 29-27 loss Sunday against the Chargers, falling to 1-3 on the season.
Passing offense: B
The 49ers had a chance to tie the game after the Chargers took the lead in the third quarter by driving deep to Los Angeles territory, but tight end Garrett Celek had an easy completion bang off his hands and right to cornerback Trevor Williams Jr., who returned it 86 yards. And as C.J. Beathard tried to rally San Francisco from its two-point deficit late, he was hit by blitzing safety Derwin James, leading to an interception for defensive lineman Isaac Rochell, sealing the game for L.A. Beathard’s line was a respectable: 23 of 37 (62 percent), 298 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, which weren’t entirely his fault.
Rushing offense: C
San Francisco came into the game with the league’s No. 2-ranked rushing offense, but it managed just 76 yards while Kyle Shanahan made clear he preferred the pass. The 49ers threw the ball 37 times to just 21 runs. Matt Breida never got going on the ground and was easily surpassed by Ezekiel Elliott for the NFL rushing lead after Elliott logged 152 yards in a Cowboys victory over the Lions.
Passing defense: B-
Things started off with a bang for the road team when Antone Exum Jr., starting in place of Jaquiski Tartt, intercepted a terrible throw from Philip Rivers and returned it 32 yards for the first score of the game just 48 seconds in. It was Exum’s first career interception and touchdown. Philip Rivers needed 39 passing attempts for just 250 yards, but he threw three touchdowns.
Rushing defense: C
The 49ers kept the Chargers’ rushing attack in check early, holding Melvin Gordon to just 17 yards on the ground in the first half. But the 2015 first-round pick exploded in the second half, thanks to his hard running and San Francisco’s typical bad tackling. He finished with 104 yards and averaged 6.9 yards per carry.
Special teams: C
Sunday’s game highlighted the value of the ever-reliable Robbie Gould, who made two field goals, extending his franchise record to 33 straight. The Chargers, meanwhile, had a miserable day kicking field goals. Caleb Sturgis missed a pair of extra points and a 54-yard attempt in the first quarter. The Chargers had a huge punt return at the end of the first half that led to a field goal as the second quarter expired, and won by two.
Kyle Shanahan lost two challenges, but got a strong game from Beathard, who hung with Philip Rivers throughout. The 49ers didn’t wilt against a more talented team despite dealing with a slew of injuries. That’s a credit to Shanahan, but keeping his team together will be increasingly difficult following a 1-3 start.