By Cam Inman
SANTA CLARA — Here is how the 49ers (5-4) graded in Sunday night’s 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers (5-4):
PASS OFFENSE: A-
Jimmy Garoppolo played turnover-free for the fifth time (in their fifth win), and he especially came through on third-and-long conversions, the best being a 24-yard shot to Brandon Aiyuk on third-and-10 that reached the 2-yard line to set up the go-ahead score. That Aiyuk catch was redemption for an earlier fumble and a goal-line drop en route to six total catches (seven targets) for a team-high 84 yards. Jauan Jennings breathed more life into the comeback with four feisty catches for 44 yards. Still needing work: Garoppolo and Samuel, they aren’t a smooth connection (2-of-6, 24 yards). Kittle’s only catch was timely: a 21-yard gain to spark the go-ahead touchdown drive.
RUN OFFENSE: A-
Any win with at least 40 carries deserves an ‘A’ grade — they’re 10-0 under Kyle Shanahan with that threshold — but let’s scale back a bit. The 49ers averaged 3.7 yards per rush. The Chargers keyed well on Christian McCaffrey (14 carries, 38 yards) so the 49ers instead found their most success in Elijah Mitchell’s first game since he sprained his knee in the opener. Mitchell looked healthy and refreshed (18 carries, 89 yards). Shanahan said the goal was for McCaffrey and Mitchell to have a similar number of carries, so that’s good. Garoppolo’s knack for short-yardage conversions came through with a third-and-goal touchdown from the 1, which made him 31-of-31 on third- and fourth-and-1 sneaks; he got stopped on his next third-and-1 try but converted on the ensuing fourth-and-1 snap. Samuel (four carries, 27 yards) had a 5-yard run to open the go-ahead drive.
PASS DEFENSE: B+
Talanoa Hufanga flogged himself afterward for giving up an opening-drive touchdown pass, but, like so many other areas on this team, he avenged that mistake by securing his fourth interception of the season to end this victory. That’s the most interceptions by a 49ers player since Perrish Cox had five in 2014. Nick Bosa raised his team-high sack total to 9 1/2, but the sack that made him prouder was Jordan Willis’ in his return from a two-month knee recovery. Justin Herbert had only been sacked 10 times all season, but the 49ers got three (Charles Omenihu had the other) and it took third-down blitzes to slow his hot start.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Don’t let Dre Greenlaw’s questionable ejection overshadow a strong comeback from the defense overall. Fred Warner rallied the troops with some fiery plays and his seven tackles were as many as Greenlaw had before his helmet-to-helmet hit on Herbert. Greenlaw’s exit led to more action for Azeez Al-Shaair in his first game since a Week 3 knee sprain. Bosa had three tackles for loss. Austin Ekeler had just six carries (24 yards) and Herbert’s legs were perhaps more dangerous (five carries, 22 yards). “First and second down, we ran the same thing over and over, kept it simple,” Warner said.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
A fourth-and-1 punt got blocked (or deflected, officially) and that helped set up one of the Chargers’ three field goals. But a punt also is what helped finish off the Chargers: the 49ers clung to a 19-16 lead when Mitch Wishnowsky’s 40-yard punt was downed at the 1 by Sam Womack III with 2:03 left. Robbie Gould made 3-of-3 field-goal attempts in the wake of the 49ers’ red-zone struggles, and he curiously missed a point-after kick for the first time this season.
The coach who couldn’t produce comebacks has now outscored Los Angeles’ teams 33-0 after halftime for back-to-back wins over the Rams and the Chargers. Shanahan said he didn’t feel this was a huge comeback because the 49ers always were within striking distance, and he can credit that to DeMeco Ryans’ defense. “We’re one of the best in the league. We’ve shown that,” said Warner, noting that the 49ers’ last loss (44-23 to the Chiefs on Oct. 23) “doesn’t define you.”
Source: Paradise Post