Well, that’s one way for the San Francisco 49ers to end their 2013 preseason schedule. The 49ers looked in full regular season mode in their 41-6 drubbing of the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night. From the starters to the third-string players trying to make the team, everyone was playing like it was the middle of the season.
The starters on offense were only on the field for one series, however, they looked sharp and in sync. On the opening offensive series for the Niners, Colin Kaepernick led the unit down the field for a 7-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The scoring drive ended with a 43-yard touchdown reception by rookie Quinton Patton. He caught a short pass from Kaepernick, then juked around the defenders to go untouched down the right sideline for the TD score. For a second during the play, it looked like Michael Crabtree was back on the field.
After the game, Kaepernick talked about Patton’s catch and run TD:
He made a great play. That’s what he’s shown us throughout this camp, that he can make plays like that. And that’s what he did tonight.
Patton missed the first two preseason games with a finger injury, but still managed to make six catches for 87 yards and a team-high two touchdowns in the last two games.
Second-string backup quarterback Colt McCoy came into the game after the first series. Even though McCoy had mediocre stats for the game (8 of 15 passing for 56 yards and a touchdown pass) he had his best game of the preseason. A big reason for McCoy for passing for only 56 yards was because he did not have a lot of time to throw. Both he and B. J. Daniels were scrambling all game behind the 49ers’ second-string offensive line.
Speaking of Daniels, he secured his roster spot with another great game at quarterback. He finished 5 of 9 passing for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his touchdown throws were eye-catching.
The first TD pass was to receiver Lavelle Hawkins. He made a spectacular catch after he tipped the pass in the air, then held on to the ball after a big hit from Chargers safety Jahleel Addae and headed down the left sideline towards the endzone. Click here to see a GIF of the TD catch.
Yesterday, I wrote if Hawkins made the team it would be because of his special team’s skills and not his receiving skills. Man, I am glad I was wrong because Hawkins clearly has talent as a receiver. Whether or not that is enough to keep him on the team, we will have to wait until Saturday.
On Daniels’ second TD pass, he floated a 14-yard throw to undrafted rookie Chuck Jacobs in the corner of the endzone. The TD throw showed off Daniels’ great ability to accurately throw a touch pass. Watching Daniels play all preseason, I believe he should be the second-string QB because of his abilities and athleticism. Should Kaepernick get injured, the offense would not have to change or adjust much with Daniels under center. That is not the case with McCoy.
Not to be overshadowed, the 49ers defense was in full regular season mode. And that was with most of their starters resting and not playing in the game. At the end of the first half, the Niners D only gave up four first downs to the Chargers. At the end of the game San Diego only managed to convert ten first downs.
The player of the game was second-year backup outside linebacker Cam Johnson. He finished with six tackles, two sacks and a blocked punt he followed into end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter. Johnson was on the roster bubble before the game, but we played his way onto the roster last night.
Johnson surely made Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff’s job harder in determining the 53-man regular season roster. Before the game, it was likely that Johnson would have been cut because of so many outside linebackers ahead of him on the depth chart. At outside linebacker the Niners defense has starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, and backups Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta. Will the defense keep three backup outside linebackers? Harbaugh doesn’t see why not:
After tonight, the way Cam Johnson plays, can you. Heck yeah, you can. We’re the San Francisco 49ers. We can do whatever we want when you have players play like that.
By 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, the 49ers need to cut 22 players from their roster to get down to 53 players for the start of the regular season.