Sunday’s contest almost seemed like a tale of two halves. Well, more like a quarter and a half, compared to the latter two-plus quarters.
The Niners got off to a hot start, which emulated the team’s efforts in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions. Defensively, San Francisco wasn’t missing tackles or assignments early — a positive, especially considering how this unit was torn apart by the Kansas City Chiefs’ potent offense a week ago.
The early momentum slid away, of course, but that didn’t change the fact the Niners ended up averaging 6.2 yards per play on the game, compared to the Chargers’ 5.5. And the 49ers ended up going 5-of-12 on third downs, which is an improvement over what the offense had done over the first three weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
Oh, and San Francisco was only flagged four times for 29 yards in Week 4 — a vast improvement over the 14-penalty game from the previous week.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard
OK, so maybe this season isn’t entirely lost with C.J. Beathard under center.
Beathard’s final line — 23-of-37 for 298 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions — doesn’t look terrific by any means. But one of those two picks, a red-zone pass intended for tight end Garrett Celek, bounced off Celek’s hands and into the arms of Chargers defensive back Trevor Williams, who returned it 86 yards.
Los Angeles settled for a field goal on its possession, which stinks considering the final score.
That mistake aside, Beathard managed to show a great deal more accuracy and poise than what was seen his rookie season. He was hitting his targets through tight windows, rarely missing wide or over the top.
Beathard didn’t lose this game.
Tight End George Kittle
Celek’s mistake hurt the Niners in a big way. But it was offset, to a point, by fellow tight end George Kittle‘s career-high day, in which he had six receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Including this 82-yard catch and run that wound up in the end zone.
Kittle has emerged as San Francisco’s best offensive threat through the air on the young season, and it’s looking as if the switch from Jimmy Garoppolo to Beathard won’t cost the second-year pass catcher anything on his season stats.
Defensive Back Antone Exum
Exum’s pick six early in the first quarter was excellent. It marked the first interception San Francisco’s defense recorded on the year.
But that wasn’t Exum’s only notable play of the day. He also registered three pass breakups during the effort, which might be a slight suggestion the 49ers have a likable depth piece at a crucial spot of need.
Tartt’s job isn’t in any danger, of course, but at least the depth being tested worked out in Exum’s favor.