The 49ers found hope and helplessness against the Los Angeles Chargers in their first matchup since they moved. C.J Beathard’s play was admirable and inspired some confidence, but the defense washed all of those positives away.
C.J. Beathard might never be a starting quarterback, but he will be one of the better backups for a long time. He has limitations that were on display today, like his lack of elite arm strength and come-and-go accuracy, but he is a gamer. He put together some solid drives and helped the 49ers put up a 17-6 lead in the first half. Beathard also showed the toughness he displayed last season. He took hits in the pocket, but his confidence never wavered and he put his body on the line for extra yards when scrambling. His two interceptions were not his fault. The first interception bounced off the chest of tight end Garrett Celek and a QB hit caused the other one. The 49ers need Beathard to repeat this type of performance if they want to have a chance at pulling out more than a few wins.
However, as well as Beathard played, the defense continues to hold the Niners back. Starting off strong with a pick-six on the first drive, the Chargers had an easy path to putting up points. If not for a missed field goal, the Chargers would have had six straight scoring drives.
The San Francisco pass rush continues to be a non-factor, with just one sack and three QB hits, allowing Philip Rivers to sit back and let it rip. The lack of pass rush and the laundry-list of injuries caused the secondary to continue to struggle. Jimmie Ward got beat multiple times on the outside and Ahkello Witherspoon was slow to react. Both players were benched at different times for Greg Mabin. Completing a lackluster defensive performance was the 49ers tackling, or lack thereof. Almost no defender took down a Charger on first contact. Melvin Gordon had a field day running through defenders en route to 159 yards and it seemed that every play would involve a broken tackle. Robert Saleh needs to get his defense in order before he’s on the hot seat.
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Aside from poor defense, the injury bug is going to keep the 49ers from playing to their potential. The 49ers injury list continues to grow as you can add left tackle Joe Staley and wide receiver Dante Pettis with knee injuries. At the start of the season, you could make the argument that the three most important offensive players for the 49ers were Jimmy Garoppolo, Joe Staley, and Jerick McKinnon. However, it seems that all three could miss the season as we await Staley’s diagnosis. Losing Pettis would hamper his development and put the 49ers in the market for a punt returner.
Next week’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals hopefully bodes well for San Francisco. Sitting at 0-4, the Cardinals have looked like one of football’s worst teams. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen now has the reigns, and the 49ers hope to keep him from his first win.