The spectacular 49er offense sputtered and clanked its way to a blowout 21-7 victory Sunday afternoon. After the starters got off the field, that is. Those bums played five and a half minutes into the second quarter and produced three measly points, with 74 total yards, fifty-five of which came on the last and only drive.
Much maligned 2nd string QB Blaine Gabbert led an impressive drive near the end of the first half, converting two third downs, throwing some nifty passes, and topping it off with the first 49er TD of the preseason — a sweet little flair pass to TE Vance McDonald. VMcD also had a good game and looks much improved heading into his second season.
Rookie RB Carlos Hyde continued his fine play, with a nifty outside run and a thumping first down run up the gut. UDFA Glenn Winston stole the show in the fourth quarter with eight carries for 58 yards, including a powerful 27 yard TD run. It may not earn him a roster spot, but it surely guaranteed that the marginal 49er career of Jewel Hampton has come to an end.
For those who revel in the little things, LaMichael James made two impressive pass protection blocks, to go with his minimalist 7 carries for 9 yards.
James’ much larger pass blocking cohort, Mike Iupati, did not fare as well, getting torched three times and getting Colin Kaepernick nearly killed. Maybe there’s a reason the 49ers have not offered the big LG a contract extension. His pass blocking has never been great, and it was awful Sunday.
The right side of the O-line, the side we’re supposed to be concerned about, gave up no pressures. Both RG Joe Looney and RT Jonathan Martin had solid games.
The most encouraging aspect of the game was the play of the defense. With Training Camp ended, HC Jim Harbaugh eased up on the practice work load and it showed Sunday. Our boys did not look exhausted and inept, as they had in the first two preseason games. To be fair, Chargers QB Philip Rivers lit up the first string in his one quarter of work, completing nine out of ten passes and one TD. The second string defense held San Diego scoreless the rest of the game.
There were some notable efforts on defense. 5th round rookie OLB Aaron Lynch, with a sack, a tackle for a loss, and two passes batted down. This kid looks like a keeper. Fellow rookie Jimmie Ward has an impressive diving interception and a called back pick six. And NT Mike Purcell played a strong game.
The good news is our depth looked better Sunday. The bad news is that neither the first string O or the first string D has resembled anything like a championship team. And the best news is there’s only one more fake game, and it’s over with this Thursday night in Houston.
After that, a whole lot of players will be packing their bags on cut down day and looking for work somewhere else.