SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers' defense decimated by injuries couldn't prevent the San Diego Chargers from coming back and winning in overtime, 38-35 Saturday night.
Second-year receiver Quinton Patton, appearing in just his third game all season, fumbled in overtime after running for 20 yards, giving San Diego the ball, where they would drive to San Francisco's 22-yard line and hit the game-winning field goal from 40-yards out.
The 49ers blew two different 21-point deficits, leading to San Diego tying the game at 35 with 0:29 left. Philip Rivers orchestrated a 14-play drive with 3:30 remaining, culminating in Malcolm Floyd's 11-yard touchdown. Rivers found a diving Eddie Royal on a key fourth-down reception, when Royal sprawled for a 17-yard grab with Antoine Bethea draped all over him at the 26-yard line.
Colin Kaepernick's 90-yard run in the third quarter pushed San Francisco's lead to 14 late in the third quarter, capping a crazy sequence where three touchdowns were scored in four plays from scrimmage.
The very next play, Kaepernick was strip-sacked with defensive lineman Corey Liuget fighting Joe Staley for the ball in the end zone. Liuget won and cut the 49ers' lead to 28-21. Kaepernick's run came on the second play from scrimmage on the 49ers' next drive.
Philip Rivers threw a pair of touchdowns to tight end Antonio Gates, including a 21-yarder midway through the fourth quarter that cut San Francisco's lead to seven, again.
Rivers finished completing 33 of 54 for 356 yards with four touchdowns. The Chargers (9-6) are still alive in the AFC playoff race.
Kaepernick and Gore became the first pair of 49ers to eclipse 100 rushing yards a regular season game since 1977. But it also happened in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2012, when Kaepernick famously ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Gore added 119 yards on 23 carries and a score that night, three weeks before losing in Super Bowl 47.
Gore and Kaepernick finished Saturday with 158 and 151 rushing yards, respectively.
The 49ers’ offense resembled what many thought the team would look like coming into the season Saturday. With the help of a season-long 52-yard touchdown run from Gore on their first drive, they jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead, making it their third-highest scoring game of the season at the break. Their 35 points Saturday was a new season high. But it came after the 49ers' were eliminated from playoff contention the previous week against the Seahawks.
San Francisco ran for 182 yards on 22 carries, while throwing just 11 times at the half. Rivers threw a pick six to safety Antoine Bethea, who scored the first touchdown of his nine-year career in the second quarter. Rookie wideout Bruce Ellington, on a two-game tryout with San Francisco eliminated from playoff contention, scored two first-half touchdowns.
The first came on an eight-yard pass to the left flat. The second was a sweep to the right at the end of the second quarter. He later left the game with a hamstring injury, but said afterward he expects to play next week in the season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers, still, have not scored a passing touchdown in the fourth quarter with their first-team offense.
The 49ers finished regulation with 422 total yards, including 355 rushing yards. But Gore managed just 29 yards in the second half on 12 carries. Kaepernick completed 15 of 24 for just 114 yards. The offense managed 159 second-half yards.
The Chargers did not look like the team competing for a playoff berth. Instead, the league’s ninth-ranked defense allowed 263 first-half yards, including 8.3 yards per carry to San Francisco. Rivers also threw a first-quarter interception to Perrish Cox, his team-leading fifth of the year. Fellow Corner Chris Culliver also picked Rivers in the third, Rivers' third of the night.