LIVE preseason game blog: 49ers vs. Chargers

The 49ers get one final look at their summer roster tonight as they conclude the preseason against the defending AFC West champion Chargers in San Diego, a game of decision for several players on the bubble. SFI will keep you up to date on the action at Qualcomm Stadium with live reports and commentary. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

6:55 p.m.: Taylor Jacobs is getting the start tonight at split end in place of Darrell Jackson, who is being given the night off because of a tweaked hamstring. But this move will be as much to see how Jacobs handles it, getting an opportunity to play from the first snap and get in the flow early. Jacobs was one of the undeniable stars of summer for the 49ers, but he has just two catches in three preseason games, so the Niners want to take a closer look at how he performs under the lights against front-line players.

6:56 p.m.: Speaking of lineup changes … Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen doesn't even make the trip to San Diego, so Adam Snyder will be starting at left guard instead.

7:02 p.m.: The Chargers win the toss, so the 49ers will be going on defense first again, and hoping to show some big improvement over previous weeks against a San Diego offense that is holding out several of its top skill players.

7:07 p.m.: Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga gets in the backfield yet again to blow up a play on first down, and the Niners force the San Diego offense into a quick-three-and out to begin the game, the kind of start everybody on the San Francisco sideline was looking for.

7:10 p.m.: Alex Smith throws a strike on third down that hits tight end Vernon in the hands, but Davis - feeling footsteps in heavy traffic - flat out drops the pass as he tenses up while anticipating contact from safety Marlon McCree. Those are catches Davis needs to come down with if he expects to take his game to the next level.

7:17 p.m.: Manny Lawson is all over slot receiver slot receiver Craig Davis, who can't make the grab on third-and-5 as the 49ers' first-team defense forces another punt after San Diego picks up the game's initial first down.

7:22 p.m.: An illegal formation penalty on Staley gives San Franisco's first offensive unit two penalties in two series. That leads to another three-and-out as the 49ers' offense begins the game with a whimper.

7:25 p.m.: Patrick Willis is so quick to the football it's as if he is equipped with pigskin sensors. He blasts Darren Sproles after a one-yard gain to force third-and-9, and the Chargers have to punt again.

7:27 p.m.: Mike Nolan said, after its shoddy effort five days ago in Chicago, that San Francisco's first-unit offense would play 12 plays or the entire first quarter, whichever comes first. So, after two three-and-outs to start the game, Alex Smith and Co. trot out onto the field again.

7:29 p.m.: Now Davis is getting it. On second-and-9, he reaches high to make a nice catch in the flat, then turns upfield, dodging one tackler and then running over linebacker Stephen Cooper to give the 49ers their initial first down. But Davis will want to lose the post-catch theatrics. C'mon, Vernon, it was only a 13-yard reception.

7:31 p.m.: So much for that drive. Two plays later, Smith throws over the middle … and right into the hands of San Diego safety Clinton Hart, who steps in front of Jacobs and makes the grab, returning it 13 yards to set up the Chargers at the San Diego 32. Smith doesn't even see Hart, and it's another horrible series by the San Francisco offense.

7:36 p.m.: The San Diego offense is having all kinds of problems up front with Sopoaga. Tackle Cory Lekkerkerker is flagged for holding, even though Sopoaga stops running back Germaine Race for no gain. That pushes the Chargers back to a first-and-20, and they have to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
Chargers 3, 49ers 0

7:39 p.m.: Maybe the 49ers should just let Delanie Walker return kickoffs. There is nothing spectacular about his 25-yard return of the ensuing kickoff, except that he bounced off of about three tacklers while showing some ability to make defenders miss in the middle of the field.

7:43 p.m.: The 49ers weren't about to let Smith end the preseason with that pick, but maybe they should of. He comes out for the start of the second quarter, something the 49ers certainly didn't intend to have happen, and almost throws another pick on first down. Linebacker Marques Harris steps in front of Jacobs and has the ball in his hands, then drops it. But it doesn't matter as the Chargers get the ball back on the next play as Smith drops back to pass, is hit in a collapsing pocket, then fumbles as San Diego recovers.

7:51 p.m.: Given another prime scoring opportunity, the Chargers make it to the San Francisco 4 before the drive stalls. This time, Kaeding splits the uprights from 22 yards.
Chargers 6, 49ers 0

7:57 p.m.: Smith's night is done as third-stringer Shaun Hill comes out for the next San Francisco series. It's Smith worst performance of the preseason as he finished the night just 3 of 8 passing for 23 yards. Not exactly the way anybody wanted to see the third-year QB enter the regular season.

8:05 p.m.: The 49ers finally get something going on offense midway through the second quarter. Hill hits Walker with a short pass and Delanie turns the corner and turns it into a 15-yard gain to take the Niners into San Diego territory. Running back Thomas Clayton then powers for eight yards and seven yards on the next two plays. It's Walker again on the next play, taking a short pass and ploughing into defenders for a 13-yard gain as his helmet flies off that gives the 49ers a first-and-goal from the 10. If anybody has any questions about Walker being a contributor this season, he has been answering them during the preseason.

8:08 p.m.: Clayton, showing quickness and burst, turns the corner on first down and takes the ball eight yards to the 2. But Hill is pressured and throws the ball out of the end zone on second down, then is sacked on third down as third-string linebacker Jyles Tucker comes in unblocked from the left side. The 49ers settle for a 28-yard field goal by Joe Nedney.
Chargers 6, 49ers 3

8:16 p.m.: The Chargers go three-and-out on their next possession as third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst throws three consecutive incompletions, and the 49ers seem to get going the other way as Walker takes the ball to midfield with a 10-yard reception on first down. But on third-and-6 from the San Diego 47, Hill throws quickly to Walker, who turns just as the ball is arriving on a passing pattern. The ball deflects off Walker's hands and into the air, and it's an easy pick for cornerback Paul Oliver, who returns it into the San Francisco 49 as the 49ers misfire again on offense.

8:20 p.m.: Shawntae Spencer, who has looked bad several times this preseason does it again, and it gives the Chargers a touchdown. On the first play after the two-minute warning, Whitehurst steps back in the pocket, has plenty of protection, then lofts a deep pass toward the left sideline. Spencer is in good position, but as he turns to the ball near the goal line, he inexplicably falls down, allowing Davis to make an easy catch and trot into the end zone. That's embarrasing.
Chargers 13, 49ers 3

8:28 p.m.: On the next possession, Hill pushes the 49ers upfield for two first downs as the San Francisco offense works quickly. But on first-and-10 from the San Francisco 39, he overthrows Walker deep, the ball is tipped forward, and it lands in the hands of backup safety Eric Weddle, who returns the pick 24 yards to midfield.

8:34 p.m.: The Chargers don't go anywhere, and the half ends with backup punter Brian Monroe sailing the ball into the end zone. As the 49ers trot off the field, the lights go off at Qualcomm Stadium in preparation for a halftime fireworks show, which seems an appropriate ending for this first half of darkness for the San Francisco.

8:35 p.m.: The 49ers clearly appear to be regressing instead of progressing as they make four turnovers by halftime and San Diego scores all its points off those turnovers. "The defense did a nice job, but I would have liked to have seen the offense more productive," 49ers coach Mike Nolan says as he comes off the field. "But it is the preseason, and we're going to learn from it and get better." The 49ers and their followers can only hope.

8:50 p.m.: Zak Keasey shows why he just might make this team, ploughing ahead on third-and-1 for a seven-yard gain to give the 49ers a first down as they begin the second half on offense. But Keasey and Clayton both won't make them team - perhaps neither will - and Clayton did well for himself in the first half by leading all rushes with 30 yards on five carries.

8:53 p.m.: The drive stalls quickly, however, as Hill drops back to pass on third-and-8 after the Niners get out to their own 42. It's a jailbreak as San Diego blitzes a safety, and Hill is sacked by Nick Roach as the pocket collapses around him, with right tackle Kwame Harris also being beaten around the edge.

9:04 p.m.: It doesn't look good for rookie Joe Cohen, whose right leg is twisted awkwardly as a pile of bodies collapse upon him on an inside run. It looks like considerable damage to Cohen's right knee, and there is a five-minute delay before he finally is carted off the field. We won't speculate on the exact severity of the injury, but don't expect to see Cohen playing any time soon, if at all during the 2007 season. And the good-looking rookie had a very strong chance to make the team.

9:08 p.m.: Clayton wants to make this team. This is the best he has looked all summer, finding holes decisively and running with authority. He could be playing his way onto the roster when it appeared entering the game he probably was headed for the practice squad. Clayton powers up the middle for 11 yards on third-and-3 to keep San Francisco's second drive moving. Then he cuts upfield for 12 yards. After a two-yard gain, Clayton bursts over right end for 13 yards and another first down. This kid never has looked better in a San Francisco jersey.

9:13 p.m.: The 49ers drive down to the San Diego 23, where they face a third-and-2. Instead of going straight at the Chargers with Clayton, a strategy that had been working well, Hill tries a play-action fake and runs backward as he tries to escape San Diego pressure that again sifts right through the San Francisco line. Hill can't get away, and he's finally dragged down after a 15-yard loss that almost takes the 49ers out of scoring range. But Nedney, Mr. Reliable, comes in and drills a 48-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter that would have been good from several more yards out.
Chargers 13, 49ers 6

9:21 p.m.: Second-year linebacker Parys Haralson is having another good game, and he seems to have solidified his roster berth this summer at a very competitive position. Haralson drives in on first down to sack Whitehurst for a six-yard loss, and the Chargers are called for holding to boot. Haralson stays on the ground for a while trainers come out to look at his ankle and help him off the field, but the kid toughs it out and later comes back in the game later.

9:24 p.m.: The 49ers paid some big money to Michael Lewis this year to come in and play strong safety, but the guy he's replacing in the starting lineup comes up with a big play in coverage. Keith Lewis, who played very well once he entered the starting lineup last year, plays his role perfectly in Cover 2 and reaches receiver Mark Simmons along the left sideline just as the ball does. Lewis not only breaks up the pass, but he almost makes the interception. The play puts San Diego in a third-and-16 situation, and the Chargers are forced to punt.

9:25 p.m.: And there, in one telling play, Brandon Williams might have just played his way off the roster. Hardly impressive as a receiver since the 49ers drafted him in the third round last year, Williams is on this team solely for his sure hands returning punts, even though he hasn't showed much breakaway ability in that role. After taking a 46-yard punt from Monroe, Williams stutter-steps, then heads into a pile of bodies, where he is stripped of the football by Tucker. Linebacker Brandon Siler recovers San Francisco's fifth turnover, giving the Chargers the ball once again deep in 49ers territory. Williams just can't let that kind of thing happen, and the Niners will think long and hard about giving him more opportunities to do so.

9:31 p.m.: Given another gift at the San Francisco 33, the Chargers have a prime opportunity to put the game away. The San Francisco defense quickly forces a third-and-6, but linebacker Hannibal Navies lets halfback Eldra Buckley slip out of his grasp after Buckley takes a short pass in the flat, and Buckley turns it into a 10-yard gain and first down. Buckley runs for eight yards on the next two plays, but the 49ers force Whitehurst into a third-down incompletion as safety Darnell Bing makes sure tight end Scott Chandler can't make the play by closing on both the ball and receiver as the pass arrives. The Chargers settle for yet another Kaeding field goal, this one from 29 yards.
Chargers 16, 49ers 6

9:39 p.m.: The 49ers answer right back with by far their best-looking offensive drive of the evening. Hill leads them quickly downfield on a nine-play 75-yard drive, making a nice pass down the right sideline to tight end Zach Hilton for a 21-yard touchdown. Hilton, catching a TD reception for the second consecutive game, has looked outstanding this summer and has the 49ers thinking about keeping four tight ends.
Chargers 16, 49ers 13

9:47 p.m.: San Francisco's defensive reserves stiffen again, and the 49ers will get one final chance to pull out a win. But there's another gaffe by Williams, who opts to let Monroe's punt hit inside the 10 instead of making a fair catch there. The ball rolls to the San Francisco 3-yard line, and the 49ers can't get out of the hole as Hill throws incomplete on third-and-2. Instead of going for it on fourth down deep in their own territory, the 49ers punt.

9:59 p.m.: The 49ers stuff the Chargers on three-up-the-middle running plays, giving the ball back to their offense with just over one minute remaining. But with no timeouts, San Francisco doesn't have enough clock to do anything. Arkee Whitlock makes a nice catch out of the backfield on fourth down to keep the drive alive, but on third-and-10 with 11 seconds remaining, Hill heaves up a duck that Weddle hauls down for his second interception with two seconds remaining, San Francisco's sixth turnover of the night.

10:01 p.m.: And that's a wrap from Qualcomm Stadium, where the 49ers finished a 1-3 preseason with another shoddy performance against one of the NFL's best teams. Nobody on the San Francisco sideline can be pleased about this mistake-marred, turnover filled outing. But as Nolan says, it's only the preseason, and perhaps the 49ers were working out the bad in their game here. That's the optimistic viewpoint, because with the regular-season opener just 11 days away, nobody wants to think much about the alternative. There's still a lot of work to do before the season begins, because the next time the 49ers do this, it counts. Fortunately, it didn't Thursday night in San Diego.
Final score: Chargers 16, 49ers 13

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