NFL Wire News

Chargers-49ers: What we learned

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After an exhausting Saturday night, the San Diego Chargers are planning to lounge on the couch Sunday and watch a little football.

Thanks to a refuse-to-lose energy boost against the San Francisco 49ers, they’ll be able to do so with some rooting interests.

The Chargers remained alive in the AFC playoff race when Nick Novak kicked a 40-yard field goal 4:54 into overtime, capping a comeback that produced a 38-35 victory over the 49ers.

Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns, rallying the Chargers (9-6) from a 28-7 deficit and, at least temporarily, edging them within a half-game of the final wild-card position in the AFC.

“Total team victory,” Chargers offensive tackle King Dunlap said in a joyous locker room. “Offense, defense, special teams, coaches … everybody.”

The Chargers’ playoff status could be impacted Sunday by three games: Baltimore at Houston, Kansas City at Pittsburgh and Buffalo at Oakland. The Chargers trail the Ravens (9-5) and Steelers (9-5) by a half-game, and currently have a half-game advantage over the Chiefs (8-6) and Bills (8-6) in a logjam for two postseason berths.

The 49ers (7-8), who lost their fourth straight, were officially eliminated from the NFC postseason chase last week.

“Our guys were fighting, playing to win,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh proudly boasted afterward. “We showed a lot of character.”

Successfully avoiding what would have been a third consecutive loss, the Chargers scored the game’s final 17 points, rallying into a 35-all tie on Rivers’ fourth touchdown pass of the game, an 11-yarder to wide receiver Malcom Floyd with 29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The connection capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive.

After Phil Dawson’s last-second, 60-yard field goal attempt fell well short, the 49ers took possession in the overtime. It didn’t last long.

On the second play of the extra session, wideout Quinton Patton sprinted 20 yards around left end on a reverse. But he lost the ball when tackled by safety Eric Weddle and the Chargers took possession when nose tackle Sean Lissemore fell on it at the San Diego 38-yard line.

Rivers completed passes to tight end Antonio Gates and wideout Eddie Royal for a total of 18 yards to advance the ball into San Francisco territory. San Diego coach Mike McCoy called upon Novak after running back Ronnie Brown marched the ball forward an additional 22 yards on six carries, and the veteran kicker came through with the winner.

“This is probably the biggest comeback I’ve ever been a part of,” Floyd said. “We really had our backs to the wall in this one. We’ve got the best quarterback in the league.”

What the Chargers said:

“We’ve got the best quarterback in the league.” — Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd, on Philip Rivers.

What the 49ers said:

“I told the ref he was terrible at his job.” — 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley, who received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for yelling at an official after believing he — not Chargers DT Corey Luiget — recovered QB Colin Kaepernick’s fumble in the end zone.

What we learned about the Chargers:

1) They’re serious about making the playoffs this season. After giving up 35 points in the first 43 minutes of the game, the San Diego defense held the 49ers scoreless for the final 22 minutes, refusing to allow the postseason dream to end.

2) They have other receiving options on the outside than Keenan Allen. Eddie Royal, Dontrelle Inman and Malcom Floyd combined for 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns while Allen could only watch because of a collarbone injury.

What we learned about the 49ers:

1) If this indeed is Jim Harbaugh’s final season in San Francisco, his players don’t want him to leave with his first losing season. The 49ers played with as much emotion as the playoff-contending Chargers, only to fall victim to a fumble in overtime.

2) Colin Kaepernick hasn’t forgotten how to run the ball. The 49ers had been criticized this season for handcuffing their athletic quarterback, but he broke out of the shackles and scampered for 151 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown, on seven carries.


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