The Chargers improved to 2-2 on the season with a 29-27 victory over the 49ers at StubHub Center on Sunday, Sept. 30. This is the first time since 2015 that the Chargers are .500 after the first quarter of the season, much improved from their 0-4 start last season.
“It was good to see the resiliency of this team and how they bounced back,” said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. “We played good, complementary football.”
Los Angeles headed into their second home game of the season with the understanding San Francisco was without key playmakers, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who suffered a season-ending knee injury and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf). C.J. Beathard started in place of Garoppolo.
On the opening drive of the game, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw an interception that landed in the hands of 49ers defensive back Antone Exum Jr. who ran it in for a touchdown. The 49ers took a 7-0 early lead. The Chargers were unable to score on the following drive and settled for a 54-yard field goal attempt by kicker Caleb Sturgis who missed.
The 49ers stormed back down the field for their second score of the game. This time, it was a passing touchdown by Beathard to San Francisco wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
“We’ve been rock-bottom, so it’s only up,” running back Melvin Gordon III mentioned after the Chargers rallied for a second half comeback. “We know how to respond when we go down. We always feel like we got the players to be in the game, regardless of how much someone goes up.”
After a slowed start in front of their home crowd made up of majority 49ers fans, Rivers hit a wide open Antonio Gates in the endzone for a touchdown with 43 seconds left in the first quarter. Sturgis missed the extra point; it was 14-6 San Francisco after the first quarter.
In response to a 49ers field goal, Rivers connected with Ekeler for a touchdown followed by a successful two-point conversion completed by Gordon. The Chargers trailed by three points, 17-14.
Both Gordon and Ekeler each caught touchdowns making it the first time the Chargers have had two running backs catch touchdowns since Jessie Hester and Darren Sproles on Nov. 22, 2010, against the Denver Broncos.
After missing two field goal attempts in the first half, Sturgis rebounded by nailing a 48-yard field goal to tie the game up at 17 all by halftime.
Chargers’ rookie safety Derwin James recorded his third sack of the season to start the third quarter. It set the tone for the remainder of the game.
“He’s been great,” remarked Rivers. “He has the demeanor, and he’s made the plays obviously, but he has the demeanor of one of those double-digit year safeties. That’s what he is.That was a heck of a pick. I’m glad he’s on our side.”
With 10:35 left in the third quarter, Rivers threw a short six-yard pass to Gordon for a touchdown. Gordon hauled in seven passes, recorded 159 total yards, and scored his fifth touchdown of the season. The seven receptions marked the third time this season he had caught six or more passes.
“I think when you see a young man make an effort the way he made today, I think it gives the whole sideline juice,” stated Lynn. “He inspired me on the sidelines seeing him run.”
A short pass by Beathard intended for tight end Garrett Celek was intercepted by cornerback Trevor Williams, who proceeded to return the ball for 86 yards into 49ers territory. Beathard finished 23 of 37 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions on the day.
The Chargers were forced to settle for a field goal on the drive as Sturgis nailed a 25-yarder before the 49ers took over on downs. San Francisco tight end George Kittle scored an 82-yard touchdown.
Both teams traded field goals. On the following 49ers drive, Beathard attempted a short pass with 2:38 left that was intercepted by Chargers’ defensive end Isaac Rochell.
“It almost feels like a dream right when it’s happening,” remembered Rochell. “ I’ve never had an interception in my career, so it’s really cool.”
That final interception put the game on ice and the Chargers, who came up short against the Rams just a week earlier 35-23, were able to bounce back with a win against San Francisco.
Rivers threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He (51,485) passed Hall of Famer John Elway (51,475) for eighth in career passing yards in NFL history.
“Those are guys I had posters of on my wall, so just to be mentioned with those guys is definitely special,” Rivers said.
Travis Benjamin, who suffered a foot injury during Sunday’s matchup, was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He had one catch for two yards. Additionally, left tackle Russell Okung did not play in the second half due to a groin injury.
The Chargers will face division opponents the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Oct. 7, at StubHub Center at 1:05 p.m. (PST).