Chargers 20 - 49ers 17: Thank you for not kicking the field goal

Well, that was certainly an interesting ending to the game.  After a relatively bland first 3+ quarters, the game reached a fevered pitch in the final two minutes following a Robert Ortiz fumble on a punt return (thank you for playing Mr. Ortiz, you may have cost yourself some parting gifts).  The Chargers had a first and ten on the 49ers 17 and won the game notwithstanding a mostly great job inside the five yard line.  For those who missed the game, here's how the Chargers final four plays worked out:

1-3-SF 3 (1:35) 25-M.Thomas up the middle to SF 1 for 2 yards (96-K.Balmer).
2-1-SF 1 (:52) 25-M.Thomas up the middle to SF 2 for -1 yards (57-L.Grant).
Timeout #2 by SD at 00:38.
3-2-SF 2 (:38) 6-C.Whitehurst pass incomplete short left to 87-S.Chandler (41-D.Parker).
4-2-SF 2 (:33) 6-C.Whitehurst pass short right to 30-E.Buckley for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
PENALTY on SD-50-D.Binn, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at SF 2 - No Play.
10-N.Kaeding extra point is GOOD, Center-50-D.Binn, Holder-5-M.Scifres.

If you missed the last drive, Buckley's touchdown reception was one-handed as he was being interfered with by Marcus Hudson (Hudson had hold of his right arm before the catch).  A stop there would have been a nice capper to the preseason, but such is life.

We'll have plenty of in depth analysis on winners and losers in the coming days, but for now, here's who helped and hurt their cause in this final game.

HELPED
Jason Hill
- The leading receiver for the second straight game, Hill made some quality catches while appearing in all four quarters of play.  One thing I am definitely excited for in the coming season is the use of 4-receiver formations, for two reasons: 1) We've got a very solid crew of receivers, all of whom can make plays anywhere on the field and 2) Spreading out the defense will soften up middle of the field for Frank Gore if they decide to run some draws from the formation.

Shawntae Spencer - Spencer was not in danger of missing the 53-man roster, but with the starting DBs getting a breather, he stepped up with some big plays.  When healthy, Spencer is an extremely talented cornerback.  He might not have #1 talent, but I think he is as good a 3rd corner as there is in the league.  Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and provide a lift to the defense.

Michael Robinson - Welcome back #24.  While Robinson is not a star on this team, he showed why he's an integral part to the special teams and offense.  He threw up a nice block (not quite the de-cleater the announcers would have you think) to bust open Delanie Walker's kickoff return.  He made some very good runs and had three good catches.  69 total yards on 15 touches (rushes and receptions) is certainly a nice welcome back for Robinson who did not seem to have any after effects from his injury.

Special Teams - It's certainly a small sample size, but the special teams coverage was much improved this week, with no big run backs.  Throw in Nedney's booming field goal and Walker's touchdown and it was a solid performance to close out the preseason.

HURT
Ashley Lelie - He had 3 balls thrown in his direction and finished with no receptions.  If he's been phenomenal in practice then I suppose they can justify keeping him for now.  However, even if he didn't hurt his cause tonight, he certainly did nothing to help himself, aside from not actually hurting himself.

Alex Smith - If there was any debate over O'Sullivan getting the starting nod, Alex Smith did nothing to increase that debate.  Smith was given the start to protect JTO and given somequality weapons with which to work (no Bruce, Morgan or Gore).  He did have the touchdown but that was more due to Billy Bajema snatching it from the DB.  He hit some wide open receivers and he overthrew some wide open receivers.  It wasn't an atrocious game, but his mistakes were pretty ugly.

Nate Kaeding - He's not a 49er but I have to admit it was pretty weak when he let Delanie Walker run right by him.  I realize he doesn't want to get hurt but can't you at least stick an arm out and pretend you're trying to stop him?  Or at the very least don't be sauntering towards the sideline at a less than brisk stroll.  Woulda been nice to see someone roll up and just de-cleat him.

All in all, not the prettiest way to end the preseason.  The defense didn't give up a ton of points but was definitely struggling to stop the running backs.  Missed tackles was the primary culprit.  Nonetheless, they battened down the hatches in the second half and in spite of the loss, things could have been worse.

So, we'll be back tomorrow with news of the 49ers final roster cuts.  Now that there are no more roster projections to be done or exhibition games to be played, we can finally get settled down for some actual meaningful football.  Arizona comes to town in nine days and the road to the Super Bowl (or at least respectability for the 49ers) begins.  Let the J.T. O'Sullivan era begin (and yes a chill just went down my spine).

EDITOR'S UPDATE 10:35PM - Considering people made comments to appear in the roll call, I almost forgot about it! Thanks to the following folks for joining in the discussion.  This week's winner with 10 comments is StrictlyFootball.  Thanks also to myself with 5, bayboy with 4 and 408, BawLa, howtheyscored, jjham15, tanos135 and 49ersLou with 1 each.  Without bondslegend, it was a pretty quiet night.  Once the regular season starts I'm aiming for us having to open multiple threads each game.

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