The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their 2016 preseason schedule on Thursday, pulling off an entertaining comeback to defeat the San Diego Chargers by a final score of 31-21. The 49ers finished their preseason schedule with a 2-2 record.
For purposes of the win, Christian Ponder was the key. He scrambled for two touchdowns, and was 7-of-13 for 87 yards. Kelvin Taylor rushed nine times for 56 yards and the last touchdown of the game, and had two receptions for 14 yards. It was all about a dominant fourth quarter in which the 49ers scored 22 unanswered points to secure the comeback win.
The big story of the game was quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He was the story leading up to the game following his protest of the National Anthem. He took a knee in this one, joined by Eric Reid. He clapped during a recognition of military families, and stood for God Bless America after the third quarter, and clapped at the end of it. Add in his meeting with Green Beret Nate Boyer prior to the game, and things seem to be getting better in terms of moving the conversation forward.
The Kaepernick story took a step forward as well because we saw him back out on the field. He struggled last week against the Green Bay Packers, but bounced back with a solid performance against the Chargers. It was not spectacular, but he looked considerably better than last week. He finished the game 11-of-18 for 103 yards, with 38 rushing yards on four carries. He missed the first two preseason games with a tired arm, so he’s still a bit behind the curve compared to Blaine Gabbert, who had more overall snaps all offseason. But, he showed improvement from last week to this week.
Marcus Rush was the huge story on the defensive side of the ball. He had two sacks, forcing a fumble on the second, and then iced the comeback victory with an interception in the fourth quarter. He finished the preseason with six sacks. How can he not make the 49ers roster?
Aside from all that, the big thing to take away from this game was the depth chart. For example, Anthony Davis and Trent Brown did not dress for the game. This would seem to suggest they are settled as the starting right guard and right tackle, respectively.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Gerald Hodges did not play. Michael Wilhoite and Shayne Skov started at inside linebacker, and played into the second half. Is Wilhoite going to be primarily a special teams guy this season? I suppose his roster spot could be in danger, but the 49ers coaches have talked about his versatility at both ILB positions. Given the rotation, we don’t really know exactly how they feel about Armstrong and Hodges in the other roles, but Wilhoite in the fourth quarter of preseason game No. 4 says a lot.