The 49ers are back over .500 after a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers under the lights at Levi’s Stadium. Now sitting at 5-4, the 49ers find themselves just a half-game back of the Seattle Seahawks for first place in the division with eight games left to play. Here are five takeaways from the 49ers' win over the Chargers that completed their in-season sweep of teams from Los Angeles.
Stout second-half defense
After surrendering an opening drive touchdown, the 49ers' defense threw on the clamps for the rest of this one. The Chargers had two drives that started in 49ers territory after a fumble and a punt block, and both drives ended without the Chargers being able to find the end zone.
The second-half effort, in particular, was heroic, as the 49ers did not allow a single point after halftime and held the Chargers to just 52 yards of offense. The 49ers haven’t allowed a point in the second half since Week 7 and held their last two opponents to just 95 yards COMBINED in the second half of their last two games.
Smash mouth football
It was no secret the 49ers' best chance at succeeding in this game was to exploit the Chargers' porous rushing defense and succeed they did to the tune of 157 yards on the ground.
Elijah Mitchell was electric in his first action since week one, recording 89 yards at a clip of 4.9 yards per carry in the second-year back’s return from his stint on the injured reserve.
Deebo Samuel averaged 6.8 yards per carry, and Christian McCaffrey found the end zone for what was the go-ahead score.
It was the third consecutive game that the 49ers eclipsed 100 rushing yards and the fourth game this season that they ran for over 150 yards.
Offensive line stands tall
The 49ers offensive line once again had a strong performance, allowing just three games while not being charged with responsibility for the lone sack of Jimmy Garoppolo in this game.
They paved the way for a 49ers ground attack that ran the ball 41 times and offered a reassuring anchor up front on a handful of must-have third-down conversions.
Trent Williams, in particular, was fantastic in this game, recording his second clean sheet of the season after not allowing a single pressure. Williams has now allowed one or fewer pressures in all but one start this season.
It’s the motto defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans preaches, and the 49ers honored their rallying cry in a big way in this one. The 49ers' defense flew all over the field in this one, making tackles in the open field, and generating a stop on nine of the 22 passes that Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert threw less than 10 yards downfield.
They were especially stout in the run game as well, holding the Chargers' offense to just 0.1 yards before contact per rushing attempt on average. That means the Chargers' ball carriers were only able to pick up one-tenth of a yard on average before being contacted by someone on the 49ers' defense—an incredible effort all around from this elite group.
Kyle Shanahan rightfully chose to trust his defense to close out this game
With a three-point lead and a little under a minute remaining, Shanahan and the 49ers were presented with a tough choice. Lined up deep inside the Chargers' red zone, they had the option to ice the game with a touchdown on fourth and goal or kick a field goal to go up six and give Herbert the chance to work some magic and drive the Chargers into the end zone with 53 seconds remaining and zero timeouts at their disposal.
To the dismay of many who wish he would be more aggressive, Shanahan opted for the latter, but the move worked out flawlessly. Charles Omenihu pressured Herbert and was able to get a hand on the Chargers' quarterback as the ball came out.
As a result, the ball fluttered away from its intended target and instead found the awaiting arms of Talanoa Hufanga, who effectively ended the game with his last-minute interception.
The skill position players seemingly get all the buzz but make no mistake about it. Even after the acquisition of McCaffrey and the embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball, the heartbeat and pulse of this tea is still the defensive line. This 49ers team goes as the defensive line goes, and in this game, they were able to hold strong and close this one out against an elite quarterback talent.