49ers save best for last, beat Chargers in finale

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49ers save best for last, beat Chargers in finale

Sept. 1, 2011
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SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Now that the exhibition season is over, the San Diego Chargers have just over a week to get ready for Adrian Peterson.That's after looking shaky against Anthony Dixon and the San Francisco 49ers.With Frank Gore getting the night off after signing a big deal, Dixon capped San Francisco's first two drives with 1-yard touchdown runs and the 49ers beat the Chargers 20-17 in an exhibition finale Thursday night.It was a last chance for rookies and other players on the bubble to impress the coaches before the final roster cutdowns on Saturday.Then it's on to opening day on Sept. 11. The 49ers (2-2), under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh, host the Seattle Seahawks. The Chargers (2-2), heading into their fifth year under Norv Turner, host Peterson and the Vikings.
MAIOCCO: 49ers vs. Chargers in-game notes
The Chargers' first-string defense didn't look impressive against the 49ers' running game, allowing 54 yards on the ground on San Francisco's opening drive, which covered 80 yards behind starter Alex Smith. The Bolts have a little more than a week to prepare for Peterson, who set the NFL's single-game record with 296 yards when the Vikings last played San Diego, in 2007."We had a lot of guys missing. We have to get them caught up and get them where they are ready to play at a high level for an extended period of time," Turner said.The 49ers had six sacks.Gore, who rarely plays in exhibitions, sat out a day after signing a 21 million, three-year contract extension.Smith was in for the first two drives as the 49ers rebounded from an embarrassing 30-7 loss to Houston."I don't know if we had anything to prove," Smith said. "We definitely wanted to get the taste out of our mouth from last week, though. Get some rhythm, convert on some third downs, move some chains and hopefully put points on the board, and we were able to do that."We took the opening drive all the way down and stuck it in and were able to get the ball on the turnover and put that one in, as well. So it was a great start," said Smith, who was 8 of 10 passing for 45 yards.San Diego held out offensive stars Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.Running back Ryan Mathews, coming off an uneven rookie season, showed his speed with a 56-yard scoring burst in the second quarter. Earlier, he failed to pick up blitzing NaVorro Bowman, who sacked Billy Volek, forced a fumble and recovered. That set up Dixon's second TD run."I was definitely pleased the way the offensive line played," Harbaugh said. "I thought they played with a lot of urgency and it's been a challenge for them all week. It was a short week, but a good week."Dixon had 45 yards on 11 carries. Rookie Kendall Hunter had 57 yards on 11 carries."It was simple," Dixon said. "I stayed low, lowered my pads, got up in there behind my big boys and we made it happen. It gives you more confidence, and once you get your confidence to a certain level, you can do whatever."Rookie Jordan Todman also lost a fumble for the Chargers, who missed the playoffs last year because of special teams gaffes and turnovers. Rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien threw an interception and was sacked five times. He also threw a nine-yard TD pass to Seyi Ajirotutu with 1:21 left."I liked getting Ryan going," Turner said. "It was good to see him break the long run. I thought he hit some good runs up in there, too. Obviously you can't win in this league if you turn the ball over. I'm disappointed that we had the two turnovers."The Chargers, in turn, intercepted 49ers rookie Colin Kaepernick twice.Kaepernick came on early in the second quarter in place of Alex Smith, who led the first two scoring drives. He was intercepted by rookie cornerback Marcus Gilchrist in the end zone.Kaepernick was picked off later in the second quarter by Dante Hughes on a tipped ball.Both teams had turned it over to second- and third-stringers by early in the second quarter.NOTES: Even though he didn't play, Gore was in uniform. ... Sitting out from the Chargers' first-team defense were ILB Larry English, T Antonio Garay and OLB Shaun Phillips. ... Chargers LBs Travis LaBoy and Takeo Spikes were captains against their former team.

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.

However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.

Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.

But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.

“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.

“They make it as bad as possible.”

Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.

“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”

The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.

“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.

“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”

Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."