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Chargers vs. 49ers Recap: Max Duggan, run offense lead Bolts over Niners 23-12

Rookie quarterback Max Duggan led a strong ground effort to bowl over the 49ers 23-12 in the preseason finale.

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Chargers came into this season needing to be a much better team when it comes to running the football. They took another positive step forward on Friday night as they rushed for a whopping 267 yards against the 49ers en route to a 23-12 win in their preseason finale.

The offense was led by Joshua Kelley who tore off a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. From there, the Chargers continued to run rampant over the Niners for the remainder of the game. In the second half, rookie quarterback Max Duggan even broke out the read option to finish with 51 yards rushing, good for second on the team.

After struggling to contain some of the Niners’ offensive starters during the first few drives, the defense buckled down to allow just six points for the final 49 minutes. Rookie Daiyan Henley recorded his first NFL interception and safety JT Woods was all over the field once again.

It was an exciting end to the month of August and now it’s full-steam ahead toward the regular season where the Chargers will open up with the Dolphins on September 10th.

For a complete quarter-by-quarter recap of Friday night’s win, continue on below.

First Quarter

The 49ers won the toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff.

With most of their offensive skill position starters playing, the Niners were able to move the ball with ease against the Chargers’ backups and third-stringers. After a defensive breakdown by the secondary allowed the Niners inside the five-yard line, San Francisco had a two-play sequence where quarterback Brock Purdy tripped running back Jordan Mason on first down and then Mason fumbled the ball just outside the goal line which was recovered by cornerback Deane Leonard.

The Chargers offense couldn’t muster any forward momentum on their first drive of the game, mainly due to the fact that All-World linebacker Fred Warner and other starters were lined up across from them. In three plays, the Bolts went back seven yards before punting the ball away.

Brock Purdy found the end zone on a short scramble on the ensuing drive to put the Niners up 6-0 after Mitch Wishnowsky missed the extra point.

It took the Chargers just two plays to take the lead on their second offensive drive of the game as Joshua Kelley gashed the Niners for a 75-yard touchdown. Dustin Hopkins was good on the extra point and the Bolts led 7-6.

The Chargers forced a punt from the Niners and played out the quarter following a first-down completion to Quentin Johnston.

Second Quarter

The 49ers revved up their pressure packages to put a quick stop to the Chargers’ drive on the other side of the break. Johnston caught his second target to move the chains once more but Easton Stick took a sack on the next third down to close the drive.

After another stop by the defense, the Chargers managed their first lengthy drive of the game. Stick led the Bolts on a 15-play, 62-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock. The Niners turned up the heat once again and forced a pair of incompletions before Cameron Dicker came on to convert a 24-yard field goal. With just over two minutes remaining in the half, the Bolts led 10-6.

The Niners got close to field goal range at the end of the half but a penalty pushed them back just far enough to force a punt. The Bolts kneeled with 17 seconds left to head into the locker room.

Third Quarter

Rookie Max Duggan came out to lead the Chargers’ offense in the second half. His first three plays went as follows:

  • First pass tipped at the line and nearly intercepted
  • Elijah Dotson drops toss and Duggan picks it up for a loss of 10 yards
  • Dropped pass

It was an ugly sequence and not the way anyone wants to start their time on the field.

The Niners, still led by Sam Darnold, managed to put together another scoring drive with a touchdown pass to veteran Willie Snead. Since the Niners have both kickers out with injuries, they tried for a two-point conversion but it was covered well by the Chargers. They led 12-10 with over 10 minutes in the quarter.

After a disastrous first drive, Duggan and the Chargers run game looked like a whole new unit as they rushed over the Niners 10-straight plays. Dotson got the drive going and Duggan even got in on the action to bring the Chargers inside the five-yard line. On fourth-and-two, Duggan rolled right, couldn’t find an open man, and then through a dart to Hunter Kampmoyer who came into view late for his first NFL touchdown pass.

Two plays into the Niners’ next drive, Brandon Allen threw a pass to his right that was broken up by UDFA cornerback Cam Brown and knocked into the arms of linebacker Daiyan Henley. After a short return by Henley, the Chargers offense only gained a yard but were already well within field goal range. Dicker was good once again and the Bolts led 20-12.

Los Angeles forced another quick punt and headed into the break facing a third down on the other side.

Fourth Quarter

The Chargers and Niners traded punts in the first half of the quarter before the former took nearly eight minutes off the clock with another long, 14-play drive headlined by the running of Max Duggan and running back Tyler Hoosman. With just over a minute left in regulation, Dicker trotted on the field to convert another short field goal to push their lead to 23-12.

The Niners decided to call it there as they knelt the clock out the rest of the way.