Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers matchups, how to watch and prediction

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes against the Falcons on Nov. 6, 2022, in Atlanta.
Quarterback Justin Herbert looked as healthy last weekend in Atlanta as he has since suffering fractured rib cartilage in Week 2. The Chargers almost certainly will need a major game from him Sunday night.
(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (5-3) and the San Francisco 49ers (4-4) match up heading into their game at 5:20 p.m. PST on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The game will be shown on NBC (Ch. 4) and streamed on Peacock and NFL+.


When Chargers have the ball

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 6, 2022.
The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler, pictured carrying the ball in Sunday’s win at Atlanta, will face the NFL’s top run defense against the 49ers.
(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

One way to counter San Francisco’s multiple offensive threats is control the time of possession. That would require that the Chargers run, something they’ve failed to do with sustained success in seven of eight games. And now, they’re facing the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL.


An effective ground game also would help neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush.

“The more that we can keep them in a run mode and make them hit blocks and not be able to just tee off on the pass rush, the better,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “I think it’s an important part of the game.”

The 49ers might be 4-4, but they started 3-5 last season and reached the NFC title game. Former coach Sean Payton thinks they are equipped for Super Bowl.

Nov. 11, 2022

An important and — more than likely — difficult part for the Chargers. They rushed for 238 yards in Week 5 at Cleveland. Otherwise, they’ve averaged only 68 yards on the ground. Running back Austin Ekeler is tied for the NFL lead with 10 touchdowns, with four coming on pass receptions. Ekeler is averaging 4.4 yards per rush, but the Chargers’ average is only 3.7.

Quarterback Justin Herbert looked as healthy last weekend in Atlanta as he has since suffering fractured rib cartilage in Week 2. The Chargers almost certainly will need a major performance from Herbert to have a chance.

“I think just his confidence and knowing what he has,” Lombardi said when asked about Herbert feeling better. “He’s not limited by the injury. Obviously, that helps a lot with the quarterback’s confidence.”


When 49ers have the ball

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey evades Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Oct. 30, 2022.
San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey eludes Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the 49ers’ 31-14 win Oct. 30.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A Chargers team never has faced Deebo Samuel or Christian McCaffrey. Samuel entered the NFL in 2019 and these teams last met in 2018. McCaffrey, then with Carolina, was injured when the Panthers visited SoFi Stadium in 2020.

The pair represent quite a challenge for a defense that has been susceptible to the big play. Add tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, and the Chargers are staring at a daunting task.

“You can’t practice everything that they can do,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “But you just have to have the inventory, the library of: ‘OK, this is what they can do. This is what they have shown.’ Then, let your guys go play fast.”

Jerry Tillery’s role already was reduced as the Chargers defense was rebuilt in the offseason, but tensions rose this week leading to Tillery being waived.

Nov. 11, 2022


Only two teams have surrendered more points on average than the Chargers. The 49ers are coming off a 31-point performance in a convincing victory over the Rams on Oct. 30. With an extra week to prepare and further involve McCaffrey, who was acquired in an Oct. 21 trade, San Francisco and coach Kyle Shanahan could be ready to put on an entertaining show in prime time.

When he was defensive coordinator for the Rams in 2020, Staley’s team lost to Shanahan and the 49ers twice — 24-16 and 23-20.


When they kick

Rookie Cameron Dicker is the AFC’s reigning special teams player of the week after hitting the game-winning, final-play field goal last weekend in the Chargers’ win over the Falcons.

Robbie Gould has 19 game-winning kicks during his 17-year NFL career. His brother, Chris, is the Chargers’ assistant special teams coach.


Jeff Miller’s prediction: The Chargers have been winning but doing so in less-than-glowing fashion en route to reaching 5-3. Particularly without injured wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, this feels like a really tough matchup.