Chargers push for answers after ‘no one really created.’ Chargers-49ers takeaways

49ers running back Christian McCaffrey runs by Chargers Alohi Gilman and Derwin James Jr.
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) wore down the Chargers’ defense in Santa Clara Sunday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

The Chargers fell to 5-4 with a 22-16 loss Sunday night to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night.

They had their three-game win streak on the road snapped and fell behind New England for the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC.

Here are some observations from another Sunday that featured numerous injured Chargers:

O-line depth being tested

Chargers' Justin Herbert is hit by 49ers
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is hit by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward and linebacker Fred Warner in Santa Clara on Sunday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Right tackle Trey Pipkins III was among the Chargers’ inactive players. He aggravated his sprained left knee last weekend in Atlanta and was questionable. Pipkins worked out on the field Sunday afternoon but was unable to play.


He was replaced by Foster Sarell, a former undrafted free agent out of Stanford. Sarell’s only previous NFL experience was five special-teams snaps for the Chargers in Week 6.

The team already was missing left tackle Rashawn Slater, who ruptured his biceps in Week 3.

Down his two starting tackles, coach Brandon Staley said the Chargers tried to stay committed to the run in order to help neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush. Still, the Chargers finished with only 16 rushes for 51 yards.

Brandon Staley is pleased by the effort put up by the injury-riddled Chargers but isn’t happy with the result in a 22-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Nov. 13, 2022

“We were making sure those rushers didn’t tee off,” Staley said. “You gotta chance pace against them. If it just becomes a drop-back game, that’s when all the risk is in the plan against a team like that.

“As long as it was close, we wanted to force those guys to play things straight up. … That’s an outstanding team that rushes the passer. We knew the danger was in the pass rush.”


The Chargers ran the ball five times for 17 yards in the third quarter and had no running plays — and only eight plays total — in the fourth quarter.

Justin Herbert was sacked twice, and San Francisco had nine total quarterback hits.

Playmaking depth an issue, too

Nick Bosa pulls on Chargers' DeAndre Carter's jersey as he tackles him.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, right, tackles Chargers receiver DeAndre Carter (1) for a loss Sunday in Santa Clara.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Already down wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle), the Chargers lost tight end Gerald Everett (groin) in the first half.

Still, running back Austin Ekeler said the absences shouldn’t be used as a crutch.

“We got some of our guys who are down,” he said. “I get it. That doesn’t matter.”

Justin Herbert started strong only to struggle in the second half after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Chargers’ 22-16 loss to the 49ers.

Nov. 13, 2022

Herbert connected with DeAndre Carter for gains of 33 and 32 yards and with Joshua Palmer for a 25-yard pickup — all in the first half. The Chargers had no other play that netted more than 17 yards.

“No one really created today,” Ekeler said. “We need more playmaking. We didn’t have that in the second half. We can’t just go out there and play hard. That’s doesn’t win in the NFL.”

Lost opportunities

Justin Herbert runs from 49ers defenders
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert runs against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara on Sunday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Afterward, the Chargers were left lamenting not taking full advantage of a fumble recovery and a deflected punt, both of which gave them possession on San Francisco’s side of the 50-yard line.

Instead of touchdowns, the two series ended with Cameron Dicker field goals.

Derwin James Jr. forced the fumble at the end of a 19-yard reception by Brandon Aiyuk. Asante Samuel Jr. swung Aiyuk around while tackling him and right into James, whose helmet cause the fumble.

Samuel recovered, giving the Chargers possession at the San Francisco 32-yard line.

Reserve linebacker Nick Niemann deflected a Mitch Wishnowsky punt, the ball traveling only 13 yards and giving the offense possession at the San Francisco 46-yard line.

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

A short time later, Herbert put the ball on the fingertips of Tre’ McKitty deep in 49ers’ territory, but the backup tight end was unable to make the catch.

On the next play, Herbert connected deep with Carter for 33 yards to the San Francisco two-yard line.

But the Chargers then stalled.

“I really loved the way our team competed,” Staley said. “We didn’t execute perfectly all the time. I think that we’ll learn from that.”

Worn down by ‘Niners

Chargers Derwin James Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. fail to catch a Chargers player with the ball
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey slips by Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (26) in Santa Clara on Sunday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

The drive that put the 49ers ahead for the first time lasted 14 plays and covered 77 yards while consuming nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Christian McCaffrey scored on a two-yard run to make it 19-16 with 7:54 remaining.

Along the way, San Francisco converted third-and-five, third-and-eight and third-and-10.

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

“When you’re out there for a long time and you don’t get the stops on third down that you need, fatigue can set in and guys make mental errors and you can become oozy on run fits,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “We just needed to make some plays in the second half and we didn’t do it.”

San Francisco ran 25 fourth-quarter plays to the Chargers’ eight. The 49ers had all of the game’s eight first downs in the final quarter.

In his own words

Chargers' Justin Herbert is hit by 49ers Dre Greenlaw and Jimmie Ward
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is hit by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw, left, and cornerback Jimmie Ward.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Ekeler on his message to Herbert after the second-quarter hit that knocked the quarterback briefly from the game: “I told him, ‘Take your time, brother.’ I mean, there’s more important things than football, which is our life and our brain, especially. I’m glad he was able to come back and be all right.”