NFL Preseason Preview - San Diego (3-0) at San Francisco (2-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The San Diego Chargers can record their first undefeated preseason in 12 years when they invade Candlestick Park for their annual exhibition clash with the San Francisco 49ers, though past history suggests that isn't a goal worth striving for.
The last time the Chargers went 4-0 through the practice portion of the schedule occurred all the way back in 2000. San Diego would win only a single time over the course of that year's regular season, however, establishing a franchise record for futility in the process.
While a San Diego squad that hasn't produced a losing mark in eight consecutive seasons seems highly improbable to accomplish that dubious feat, the main task at hand for Thursday's finale will be to sharpen up for the team's Sept. 10 regular-season opener at fellow AFC West member Oakland.
Quarterback Philip Rivers may particularly be in need of some work after being held out of last Friday's 12-10 triumph at Minnesota. The four-time 4,000-yard passer is slated to play some against the 49ers, mostly to avoid what would be more than a three-week layoff between the Oakland game and his last appearance.
Rivers was inactive in part due to the Chargers competing without a trio of starters on the offensive line, with left tackle Jared Gaither (back), center Nick Hardwick (concussion) and left guard Tyronne Green (foot) all sidelined with injuries. Of the three, Green stands the best chance of suiting up on Thursday.
Head coach Norv Turner also mentioned that tight end Antonio Gates, also kept out of the Minnesota game for precautionary reasons, would also be available for this week's test. Top running back Ryan Mathews won't be, however, as he continues to recover from a broken collarbone he sustained in San Diego's Aug. 9 lid-lifter against Green Bay.
Other San Diego players expected to miss include rookie outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (thigh), wide receiver Vincent Brown (fractured ankle) and possibly wideout Eddie Royal (groin) and nose tackle Antonio Garay (foot).
Charlie Whitehurst started in Rivers' place last week and had trouble generating any offense behind the makeshift line, taking five sacks in a stint of little over a half and completing just 8-of-18 passes for 82 yards.
For the 49ers, the objective will be to get off to a better start than the defending NFC West champs did a week ago. San Francisco's first-teamers spotted Peyton Manning and his Denver teammates an early 17-0 lead in Sunday's showdown with the Broncos, but the backup corps rallied for 19 unanswered points after halftime to give the Niners a 29-24 win.
No. 2 quarterback Colin Kaepernick and reserve running back Anthony Dixon triggered San Francisco's comeback, with Kaepernick going 4-for-4 for 80 yards in directing three scoring drives that produced 13 points. Dixon, fighting for a roster spot in a deep backfield group, capped one of the drives with a 26- yard touchdown run and finished with a game-high 58 yards on 13 carries.
Regular triggerman Alex Smith attempted only seven passes during a first half in which the Broncos dominated time of possession, but completed five of them for 69 yards, the majority of which came on a 44-yard touchdown connection to tight end Vernon Davis.
Smith will see limited action in the 49ers' final tune-up before a marquee Week 1 matchup at Green Bay, while premier pass rusher Aldon Smith is also in line for some snaps after missing the last two weeks with a bruised hip.
Wide receiver Mario Manningham won't be present for San Francisco due to the recent death of his grandfather, while running back Brandon Jacobs is out for a second straight outing due to a sprained knee.
This traditional preseason series is tied at 20-20 after the 49ers delivered a 20-17 win in San Diego last summer. San Francisco also bested the Chargers by a 17-14 count at Candlestick Park in 2010.
08/29 14:03:24 ET