Santa Clara - Things just keep getting worse for the Forty-Niners. After blowing a huge lead the San Diego Chargers fought back and tied the game to force an overtime and came away with the 38-35 victory over San Francisco. Nick Novak's 40-yard field goal sealed their win in OT. The 49ers suffered their fourth straight loss and blew another lead when scoring 21 or more points at halftime.
"As a team, we didn't finish it," said San Francisco's head coach Jim Harbaugh. "Up 28-7 at one point, but guys were fighting. San Diego did a heck of a job. Tremendous comeback."
The 49ers made it look easy in the first half, they went up 21-0 by the start of the second quarter. Frank Gore scored on the first series by rushing for a 52-yard touchdown. He rushed a total 158 yards on 26 carries which is the fifth most rushing yards in a single game in his career. Gore had 129 yards on 14 carries in the first half.
"My whole offensive line was there," Gore said. "All year, we missed one guy here, one guy there. I think that is what the problem has been (all year). My O-Line dominated their D-line tonight."
San Francisco used their running game early and it was successful. Gore had more yards tonight than in the last four games. Colin Kaepernick also recorded 151 yards on 7 carries. Looking like Kaepernick of last season, he scored a touchdown on a 90-yard run which is the second longest in the franchise history. Running back Garrison Hearst rushed for a 96 yard touchdown in 1998.
The only other quarterback to rush for more than 90-yards in the NFL was Terrelle Pryor last year against Pittsburg on October 27, 2013. Kaepernick finished the night rushing the most yards for a quarterback in a single game in NFL history (regular season). But the individual accolades wasn't enough to pull out the win.
"That's a grown man performance right there," said Kaepernick on Gore's performance. "Coming off a concussion we weren't sure if he was going to play or not. He said, 'I want to go out and fight with you all. I'm not going to leave you all out there by yourselves.' And to come out and play the way he did and give this offense that life was huge."
Kaepernick found Bruce Ellington for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Anotine Bethea's pick 6 on a 49-yard touchdown gave San Francisco a 21-0 lead. Philip Rivers threw three interceptions, one of those was Bethea's first career touchdown. But the Chargers got on the board when Rivers connected with Eddie Royal for a 15-yard touchdown right before the half ended.
Rivers threw three more touchdowns in the second half to close the gap. He found Antonio Gates for a 1-yard and 21-yard touchdown. Then Rivers connected with Malcolm Floyd in the fourth for an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game with 3 minutes left in regulation. Forcing an overtime, the 49ers had no idea they would see their lead slip away.
"I can't, it's just tough," said Bethea. "Come out strong and just fizzle out in the second half. You really can't put your finger on what it was, just one of those years. It's a tough year."
Despite a team record of rushing 355 yards, which included Kaepernick's 90-yard touchdown, could help San Francisco's struggles. After being eliminated from the playoffs last week, the 49ers practically gave the game away with penalties and turnovers.
"We had three turnovers and that was really the difference of the game," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick's fumble that Corey Liuget recovered in the end zone for the touchdown might've been the biggest one outside of Joe Staley's two penalties that negated Aquan Boldin's touchdown in the first quarter. San Diego's defense dismantled a struggling offense to save their season in hopes of making a playoff run. Rivers comeback in the fourth is something Kaepernick has yet to do this season.
"At halftime, we didn't know if we could come all the way back," said Rivers. "Look we didn't know if we could win the game or not but we were going to fight like crazy, that's who we are."