49ers vs. Chargers score, takeaways: San Francisco's defense shuts down Justin Herbert, L.A. offense

The San Francisco 49ers are above .500 on the season at 5-4 after taking down the Los Angeles Chargers, 22-16. Kyle Shanahan's team found itself trailing at the half, but enjoyed a dominant final two quarters where the offense put up 12 points while the defensive side of the ball left L.A. scoreless en route to the win. 

San Francisco took the lead midway through the fourth quarter as a goal-line touchdown by Christian McCaffrey capped off a 14-play, 77-yard drive. After grabbing ahold of the lead for the first time in the game, the defense continued to shut Justin Herbert and the rest of Chargers offense down, allowing just 10 yards of total offense on their final three drives and picking off Herbert to seal the game. 

Garoppolo finished with 240 yards through the air on 19 of 28 passing. Brandon Aiyuk was his go-to target, catching six of his seven targets for 84 yards. Meanwhile, Elijah Mitchell led the Niners rushing attack, notching 89 yards on the ground on a 4.9-yards-per-carry clip. As for McCaffrey, he logged 77 yards from scrimmage along with that rushing touchdown. 

On the other side, Herbert completed 21 of 35 for 196 yards, a touchdown and an interception. DeAndre Carter led all Chargers pass-catchers with 64 yards through the air. 

For a more detailed breakdown of how this game unfolded, check out our main takeaways below. 

Why the 49ers won

San Francisco seemed to find its footing in the beginning of the second half as it got back to its roots and started to dominate on the ground. Of the 49ers' 65 yards on the 12-play field goal drive to open up the third quarter, 47 of them came in the running game and that theme continued for the rest of the game. As a club, they rushed for 106 yards in the second half compared to the 51 yards they had on the ground through the first two quarters. 

As the offense started to impose its will physically over the Chargers, so did the defense. The Niners pass rush started to get home, making things extremely difficult for Justin Herbert. While Herbert wasn't sacked in the second half, he was routinely on the move, flushed out of the pocket and particularly struggled to move the chains. After allowing L.A. to convert five third-down attempts in the first half, the 49ers allowed just one such conversion on five attempts in the second half.  

Why the Chargers lost

Los Angeles got off to a hot start, needing just seven plays to move 75 yards down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive. However, they were never able to recreate that spark offensively for the rest of the game. Even when they were given a short field thanks to a Brandon Aiyuk fumble at the end of the first quarter, they couldn't take full advantage of it. After getting the ball back at the San Francisco 32-yard line, they could only travel 3 yards on four plays and needed to settle for a field goal. L.A. had two other drives on the night that went as far as the 49ers' 7-yard line and 20-yard line, respectfully. Both times they were held to a field goal. Those offensive issues were only highlighted even more in the second half where they punted three times, had a turnover on downs and threw an interception to end the day. That level of execution offensively simply won't win you many games in the NFL.  

Defensively, the Chargers did end up getting pushed around for 387 yards (208 in the second half), but Brandon Staley's unit was able to make stops and did give the offense chances to hang in this game. They just couldn't play a standard level of complementary football. 

Turning point

The Niners started to pull away in the second half after they gained momentum in the ground game. After putting together scoring drives on two of their previous three possessions, a 14-play, 77-yard touchdown drive not only swung the momentum in this game, but the scoreboard as well. While the the ground game was the main point of attack on the night for the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo did make a number of big-time conversions on the drives, moving the chains through the air three times on third down. That included a couple of third-and-longs, headlined by a third-and-10 conversion to Brandon Aiyuk for 24 yards that set up a goal-line touchdown by Christian McCaffrey that gave them the lead for the first time all night. 

After taking the lead, San Francisco's defense slammed the door shut, immediately forcing a three-and-out that traveled just 3 yards. Then, they forced a turnover on downs and finally picked off Herbert with less than a minute left in regulation.  

Top play

Even in defeat, Justin Herbert flashed why he is widely considered to be one of the up-and-coming elite quarterbacks in the NFL. The degree of difficulty on some of his throws are only outmatched by how effortlessly he makes them look. 

An example of that came in the second quarter of this matchup when he dropped back on a second-and-10 play from the San Francisco 34-yard line. Herbert had pressure coming from his right and in his face, which forced him to slide his body left. As he faded left, he fired a bullet to DeAndre Carter who was streaking to the right side of the field and fit the ball into the tightest of windows. Carter ended up bringing that pass all the way to the 49ers' 2-yard line, but the Chargers ultimately had to settle for a field goal on that drive. Nevertheless, this was an outstanding throw by Herbert. 

What's next

From here, the 49ers will gear up for an international matchup with the Arizona Cardinals that'll take place at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City next Monday night. As for the Chargers, they'll head back to SoFi Stadium and await the Kansas City Chiefs for an AFC West showdown in prime time. 

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Niners play the Cardinals next week, while the Chargers will play the Chiefs. L.A. might get Mike Williams and/or Keenan Allen back, which would be much needed.

November 14, 2022, 4:23 AM

That's Talanoa Hufanga on the INT. Having a fantastic season.

November 14, 2022, 4:22 AM

Herbert's pass gets tipped and intercepted and that'll do it, folks. Niners improve to 5-4. Chargers fall to 5-4. 

November 14, 2022, 4:21 AM

Well, now it's a 6-point game. The Chargers need a touchdown, but they'll have better field position than they did on their last drive. And being down by 6 should make them more aggressive if and when they get over midfield.

November 14, 2022, 4:19 AM

Not kicking! (Maybe.)

November 14, 2022, 4:17 AM

Wow, Mitchell tripped as he tried to cut back to his left and got stopped around the 2-yard line. Shanahan will probably kick. That might be a mistake, though.

November 14, 2022, 4:17 AM

So this is going to be interesting. If the Chargers get a stop on third down, San Francisco will have to choose between going for it at the 1-yard line or kicking to go up by 6 and potentially losing on a TD drive and XP.

November 14, 2022, 4:15 AM

Herbert got CLOCKED as he threw that one, and couldn't hit Josh Palmer coming across the formation. Nick Bosa beat the fill-in right tackle and force Herbert to step up right into a free rusher.

November 14, 2022, 4:13 AM

Herbert got away with one right there. Warner was in position to possibly pick-six him.

November 14, 2022, 4:12 AM

Perfect punt from Wishnoswky and the Charger are pinned at their own goal line. Herbert has 2:03 and all three timeouts to get into scoring range for a chance to tie or win the game.

November 14, 2022, 4:09 AM

Not the best clock-churning sequence from the Niners here. Illegal man downfield penalty. Incomplete pass. Clock stops either way. 

November 14, 2022, 4:07 AM

Interesting to see Mitchell and Samuel getting these burn-the-clock carries and not McCaffrey. Could be a trust thing, could be not wanting to put any additional mileage on the new addition.

November 14, 2022, 4:04 AM

Herbert has to check down again on third-and-long, and Tre McKitty doesn't have nearly enough room to create after the catch to pick up a first. The Chargers defense will have to step up and get a stop to get the ball back.

November 14, 2022, 4:00 AM

McCaffrey goes right into the end zone despite an offside penalty and San Francisco has the lead. 

November 14, 2022, 3:53 AM

Aiyuk ALMOST broke that one to the end zone. Could have made up for the earlier drop. Either way, Niners with first-and-goal inside the 5. 

November 14, 2022, 3:52 AM

Back-to-back no-gain plays to McCaffrey after Mitchell moved the Niners to just outside the red zone. Third-and-long upcoming. 

November 14, 2022, 3:52 AM

The Charger are down to three defensive linemen after that injury to Christian Covington. Less than ideal.

November 14, 2022, 3:49 AM

McCaffrey has made a few plays in the pass game tonight (3-39 receiving) but Mitchell has been the more effective runner (11-60 vs. 11-39 on the ground). He's got a lot more experience in Shanahan's system so it makes some degree of sense, but it's worth watching. 

November 14, 2022, 3:47 AM

Wow! The Jauan Jennings Drive! Three big plays in a row.

November 14, 2022, 3:45 AM

Asante Samuel Jr. gave Jauan Jennings a BIG cushion on third down. Basically a free conversion for SF there.

November 14, 2022, 3:43 AM

The Niners love that shotgun outside hand-off play to Deebo. Chargers almost held it to no gain but, as usual, Deebo broke a tackle and got something out of it. Should have gotten a facemask, too, but it went uncalled.

November 14, 2022, 3:42 AM

Difficult to move the chains with the all-checkdowns offense, and the Niners will get the ball back when we return from the commercial break to start the fourth quarter.

November 14, 2022, 3:37 AM

Herbert is having to build the whole offense out of the underneath zone throws tonight -- again. That's the deal with this Chargers offense this season, especially with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams out.

November 14, 2022, 3:35 AM

Deebo Samuel almost single-handedly picked up that first down with YAC and broken tackles. Came up a few yards short and the Chargers will get the ball back.

November 14, 2022, 3:30 AM

Well, that bootleg attempt did NOT work. Khalil Mack unblocked off the edge and runs right into Jimmy G for a big sack.

November 14, 2022, 3:29 AM

Elijah Mitchell with a couple nice runs up the middle. He's still involved in this offense even with CMC in town. Up to 47 yards on 9 carries.

November 14, 2022, 3:28 AM

Blitz off the right side of the offensive line forced Herbert to throw it away on second-and-8, and then a free runner through the right side of the line forced another throwaway on third-and-8. Good sequence from San Fran's defense.

November 14, 2022, 3:24 AM

Uh-oh. Looks like another injury along the San Francisco defensive front. Charles Omenihu down on the ground after that last play.

November 14, 2022, 3:19 AM

Brandon Aiyuk had an easy touchdown there. Tried to pin the ball against his chest instead of just catching it with his hands and it ended up banging off his shoulder pad. Big missed opportunity.

November 14, 2022, 3:13 AM
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