NFC West Reporter
Playing for the first time since missing seven games with a sprained MCL knee, running back Elijah Mitchell showed he can add something different to an already dynamic San Francisco 49ers offense.
Mitchell finished with 89 yards on 18 carries as San Francisco rolled for 157 yards on 41 carries in a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in a nationally televised contest at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers added another talented running back in Christian McCaffrey via trade from the Carolina Panthers a few weeks ago. McCaffrey finished with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Chargers as the two running backs played together for the first time.
Mitchell said he and McCaffrey can become the best running back tandem in the NFL.
“At the end of the day, it helps both of us,” Mitchell said of his new teammate in McCaffrey. “He’s in Year 6, and he’s an amazing back, so I’m learning from him and I’m excited for that.”
Added San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan: “We know we have a good back in Elijah. We know we just got a really good back in Christian. It’s nice to punch those guys. And we’ll keep Deebo. (Samuel) as a bonus.”
The win offered another glimpse of how dynamic San Francisco’s offense can be as they build toward a potential postseason run.
The 49ers improved to 5-4 with the win, just a half-game behind the NFC West division leaders the Seattle Seahawks (6-4). The Bolts fell to 5-4 with the loss, two games behind the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (7-2). The Chargers host the Chiefs at SoFi Stadium next week, while San Francisco will face the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City next week.
The 49ers got top players back from injuries to cornerback Kyle Juszczyk (finger), Samuel (hamstring) and Mitchell (knee). With a balanced offensive attack, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo once again did a good job distributing the football among San Francisco’s talented playmakers, orchestrating an efficient offensive performance by passing the football making critical throws on third down and in the red zone when the 49ers need it. the majority.
Garoppolo finished 19 of 28 for 240 yards and did not turn the ball over.
“Guys don’t care if they get 10 goals or one goal,” Garoppolo said, when asked about spreading the wealth to his team’s players. “If we get a ‘W,’ a ‘W’ is a ‘W.’ And that’s what we’re here for.”
The 49ers finished with 387 yards of offense. Seven different players ran an explosive play of at least 12 yards or more in either the running game or the passing game.
Credit the Chargers, Justin Herbert and the rest of the Bolts battled valiantly, taking a 16-10 lead into halftime without the team’s top two receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, both sitting out with injuries.
Herbert had one of his best performances since suffering a broken rib cartilage in a Week 2 game against the Chiefs. The University of Oregon product finished 21-of-35 for 196 yards passing.
Herbert got the Bolts on the scoreboard first on the team’s opening drive, capped by a 32-yard touchdown to DeAndre Carter. The Chargers also took advantage of a fumble by San Francisco wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and a deflected punt by Nick Niemann, setting up opportunities for two Cameron Dicker field goals.
However, a key play for the Chargers came late in the first half. San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw was ejected for a personal foul penalty after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Herbert as he scrambled for extra yards up the middle of the field.
According to the telecast, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said the league looked at the play and determined Greenlaw lowered his head and used illegal, forced contact and flagrant with an opponent’s head. Greenlaw left the game as San Francisco’s leading tackler with seven combined tackles.
“I was actually surprised,” Shanahan said of the ejection. “I understand the penalty. I totally understand, right on third down and he was putting his shoulder down. But I’ve got to learn what that is. . . . Because we lose Greenlaw by a whole game, that really. blew me away.”
Herbert had to leave the game after the play and was replaced by Chase Daniel for the final two plays of the first half. The Chargers had to settle for another Dicker field goal in this game and led 16-10 at halftime. Herbert was cleared to return to the game in the second half, but LA’s offense never got back on track.
Instead, the 49ers came out in the second half and controlled the game, holding Los Angeles scoreless the rest of the way and holding them to just 52 yards of total offense in the second half.
“I was proud of our team today,” Shanahan said. “I want to play better. I want to shut people out and score every time we go, but this team is too good to beat, the Chargers. … But we still found a way to win.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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