The Los Angeles Chargers overcame a double-digit deficit, scoring 20 consecutive points at one point, to pull out a 29-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers at the ROKiT Field at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
The Chargers, who have lost to the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, improved to 2-2 with the victory. The 49ers, playing in front of a partisan crowd for them despite it being a road game, are now 1-3.
Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers completed 25 of 39 passes for 250 yards with three touchdowns and Melvin Gordon had 104 yards rushing on 15 carries. Gordon achieved his first 100-yard game since last season, when he eclipsed that mark Oct. 29, 2017, at New England.
“This was a gritty win,” Rivers said. “I am proud of the toughness, the togetherness, the fight the team showed today.”
After the Chargers opened their biggest lead of 26-17 midway through the third quarter on a Caleb Sturgis’ 25-yard field goal, the 49ers rallied for a 27-26 lead.
In that rally, George Kittle caught an 82-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard — the 49ers’ backup quarterback who is replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo for the rest of the season.
Beathard completed 23 of 37 pass attempts for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I thought he played well. He gave us a chance to win today,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said of Beathard, the grandson of former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard. “He played very tough and made some big plays.”
Kittle finished with six catches for 125 yards, which is more than San Francisco’s running game could muster against the Chargers’ defense (only 76 yards on 21 carries).
“(Stopping the run) was one of the things we focused on all week,” Los Angeles coach Anthony Lynn. “Our front seven was salty, very salty. They had the No. 2 rushing attack in the league and we held them to less than 4 yards a carry. That was an area we had to stop in this game and we did.”
Robbie Gould’s 33-yard field goal with 12:39 left in the fourth quarter put the 49ers ahead 27-26.
Sturgis gave the Charters the lead for good with a 21-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the fourth quarter. That culminated a nine-play, 72-yard drive.
The game was tied at 17 at halftime despite a difficult start for the Chargers, whose first possession included a Rivers incompletion, Gordon run for no gain and then a touchdown for San Francisco when 49ers safety Antone Exum picked off a Rivers pass and returned it 32 yards for a score.
Rivers attempted to complete the pass to Keenan Allen but overthrew him. It was the 49ers’ first interception of the season, coming on the opposition’s 129th pass.
“We struggled coming out of the gate obviously throwing an interception and not doing much, then we settled in and got in a little groove there for a while,” Rivers said. “Then we got back into a rut, but we found a way to win. There’s no game in the NFL that should be easier or harder than the other. They’re all hard and we found a way today.”
The 49ers took a 14-0 lead before the end of the first quarter when Beathard hit Kendrick Bourne for a two-yard score to finish a 56-yard drive set up after Sturgis missed a field goal from 54 yards.
Rivers engineered a 75-yard scoring drive, connecting with long-time target Antonio Gates for a 5-yard touchdown, to cut the lead to 14-6 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
The 49ers then put together a 21-play, 72-yard possession that resulted in a Robbie Gould 21-yard field goal to increase the lead to 17-6 with 4:59 remaining before halftime.
In the final minute of the second quarter, the Chargers scored 11 points to pull into the unlikely tie.
Rivers completed a 22-yard touchdown pass Austin Ekeler with 47 seconds left before connecting with Gordon for a two-point conversion.
After Los Angeles’ defense held San Francisco to a three-and-out, Desmond King returned a punt 56 yards to enable Sturgis to make a 48-yard field goal with no time remaining to even the score at the half.