The San Diego Chargers (1-1) and San Francisco 49ers (0-2) play the third preseason game for both teams, considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, Sunday at new Levi’s Stadium. The game starts at 4 p.m. ET.
Like all preseason games, finishing with no major injuries should be a top priority for the Chargers. So far, San Diego head coach Mike McCoy has been fortunate in that regard, with no major injuries through two games. Hopefully that continues. That said, here are three other things to keep an eye on during the game:
1. Tackle, and stop the run: The Chargers struggled to stop the run the first two preseason games, giving up a league-worst 5.58 yards per carry. Poor tackling remains an issue, as San Diego has had trouble tracking and targeting ball carriers in the open field. San Diego will not get a reprieve against the 49ers. San Francisco has the most diversity of runs of any NFL team in the league and can run effectively in heavy or spread formations. The 49ers have perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL, led by Pro Bowlers Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Add to that an elusive glider like quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and San Diego will definitely be tested up front. It will be important for the Chargers to get 11 hats to the ball, be disciplined and gap sound.
2. Get after the quarterback: The Chargers have just four sacks through two games and have failed to put consistent pressure on the quarterback. Opposing quarterbacks have a 92.3 passer rating against the Chargers this preseason. Getting a healthy Dwight Freeney with the starters on passing downs should help. I’m also interested to see Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram make some plays in the backfield on Sunday.
3. Get into a rhythm: San Diego’s first-unit offense has not scored during exhibition play, so it will be important for players like Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen to experience some success moving the football, and ultimately get into the end zone. The same can be said for cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers. Verrett is slated to see his first action in a Chargers uniform, and Flowers has not played much during exhibition play. Both will be tested against big San Francisco receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, so it should be a good chance for those two to get some reps and get into a rhythm with the rest of the secondary. I know preseason records don’t matter, but that doesn’t mean having some success isn’t important to building momentum for the regular season. Since the start of the 2012 preseason, Denver and Seattle -- the two teams that appeared in the Super Bowl last season -- are a combined 16-5 in exhibition play. Apparently winning during the preseason matters to them.