Dec 20, 2014 11:13 PM
Colin Kaepernick runs 90 yards for a touchdown
The Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Colin Kaepernick ran 90 yards for a touchdown two plays after his fumble allowed San Diego to recover in the end zone for a score, and the San Francisco 49ers led the Chargers 35-21 after three quarters Saturday night.
Frank Gore's chop block negated a 63-yard touchdown catch and run by Vernon Davis, then Kaepernick was sacked and fumbled the very next play in a wild sequence. Kaepernick, holding the ball out and away from his body, was clobbered by Ricardo Mathews to force the fumble and Corey Liuget recovered for the touchdown.
Antonio Gates caught a 1-yard touchdown pass earlier in the third from Philip Rivers as the Chargers played to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
But Kaepernick answered with his open-field speed rarely seen this year as things clicked in all phases one week after the Niners were eliminated from playoff contention. The run is the second-longest in 49ers history. Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard run for Oakland last year against Pittsburgh was the longest by a QB.
Antoine Bethea had a 49-yard interception return for his first career touchdown on Rivers' second pick of the game, and a defense minus recently released starting lineman Ray McDonald never let Rivers find a rhythm.
Gore had an earlier 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter six days after a concussion and had 139 yards rushing through three quarters, with New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez in attendance wearing a red No. 21 Gore jersey.
Rookie Bruce Ellington caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick early in the second quarter that put the Niners up 21-0, then ran for a 1-yard score in the waning moments.
In one half, San Francisco topped its combined scoring total from the previous three games of 23 points. The Niners had their biggest lead since going ahead 28-3 in the third quarter of the season opener at Dallas and their first lead by 21 points at home since a 34-3 victory against Houston on Oct. 6, 2013.
Rivers threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal to get San Diego on the board.
Rivers had his team driving late in the quarter before throwing an interception picked off by Perrish Cox. Unclear whether ailing, Rivers didn't look comfortable. He sat out Wednesday's practice with neck and back injuries, and he was without running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Keenan Allen.
In closing seconds of the initial quarter, a 21-yard TD pass from Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin was negated on left tackle Joe Staley's holding penalty and Staley later had two more penalties. After the catch, Boldin immediately swung a left arm around cornerback Shareece Wright's neck before pushing the defender in the face with his right hand and butting helmets. Boldin's unsportsmanlike penalty was nullified on the holding flag.
The Chargers (8-6), who have won the last three against the 49ers, needed to win out and get some help. They began the week tied with Kansas City and Buffalo, one game out of final wild-card berth.
After his run, Kaepernick jumped into the open arms of embattled fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh, who is facing a constant swirl of speculation about his future like a report alma mater Michigan has made him a six-year offer.
Gore was active less than a week after sustaining a concussion at Seattle, where the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention with a 17-7 loss. He didn't practice Wednesday in a short week and was limited in Thursday and Friday sessions and listed as questionable.
The 31-year-old Gore, in a contract year, came in needing 196 yards rushing over final two games for fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and eighth in his 10 NFL seasons. His scoring run was his longest since a 64-yarder on Nov. 1, 2009, at Indianapolis. It also was the longest TD run allowed by San Diego since 2010.
Wright later sustained a concussion, while San Diego cornerback Steve Williams suffered a knee injury.
San Francisco safety Eric Reid sustained a concussion in the first quarter and cornerback Leon McFadden a head injury. San Diego center Chris Watt hurt an ankle.
Right tackle Anthony Davis returned for San Francisco and started, playing for the first time since Nov. 9 after missing four games with a concussion.
Cox's fifth interception moved him into a tie for third place in the NFC.
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