CARSON, Calif. (AP) – C.J. Beathard’s first game in his second stint as an NFL starting quarterback will be against the team he grew up rooting for.
The second-year signal caller will receive the most attention on Sunday when San Francisco faces the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center. Beathard is back in the starting spot after Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in last week’s loss at Kansas City.
Beathard grew up rooting for the Chargers because his grandfather, Bobby Beathard, was the team’s general manager from 1989 to 2000. Beathard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and was the architect of the 1994 team which advanced to Super Bowl 29.
“It’s crazy that it is the Chargers,” Beathard said. “I did grow up being a Chargers fan, but I’m just excited to go out there and play whoever it was going to be. In this case, it’s the Chargers.”
Both teams are 1-2 but are trending in different directions. The Chargers’ September struggles have continued, but their losses have been to the unbeaten Chiefs and Rams, which isn’t causing anyone to panic.
The 49ers, 5-2 when Garoppolo started, have to find a way to salvage their season.
“The season doesn’t slow down for anyone. You just have to move on,” tight end George Kittle said. “We have 13 games left, plus playoffs. We can’t really sit back and mourn and feel bad for ourselves while the Chargers are out there practicing and getting better. They don’t really care.”
The Niners’ hopes will turn to Beathard, whose first shot at being a starter didn’t go well. The third-round pick started five games as a rookie and went 1-4. Beathard completed 54.9 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, six interceptions, 6.4 yards per attempt and a 69.2 passer rating that was second lowest in the NFL. He also took 19 sacks as he played behind a makeshift offensive line.
A year later, Beathard said he believes the game will have slowed down for him.
“It’s year two for me in this offense. With any extra time doing something, the better you get at it,” he said. “I definitely understand more of the whys. Why certain things happen, why this guy we think will be open, why we attack certain things versus certain coverages, and stuff like that.”
Beathard should also benefit from an improved running game. Matt Breida is tied for the NFL lead in rushing with 274 yards and has a league-high six carries of 20 yards or more.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, well versed in Kyle Shanahan system from his days in Denver, when he played and coached for Mike Shanahan, thinks Beathard could present more problems due to his mobility.
“He’ll move around a little bit. They do more things with him as far as quarterback-driven runs and things like that,” Lynn said. “I believe he can function well within that offense.”
Here are some other things to watch as the Chargers look for their fifth straight win over the Niners:
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will play in his 200th game and make his 196th consecutive start. He needs 222 yards to pass John Elway for eighth on the NFL’s career passing list.
Rivers, who has 51,254 yards in 15 seasons, is averaging 323.3 yards per game in his past four with 11 touchdowns, one interception and a 120.8 passer rating.
MORE THAN RUNNING BACKS
The Chargers are ninth in the league in rushing, averaging 124.3 yards per game, but Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler have combined for 27 catches, which is more than a third of the team’s 78 receptions.
Gordon, who has four touchdowns in the past two games, and Ekeler are the only running back duo in the league with 250 or more scrimmage yards. Gordon has 316 and Ekeler 295.
“We’re averaging over five yards per carry, which is huge. We’re really complementing the run and the pass and getting a lot of first downs,” Rivers said.
A consistent problem for the 49ers this season has been missed tackles. The team is tied for the eighth most in the league with 28, according to SportRadar, including four alone by linebacker Reuben Foster in his first game back from suspension last week against Kansas City.
“We have to tackle better in order to improve,” Shanahan said. “In this last week, I thought we had too many mistakes versus a good offense that gave them too many freebies in that first half, which put us in a huge hole.”
KEEP AN EYE ON KITTLE
The Niners tight end leads the team in receptions (12) and yards (191). His receiving yards are fourth most among tight ends in the league.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon goes against Chargers receiver Mike Williams. Witherspoon was picked on badly by Detroit in Week 2, allowing nine catches on 13 targets for 117 yards, according to SportRadar, as Matthew Stafford avoided Richard Sherman. Witherspoon didn’t start last week but figures to be back in there against the Chargers with Sherman sidelined by a calf injury.
Williams has three touchdowns this season and had his first multi-touchdown game in last week’s loss to the Rams.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.