With their offensive stars sitting this one out, the San Francisco 49ers got big plays on the other side of the ball to cap their first unbeaten preseason in 18 years.
Manny Lawson and rookie Taylor Mays had interceptions and rookie Anthony Dixon ran 46 yards for a first-half touchdown in the 49ers’ 17-14 victory Thursday night over the San Diego Chargers.
Jehuu Caulcrick caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Nate Davis with 8:41 left and Joe Nedney added a 25-yard field goal for San Francisco (4-0).
Jeremy Williams returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown, then caught a 29-yard pass to set up Curtis Brinkley’s 2-yard TD run late in the third quarter for the Chargers (1-3). But Curtis Taylor stripped Williams after a catch to force a fumble and give San Francisco the ball with 6:54 to play.
Williams also was the intended receiver on San Diego’s last-ditch, fourth-down effort in the final minute. Tramaine Brock picked off Jonathan Crompton’s pass with 48 seconds left.
San Francisco’s offense looked little like the unit that will be called upon in its Sept. 12 opener at NFC West rival Seattle. No Alex Smith at quarterback, no Frank Gore or Brian Westbrook at running back, no Michael Crabtree at wideout nor Joe Staley leading the line at left tackle.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, like many of San Diego’s starters, also got the night off.
The Niners did go with their starting 11 on defense — for one series.
Lawson blitzed untouched toward Billy Volek on San Diego’s opening drive of the second quarter, batted the ball with both hands and turned to catch it for an interception.
Dixon finished his impressive preseason campaign with another nice game, getting a key block from rookie guard Mike Iupati on his touchdown run.
Carr started in place of Smith and was solid running the offense before giving way to Nate Davis midway through the second quarter.
Mike Tolbert ran 32 yards for a first down on third-and-10 during San Diego’s first possession, but the Chargers (1-3) struggled to move the ball.
Notes: 49ers WR Jason Hill was poked in the eye in the second quarter. … Dixon, a sixth-rounder, finished the preseason with 74 carries for 300 yards and three TDs. He sustained a rib injury Thursday that wasn’t considered serious. … Niners rookie Kevin Jurovich made a 29-yard catch to set up the go-ahead score late.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press