Winless 49ers look to rebound at Levi's Stadium
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The winless San Francisco 49ers are counting on a far more memorable day of football on their home field to take some focus off the condition of that very field.
San Francisco's Levi's Stadium debut quickly became a debacle last Sunday, from missed chances, miscues and sod that showed in a hurry it is still finding its own solid ground in the new $1.2 billion venue.
''It's very frustrating. You open a new stadium and you want to play well,'' safety Eric Reid said. ''I can speak for the team when I say we didn't play very well.''
The 49ers were blanked 34-0 to be exact, committing four turnovers and watching typically spot-on placekicker Phil Dawson sail two field-goal tries wide right. They are yet to score a preseason touchdown.
Jim Harbaugh's team is eager to have some success in its second straight home game on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
The 49ers have won the past four preseason meetings between the teams that have faced off in the exhibition schedule every year since 1987.
The grass was replaced Friday after players slipped on the initial sod during an open practice Wednesday. Harbaugh said that wouldn't affect whether he played his starters deeper into the game as is customary in the third exhibition.
Harbaugh said his team wouldn't hold a walk-through Saturday on the new grass, with everybody getting out there early as usual Sunday before the game for warmups.
''I think they'll get the job done,'' running back Frank Gore said of the crew working on the field.
This could be a unique matchup for both teams considering they face each other again in the regular season's Week 16 on Dec. 20 at Levi's Stadium. Harbaugh figures neither will provide many clues when it comes to scheme.
For the Chargers, this will be a homecoming of sorts for coach Mike McCoy. He was born in the Marin County city of Novato and grew up attending 49ers games at Candlestick Park.
''Every weekend, chasing Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and all those guys. Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and all them trying to get their autographs after games,'' McCoy recalled this week. ''We found our ways. We knew how to get into certain gates and how to sneak in and I knew a few people that helped us out.''
Gore will look to exploit the Chargers' struggling run defense, which is surrendering an average of 167 yards rushing so far. San Diego surrendered five touchdowns rushing in a 41-14 home loss to the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who didn't punt all game.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano has stressed the need to improve tackling and getting pressure on the quarterback.
Both teams are expected to be missing some key faces - for San Diego, linebacker Manti Te'o (foot), wide receiver Vincent Brown (calf) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder); and San Francisco, right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder surgery) and safety Antoine Bethea (concussion).
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will likely play more than the two series he had last week, perhaps giving him more of a glimpse of the deep and talented receiving group he has. San Francisco hasn't scored the past seven quarters and has been outscored 57-3 in two preseason games.
''Just establish a rhythm. I think that's the biggest thing we need to get right now,'' Kaepernick said. ''We don't game plan for preseason games. So, you go out, you call plays, and you make the best out of them. We're going to try and get in a rhythm in every game that we play.''
AP Freelance Writer Jay Paris in San Diego contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL