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SANTA CLARA – For a long while, the 49ers were playing the kind of football most expected to see for the entire season.
The offensive line and Frank Gore were working in unison. Colin Kaepernick was able to tear off huge chunks of yardage when he escaped the pocket. And the defensive backfield created turnovers.
And because this space is devoted to the positive aspects of their recent game, we’ll leave it at that. Here are three positives of the 49ers’ 38-35 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers:
1. Frank Gore: He has been kept in the dark about the team’s plans for the future, so Gore is fully aware these could be the final games of his 49ers career. Gore wants to go out strong, and he looked as good as ever in a 26-carry, 158-yard performance. His 52-yard touchdown was classic Gore, as he ran through two defenders and sloughed off safety Eric Weddle with a devastating stiff arm.
Gore put together his best game since early in the 2009 season, when he rushed for 207 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. Gore is now in just 38 yards shy of his eighth 1,000-yard rushing season in 10 years with the 49ers.
2. Antoine Bethea: Almost all of the 49ers’ veterans did not live up to expectations this season. But Bethea was an exception. He might be the only 49ers player who played consistently at a Pro Bowl level. As well as being strong against the run, Bethea also has four interceptions. He made a nice play to step in front of tight end Antonio Gates to intercept Philip Rivers. Bethea returned it for 49 yards for the first touchdown of his nine-year professional career.
3. Bruce Ellington: OK, maybe we shouldn’t get too carried away. After all, Ellington accounted for only 20 yards of total offense. But he scored two touchdowns. After catching an 8-yard scoring pass from Kaepernick, he also got into the end zone on a 1-yard run on a fly sweep. It’s that kind of versatility that could bode well for Ellington’s future. And before leaving the game with a hamstring strain, he also looked good in the return game with a season-best 23-yard punt return.