Four days removed from the Mile High torching they received via the throwing arm of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the 49ers will face yet another elite QB of the AFC West.
Heading into their final exhibition contest before the start of the regular season in Green Bay, the 49ers will host the San Diego Chargers, and likely quarterback Philip Rivers, today at Candlestick Park.
“I would like them to play. If they don’t play, obviously it’s been an extremely long period since they last played against Dallas in a game,” Chargers coach and Martinez native Norv Turner said of Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates. “But it’s good for them to get some playing time.”
Rivers and Gates last played two Saturdays ago against the Dallas Cowboys after sitting out Friday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. San Diego — while unbeaten in preseason play — had an injury-riddled offensive line, which prompted Rivers’ and Gates’ benching.
But in today’s final tuneup before meaningful play, other starters will also be making an unorthodox fourth preseason appearance.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed Tuesday that quarterback Alex Smith, who went 5-of-7 passing for 69 yards against Denver including a 44-yard TD pass to Vernon Davis, will play.
And there’s reason for it.
The second-year coach stressed the importance of establishing an offensive rhythm, highlighting such huddle fundamentals as snap count, substitutions and alignment. And such a responsibility is usually reserved for one’s starting quarterback.
“All those things that relate to getting in a good rhythm offensively,” Harbaugh said. “And a rhythm in how we execute, and you want to be sharp. Want to be razor sharp coming out of this game.”
Sharp is hardly how Harbaugh’s offense — and defense — looked in the opening minutes of dress rehearsal play against the Broncos. Denver jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead courtesy of a fumbling Niners offense and bumbling defense.
But rolling into a new week, Harbaugh didn’t seemed concerned.
“We’d have liked to have played better in the first part of that game. I was really pleased how we played in the second half,” he said of the 29-24 win. “We don’t get into a whole lot of what we’re working on ... but we are working on seeing where we can get better.”
Seeing where the 49ers can get better will certainly be critical, as Harbaugh and his staff will be forced to dismiss 22 players after today’s game. So while the cliched “dress rehearsal” unofficially was last week, today is really the time to perform.
Harbaugh also said that he believes Aldon Smith — who previously suffered a hip injury — will be ready to play today.
NOTE: The 49ers swapped out former Stanford Cardinal players Wednesday, re-signing defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and waiving center Chase Beeler.