The Chargers needed someone to make a play, and Derwin James was more than ready to answer the call.
L.A. was clinging to a two-point lead with 2:38 left in the game, and Matt Breida had just hauled in a 20-yard catch-and-run. It would have been for much more, perhaps even a touchdown, if Darius Philon hadn’t made what proved to be a game-saving tackle.
So now here the Bolts were, looking to keep the 49ers out of field goal territory as C.J. Beathard received the snap from his own 31-yard line. James came blitzing around the edge untouched, turning the quarter and hitting the quarterback as he cocked his arm. The ball floated in the air toward Isaac Rochell, and the defensive end made sure to take advantage has he got under it and made the huge interception.
“I’ve never gotten an interception in my career, so it was really cool,” Rochell said. “It almost feels like a dream when it’s happening… It’s in slow motion. You have time to think about it. Mel (Melvin Ingram) turned around and looked at me and he goes, ‘Let’s go!’ It’s super slow motion.”
Overall, that play was indicative of the entire defense, who came through when needed most. Yes, they allowed the 49ers to convert too many third downs, especially in the first half, as San Francisco authored numerous drives into Bolts territory.
However, when someone needed to make a play, they did. From Trevor Williams’ interception at the goal line resulting in an 86-yard return or Casey Hayward coming to the rescue to stop Beathard just shy of the sticks on third down at the Bolts’ 15-yard line, the Chargers defense made the plays they absolutely needed to pull out the win.
“Our defense stepped up when we needed them to,” said Head Coach Anthony Lynn. “They created some turnovers, got some pressure on the quarterback and just slowed the 49ers down. Their offense is pretty explosive…. They want more quarterback-driven runs, but that’s hard for a defense to focus all on that. It was a great effort by them, but our team stepped up and executed.”
“I feel like everybody stepped up,” James said, echoing his head coach. “When guys’ numbers were called, I feel like everybody, as a team collectively, everybody just came in and did their job. I feel like as a defense and as a team, we’re moving forward.”
The rookie was particularly impressed with Hayward’s huge third down stop.
“Oh yeah, that was a big play,” he said. “We needed that play. Casey can make those types of plays. I see him make them all the time in practice, and when his number was called, he made the play.”
Overall, when things aren’t going their best, it takes conviction to put it in your rearview mirror and make a play. That’s exactly what Trevor Williams did on his pick after having what he dubbed a disappointing game up to that point.
“It was a little sloppy for me,” he said. “I just try to be long on my confidence and short on memory. You have to play four quarters. So things happen…. It was a long drive, and we had just had a penalty, and I just kept trying to encourage the guys that we were about to get a turnover. Just (spoke) it into existence. Once the play presented itself, I tried to take advantage of it.”
Finally, it may have gotten lost in the shuffle, but the Bolts’ ability to shut down a 49ers rushing attack that ranked second in the league was a major factor in pulling out the win.
“That was one of the things we focused on all week,” Lynn said. “They had the number two rushing attack in the league, and we held them to under four yards a carry.”
View the best action shots as the Chargers defeat the San Fransisco 49ers for the annual Latino Heritage game at home.