SAN FRANCISCO -- Next stop, Lambeau Field.
The San Francisco 49ers capped their exhibition season with a dominant 35-3 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night at Candlestick Park. Now they'll turn their full attention to their Sept. 9 opener against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
"We've got the momentum with us now," said 49ers tight end Delanie Walker, who caught a 32-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "I think this set the tone for us. All three phases, from the first team, second team, third team, all played great. So I'm just looking forward to seeing who we're going to have, who we're going to keep and get ready for Green Bay."
Many of the 49ers' thoughts had likely turned to the Packers long before the rout of San Diego ended. Quarterback Alex Smith handed off on the 49ers' first five plays from scrimmage and then gave way to backup Colin Kaepernick, who turned in another impressive performance, throwing two touchdown passes and helping the 49ers build a 21-0 halftime lead.
Starting running back Frank Gore got the night off. So did wide receiver Randy Moss. The 49ers' entire starting defense, including linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive end Justin Smith, spent the night on the sidelines.
The 49ers must trim their roster from 75 to 53 by Friday's 6 p.m. deadline, and players fighting to make the team got one last chance to make their case.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday night's game only made his roster decisions tougher.
"A lot of good to talk about," Harbaugh said. "I'm really pleased with our defense, our (second string), the job they did tonight, and really the last two games. That's five straight quarters of shutout football."
Quarterback Josh Johnson, who rotated with Scott Tolzien in the second half, made a statement when he threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter. On his first play of the night, Johnson zipped a quick pass to wide receiver Nathan Palmer, who slipped a tackle and raced 51 yards for a score. Johnson's 3-yarder to tight end Garrett Celek made it 35-0 with 54 seconds left in the third.
"It feels good," said Johnson, who played for Harbaugh in college at San Diego. "Just get these guys the ball and allow them to show what they can do with it. That's one thing from being in this offense in college that I was able to do. That's the same thing you've got to do up here. Get the ball out of your hands and let the playmakers make plays."
Tolzien, meanwhile, was picked off by linebacker Bront Bird deep in 49ers territory, setting up a Chargers field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Kaepernick completed 12 of 18 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first half with a passer rating of 131.3 as the 49ers built a 21-0 lead. He threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker and a 12-yard scoring strike to rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, a first-round pick. It was Jenkins' first touchdown catch as a 49er, and it drew a big cheer from the small crowd.
"I didn't really hear the crowd," Jenkins said. "I was zoned out."
San Francisco jumped to a quick 14-0 advantage in the first quarter, working against a defense that featured most of the Chargers' regulars.
"You always want to go out there and move the ball no matter who it is, but knowing it's their starters makes you feel a little better about it," Kaepernick said.
On their first drive, the 49ers drove 66 yards for a touchdown, Anthony Dixon bulling over from a yard out behind the block of defensive-tackle/fullback Will Tukuafu. Running back Kendall Hunter carried four consecutive times for a combined 23 yards, and then Jenkins gained 9 yards to the Chargers' 34 on an end around.
Dixon's 17-yard burst up the middle gave the 49ers a first down at the Chargers' 17, and Kaepernick's 9-yard dart to Walker made it first-and-goal from the 3. Two plays later, Dixon found the end zone.
Dixon, who is fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster, had a strong preseason, but he'll have to wait to see if he made the team.
"Hopefully I did enough and coach has faith in me and I'll still be here," Dixon said.
The 49ers offense went back to work after safety C.J. Spillman stripped the ball from Chargers tight end Antonio Gates at the end of a 12-yard pass from Philip Rivers. Rookie safety Trenton Robinson scooped up the fumble and returned it 23 yards to the San Diego 32.
On second down, Walker caught a Kaepernick pass along the left sideline, broke a tackle and powered into the end zone for a touchdown, putting the 49ers up 14-0 with 6:17 left in the quarter.
San Francisco's defense forced another turnover late in the first quarter when safety Darcel McBath intercepted a Rivers pass over the middle intended for wide receiver Malcom Floyd and returned it 19 yards to the 49ers' 25.
Kaepernick marched the 49ers 62 yards on six plays for a touchdown, hitting Jenkins to make it 21-0 with 8:11 left in the half. Kaepernick avoided a sack, raced to his right and threw a fastball -- back across his body -- to a wide open Jenkins.
The 49ers snuffed another Chargers drive late in the second when linebacker Tavares Gooden sacked quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for a 9-yard loss on third-and-8, forcing a punt.
NOTES: Rookie LaMichael James returned to action after missing Sunday's game at Denver with an ankle injury. He returned the opening kick 39 yards. ... Rookie linebacker Cam Johnson (knee), a seventh-round pick from Virginia, made his 49ers debut after missing the first three games. ... Gooden had six tackles and a sack in the first half. ... Linebackers Ikaika Alama-Francis and Eric Bakhtiari each had half a sack.
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