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Niners Take Charge Out Of S.D.

After five years in the Canadian Football League, Jeff Garcia moved toward securing his first NFL job.

Steve Young threw for a touchdown in a cameo appearance, and Garcia threw for two, strengthening his bid for the No. 2 job, as the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 31-24 Thursday night.

"I don't think I could have written it any better for myself," said Garcia, who led the Calgary Stampeders to the 1998 Grey Cup championship while earning MVP honors.

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  • "I think things went very positively on the field," added Garcia, a former San Jose State star who played with a glove on his passing hand because of some still healing cuts.

    "The main thing I can pull out of this is my decision-making. I felt I made good decisions, I was able to get the ball to my receivers' hands and they were able to make plays."

    The exhibition game couldn't end soon enough for the Chargers (0-2).

    Playing for the second time in five days following a 20-17 loss to Denver last Sunday in the American Bowl at Sydney, Australia, the Chargers were jolted by the loss of Charlie Jones, who went down with a dislocated left hip. Jones is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

    Running back Natrone Means also left early with a shoulder bruise.

    "I think we will look at this game and we will say that we made a good try at coming back," Chargers coach Mike Riley said. "But we had some bad penalties and probably some bad decisions.

    "There was a lot of talk about how hard it was to recover and come back from Australia but I think we kept enough energy to fight back. We got some guys with mostly knicks and bruises, nothing serious except Jones. That's very unfortnate for us. A wide receiver is one of the most important parts of our rebuilding."

    Coach Steve Mariucci said Garcia hadn't practiced that well but had the look of a "gamer" in completing 13 of 18 for 163 yards, including scoring passes of 11 yards to Chad Fann and 29 yards to Na'il Benjamin.

    "He hasn't done anything spectacular in training camp but he came out here and played very, very well," Mariucci said. "He certainly showed he could be a productive quarterback in this league."

    Both Jim Druckenmiller and Steve Stenstrom lost ground in their battle with Garcia for the job backing up Young.

    "This is one game. There's three to go," Druckenmiller said. "I know all of us are ready and anxious. We'll see where this goes from here."

    Druckenmiller, a 1997 first-round pick once regarded as San Francisco's quarterback of the future, was 2-of-7 for 19 yards in about a quarter of play. He became flustered under pressure as he backpedaled near his own goal line, tossing a pass into the arms of defensive tackle Norman Hand, who dropped it.

    Stenstrom had a pass intercepted by Orlando Ruff late in the game, leading to a Chargers touchdown on the next play.

    Third-stringer Craig Whelihan played most of the game at quarterback for San Diego in relief of Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer.

    Whelihan was 9-of-25 for 138 yards, including scoring passes of 23 and 11 yards to Robert Reed. The 11-yard scoring play followed Ruff's interception.

    Jones, a reserve wide receiver, was hurt returning a punt early in the second quarter when he was tackled by Zack Bronson near the sideline and fell hard on his side.

    The game was stopped for several minutes while doctors and trainers tended to him, placing his damaged leg in an inflatable cast and lifting him onto a gurney before wheeling him off. Jones was in visible pain, clutching his head with both hands as he was taken from the field.

    Means ran impressively, gaining 63 yards on 11 carries, bowling over safety Merton Hanks with a stiff arm at the end of one play

    Means left midway through the second quarter with a shoulder bruise received at the end of a 9-yard run to the San Francisco 2. Tremayne Stephens ran it in on the next play, evening the score at 7.

    San Francisco moved back in front when Garcia connected with Fann with 1:53 remaining in the second period. Rookie Kory Minor also scored when he recovered Wendell Davis' fumble during a third-quarter kickoff and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.

    Young went 3-for-3, finishing his only series with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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