SEATTLE – Trailing by a touchdown less than a minute into Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers’ offense did not exactly respond in ideal fashion.
After coach Chip Kelly made the play call on the sideline, the 49ers immediately lined up and failed to execute the simplest play that was drawn up.
“I didn’t even look to the left,” 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “I went to hand it off and there was nobody there. That can’t happen, especially on the first play of the game.
“That’s inexcusable. We knew what the play call was coming off the sideline and that just cannot happen.”
Running back Carlos Hyde said it was loud at CenturyLink Field and he heard Kelly call a different play. Hyde did not line up in the backfield. Gabbert expected Hyde to be there to take his handoff.
As a result, Gabbert had nobody to give the ball. After the initial surprise of Hyde being out of position, Gabbert managed to gain 1 yard on the inadvertent quarterback keeper.
The play got the 49ers off to a poor start and set the tone for a game in which the 49ers constantly found themselves in third-and-long situations in a 37-18 loss to the Seahawks.
The 49ers failed to convert their first 10 opportunities on third downs before finishing a somewhat respectable four of 15 (27 percent) while the Seahawks built a 34-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“That was the key, to try to convert on third down against them,” Kelly said. “They’re so good coverage wise, you need to make some plays on third down and we didn’t make enough plays.”
The 49ers completed passes in the first half on third downs, but Gabbert’s throws did not result in the necessary yardage to create first downs.
“We’re running man routes, and he’s trying to throw to the guys who are open in those situations,” Kelly said. “So a lot of times, what’s open and part of what their scheme is they’ll let you throw the ball down and rally to it. You’re hoping in a lot of situations, it’s catch and run situations where you can catch the ball and knife up the field.
“The guy who gets the ball on a throw short of the sticks has got to take that ball and get it past the sticks, because they’re not going to let you throw the ball past the sticks.”
Gabbert completed 14 of 25 pass attempts for 119 yards with no touchdowns and one interception – a third-down pass short of the first down that Quinton Patton bobbled into the hands of Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Kelly said he never gave consideration to benching Gabbert and going with backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Said Gabbert, “We were not clicking on third down, to say the least. You see what happens when you don’t convert on third down and you don’t have extended drives. You’re three-and-out a lot and it puts our defense in a tough situation.”