SANTA CLARA -– Quarterback Blaine Gabbert started off hot.
But like the 49ers’ offense as a whole, he cooled off as the 49ers let a 14-point lead slip away in a 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Afterward, coach Chip Kelly was talking like a person who is not considering a change at quarterback with the 49ers returning to action Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals.
“No, I thought Blaine played well today, to be honest with you, besides that one throw,” Kelly said.
That throw came with more than 10 minutes remaining and the 49ers trailing by three points. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had a couple steps on Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne, but Gabbert underthrew the pass to the outside, instead of leading Smith to the inside. Instead of a touchdown, it was an interception.
“That’s on me,” Gabbert said. “I got to throw him to the middle of the field. I got to throw him to the hash, and I just cut it a little too earlier and just missed him wide.
“I just got to throw the ball to the middle of the field, especially with the free safety cheating to the left hash and let Torrey go make a play.”
Smith showed his frustration as he threw his helmet when he got to the 49ers’ sideline after the blown opportunity.
“We were both frustrated,” Gabbert said. “I mean, that was a huge play in the game. Every game in the league comes down to one or two plays that change the outcome and that definitely had an impact on it and that’s on me. I got to throw that ball to the middle of the field and let him go get it.”
Gabbert completed 16-of-23 pass attempts in the game for 196 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was a season-high 91.9.
Gabbert targeted Smith just two times in the game. On a fourth-and-6 play with 1:56 remaining, Gabbert scrambled right and threw to Smith for a 3-yard gain.
“They were in man coverage and we just got flushed and tried to make a play, let our guys win and see if we could get the fourth down and we came up a yard short,” said Gabbert.
Actually, the play came up 3 yards short.
“That’s the way it goes,” Gabbert said. “We’re three feet short and that’s a tough pill to swallow. We were driving there pretty good there on that last drive of the game and they just rallied to the ball.”
Kelly said the play was not designed to be thrown short of the sticks. Three receivers on the play ran deep routes, while Smith was designed to run a route into the middle of the field.
“We had three guys vertical on that play,” Kelly said. “A couple of them were grabbed. I don’t know what happened after that. Obviously, Blaine got flushed out of the pocket, so now we’re in scramble mechanics. Torrey was actually running an ‘in’ route, but when the quarterback scrambled, he stuck his foot in the ground and went back outside.”
The 49ers converted their first seven third-down opportunities before failing on six of their final seven third-down chances.