The Blaine Gabbert led San Francisco 49ers are 1-3 so far in 2016, and have lost three straight after hammering the Rams on the opening night of Monday Night Football. Many of the team’s faults rest upon their quarterback, who miraculously will still be starting over Colin Kaepernick in their match up against the Arizona Cardinals.
What’s wrong with Gabbert?
This one play alone from their game against the Cowboys last week displays a lot the issues many have seen that has fans calling for a change under center.
Trailing 7 to the Cowboys with less than two minutes to play, the 49ers faced a 4th and 6 and need to convert to keep their hopes of tying the game alive.
And they do that…
The 49ers lined up with trips at the top, Torrey Smith (#82), Quinton Patton (#11) and Jeremy Kerley (#17), and Garret Celek (#88) as a lone receiver on the other side. Carlos Hyde (#28) lined up alongside Gabbert in the backfield. The Cowboys had three down linemen, and Linebacker Justin Durant (#56) showed a blitz.
Upon the snap Durant and fellow linebacker Sean Lee (#50) both drop into man coverage, and the Cowboys rush three. Kerley runs a deep crossing route, long enough for the first down. Patton runs a corner route, long enough for the first down. Celek runs a curl, long enough for the first down. Hyde runs a curl out of the backfied, long enough for the first down.
Torrey Smith also ran an out route, which was initially long enough for the first, but when he had to move to get open for the then scrambling Gabbert, he moved 3 yard up field and at that point was way short of the first, with the Cowboys Morris Claiborne (#24) right behind him.
There are three huge issues for the 49ers on this play. First, Gabberts decision making. It’s 4th down and you know you need 6 yards. Smith takes some fault for shortening his route, but Gabbert should be aware enough to not throw to a receiver short of the sticks with a man lurking behind him. He had scrambled to the right side of the field, removing some of his options, but throwing a dangerous pass towards Patton downfield at least would give his team a chance. This has been a problem for Gabbert throughout the season. His lack of situational awareness leads to him throwing to the nearest man with any sort of room around him no matter how many yards the team needs on the play, and this time it costed them the game.
From this angle you get a good view of the pocket and what Gabbert saw, or should have seen, on the play. The Cowboys only rushed three, yet they still managed to put heavy pressure on Gabbert against five 49ers blockers. Joe Stanley (#74) got beat by Anthony Hitchens (#58) initially, but he managed to recover and push Hitchens behind the play. Every other 49ers lineman failed, though.
Both Terell McClain (#97) and Tyrone Crawford (#98) tried to go through Guard Andrew Tiller (#61), and Tiller did not receive much help. Zane Beadles (#68) does not really do anything on the play. He does not shift right to help with Crawford and McClain, and does not turn left to help out Stanley on Hitchens. The 49ers were running a zone blocking scheme, but if the play has developed and there is no one near you while your teammates are getting beaten it is your responsibility to shift into a different spot.
Crawford manages to burst through the double team of Tiller and Trent Brown (#77) and begins to chase after Gabbert. This allows McClain to release and also chase Gabbert.
Which brings the third thing that went wrong for the 49ers on the play. When Crawford breaks through his blocks, which should never have happened anyways, Gabbert chooses to scramble right.
On his right, Gabbert is facing two Cowboys defensive lineman, free of any blocks, chasing him. On his right, there is, now on his knees, Hitchens being handled by Stanley.
If Gabbert has chosen to run left at this exact moment, he would have had more room, and more options to throw too. He had Hyde, Celek and Kerleys route would have headed towards him over the middle. On the right there was more danger, and only Patton and Smith near the sideline.
This again shows Gabberts poor decision making, he chooses to run towards the oncoming pressure instead of away from it, and puts himself in a situation where his only legitimate option was a receiver short of the first down anyways.
Failing the fourth down pretty much ended the game. The Cowboys got the ball back and ran the clock out despite the 49ers two remaining time outs. This is just one of the many times already this season where Gabbert has costed the 49ers heavily, and with Kaepernick waiting in the wings, it seems that Chip Kelly made a mistake in choosing a quarterback this season.
Header via GettyImages