Back to Life, Back to Reality
Remember that party you went to when you were 17, and your crush was there? At first you were nervous, but then you felt that something was different about this party. Maybe it was the slight Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill buzz, or maybe something else, but you were going to talk to him/her.
And, it worked. You two started playing the sly hand-holding game all night without anyone being the wiser. Maybe you even had a silent moment by the giant bonfire and you thought, "Wow, this is actually going to happen."
But nothing happened, and worse yet, he/she totally ignored you when you got to school on Monday. Years later, you got an email from him/her asking "Why we never dated after that party at the Slab?"
No? Wow, I guess that's just me.
Anyway, this adolescent flirting game describes your 2016 San Francisco 49ers.
Today, the defense started by making things interesting with an opening drive interception. "Maybe we've actually got something here," I thought and sipped my Bloody Mary.
The offense took little advantage of the excellent field position and, as usual, turned it into a meager field goal. On Carolina's second possession, they had a 15-play drive that amounted to a punt. Just when I start to believe that high school flirting is real, Carlos Hyde fumbles and Carolina recovers and runs it back for a touchdown.
Let's not rip the offense just yet. When your defense pitches an opening game shut out, and the next weekend allows 46, you've got issues. Greg Olson made the 49ers secondary look like they'd never run a cover 2 defense (as did Ted Ginn, Jr., but dropped the ball). He split Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea for a 78 yard score. It was a pretty pattern - Olson bent the route outside, head fake and went to the post. Kelvin Benjamin also had a huge game (7 catches for 108 yards and 2 scores), and Carolina knew they could pick on a few 49ers defensive backs. It was a very lackluster showing from a defense that embarrassed Case Keenum to the point where he said he was "seeing ghosts."
And then we have our offense. This offense that was supposed to be ideal for Gabbert or Kaepernick (depending on the beat writers you read, or who you'd like to see behind center), but demanded an accurate quarterback. So, we read some 49ers beat writers commenting that Gabbert is better because he's got greater accuracy.
Gabbert: 17/36. That's 47 percent, 9 points lower than his career average completion percentage. But, he did have his moments. I have some comments in my notebook that read, "good pocket awareness" or "he climbed the pocket well". Last week Gabbert averaged 4.9 yards per pass attempt, and this week that increased to 6.2 yards per pass attempt. He looked downfield more often, and the touchdown pass to Vance McDonald was really pretty. Gabbert delivered the ball with anticipation, throwing it two steps before McDonald made his cut.
But, for as often as I have some positive notes, I have more "ball placement", "missed throw" or "poor choice". And when the 49ers needed Gabbert and the offense to step up, we had two interceptions and four 3-and-outs. Folks, Gabbert's a below-average quarterback. The faster you come to that realization, the better off you'll be.
All this doesn't fall on Gabbert. It's the opening possession of the 2nd half, and it's the 49ers ball on their own 32. It's a 3rd down with 8 to go. We need this play. I believe the 49ers had receiver split to Gabbert's right, and three to his left... those three with a numbers-split, in a bunch formation. He motions Hyde left, takes the shotgun snap and throws parallel to the line of scrimmage to Hyde, who's tackled immediately for a one-yard loss.
What kind of call is that? Did Curtis Modkins or Chip Kelly look down at their play sheet and say, "Wow, this is a very ideal call in this situation, and it's one of our bestest plays EVER. Let's throw behind the line of scrimmage. Yes! Call it!"
It's confusing. Do you trust your quarterback? We had some success of the play-action this game, but they called it sporadically. However, the offense worked hard to hang 27 points on the board. The defense was something resembling a tire fire put out with a mace.
But, there's always next... wait. It's Seattle... in Seattle. Nevermind.