The phrase “repetitive accuracy” has become a refrain for 49ers coach Chip Kelly since he joined the NFL in 2013, something he’s identified as the most important trait for his quarterbacks.
“I think that’s huge,” Kelly said in July. “It’s a game about getting the ball in playmakers’ hands. So, repetitive accuracy is a big thing in terms of being able to move the ball down the field. That’s a huge part of it.”
After two games, that repetitive accuracy has been missing for Kelly and the 49ers.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has completed 54.9 percent of his passes; only the Los Angeles Rams’ Case Keenum (53.8 percent) has a lower rate among current starters. And five starting quarterbacks have completed more than 70 percent through two games.
Kelly defended Gabbert on Wednesday, saying everything from lapses in pass protection to poorly run routes have factored into his low completion rate. Last year, Gabbert connected on 63.1 percent of his passes, which put him in the middle of the pack among starters.
Kelly cited a fourth-quarter play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. With the 49ers on the Carolina 15 facing third and 8, right guard Marcus Martin allowed his opponent to sack Gabbert for a 6-yard loss. They settled for a field goal.
“Now that’s not the quarterback’s fault, but that’s what he has to deal with,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot that’s involved in all of that, and I think being good in the passing game on the offensive side of the ball takes all 11 guys.”
The 49ers also dropped five passes Sunday, three of them – by tight ends Vance McDonald and Blake Bell and running back Shaun Draughn – in quick succession in the fourth quarter.
Those lapses and the 49ers’ inability to run led to too many third-and-long situations against the Panthers, Gabbert said.
“And that’s a great defense you’re going up against,” he said. “They were in the Super Bowl last year. They were the NFC champs, so when you put yourselves in those negative situations, you’re not going to execute at a high level on third down.”
It won’t be easier Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. They lead the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed – they’ve given up just 19 points in two games – and their eight sacks are tied for second. The Seahawks opened the season against two run-oriented teams, the Miami Dolphins and Rams, but held them to an average of 64 yards on the ground, third best in the league.
The 49ers haven’t won in Seattle since 2011, Jim Harbaugh’s first season as coach.
“I think the Seahawks’ secondary is probably the best in the league right now,” Kelly said. “… The one thing about the Seahawks is the Seahawks do what the Seahawks do. You know, they try to dictate to you offensively on how you’re going to play based upon how they play. They’ve got a great scheme that those guys have been in for a long time. They are very comfortable in that scheme.”
The 49ers still are adjusting to each other.
Two of Gabbert’s wide receivers, Jeremy Kerley and Rod Streater, joined the team in recent weeks. Kerley has played 101 snaps; Streater has been in for 21.
The players also said they still are getting used to an offense that is nothing like what they ran under Harbaugh or his successor, Jim Tomsula.
“We’ve played two games,” center Daniel Kilgore said. “There are areas where we can get better. The more reps we get, the more games we play, the better we’ll get.”