If the 49ers are considering parting ways with Colin Kaepernick in the offseason, Blaine Gabbert’s performance Sunday likely solidified their plans.
CenturyLink Stadium has been a madhouse for 49ers quarterbacks as they’ve combined for a 59.2 passer rating and thrown three times as many interceptions as touchdown passes there in the last five years.
Gabbert threw one touchdown pass – the first touchdown grab of tight end Vance McDonald’s career – and finished with a 98.2 passer rating. He narrowly missed becoming the first 49ers quarterback to have a 100-plus rating against the Seahawks since J.T. O’Sullivan (Jesuit High School) accomplished that in 2008.
Gabbert also avoided throwing an interception, although two potential turnovers were dropped by Seattle defenders.
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“I thought Blaine and the poise he showed today was really good,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. “He used his feet. He used his arm. He got himself out of some things. He kept his eyes downfield and made some plays. I’m not into moral victories, but that was encouraging.”
The 49ers placed Kaepernick on injured reserve Saturday with a left shoulder injury that likely will require surgery on Tuesday. General manager Trent Baalke said Kaepernick would rehabilitate with the 49ers like every other injured player. Echoing what he said about Alex Smith at the end of the 2012 season, Baalke said he wasn’t ready to say Kaepernick’s tenure with the 49ers was ending.
“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he said before Sunday’s game. “I think people are reading into that. For me, where we stand right now, I wouldn’t read too much into that right now.”
Gabbert and the 49ers’ offense seemed to be in a stupor to start the game. But they woke up at the end of the first half when Gabbert engineered a 92-yard drive and hit McDonald for a 19-yard touchdown. Gabbert was 6 of 7 for 78 yards on the drive.
He also steered the 49ers into Seattle’s red zone on the first two possessions of the second half. Both ended in short Phil Dawson field goals.
“You’ve got to get touchdowns when you’re in (that) area, especially against a good football team like that,” Gabbert said. “You can’t come away with field goals, albeit all points are good. Touchdowns change the game.”
In their first meeting this year, the Seahawks sacked Kaepernick six times. Gabbert went down twice Sunday – both sacks were surrendered by right tackle Erik Pears – and he showed nice awareness in the pocket.
“Blaine’s very smart,” guard Alex Boone said. “He knows where his help is. He knows where to run, which way to go. He knows that, hey, sometimes I’m going to have to take this hit. And I think he does a great job of that.”
Right guard switch – Andrew Tiller started Sunday’s game at right guard and didn’t alternate series with Jordan Devey.
The start was the first of Tiller’s career. He began the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, then began alternating with Devey in Week 5 against the Giants. Devey started the first nine games of the season but played only nine snaps – to Tiller’s 48 – in the most recent game against the Falcons.
49ers park Tank – Tank Carradine, who didn’t play any snaps against the Falcons, was inactive for the first time Sunday.
The former second-round pick is in the midst of a metamorphosis. Early in his career, the 49ers wanted him to get to 300 pounds and play like one of their traditional defensive linemen, such as Justin Smith or Ray McDonald. Now they want him to return to his college weight, about 275 pounds, so he can be more effective as an edge rusher.
Et cetera – McDonald, who had 64 receiving yards on the season entering the game, finished with 65 yards Sunday. McDonald was a second-round pick out of Rice in 2013. Another Rice tight end taken that year, Seattle’s Luke Willson, had two catches for 15 yards.
▪ The 49ers’ 13 points were the most they’ve scored against Seattle since the 2013 NFC championship game, in which they scored 17. They haven’t surpassed 17 in Seattle since 2010.
▪ Baalke said the 49ers might look at free-agent quarterbacks but that they had no visits planned as of Sunday. The team worked out ex-quarterback Terrelle Pryor as a wide receiver last month.