San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Low sacks, short throws result from same philosophy

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1. Gabbert wasn’t sacked in the game.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1. Gabbert wasn’t sacked in the game. The Bee

Excited that the 49ers have allowed a league-low two sacks but sour over their dinky pass-attempt average?

They’re both born of the same philosophy, coach Chip Kelly said this week – a timing-based passing game that emphasizes quick throws and shorter routes by the receiver.

“I mean, there’s a catch-22,” Kelly said. “Everybody can say, ‘Hey, let’s go bombs away and throw the ball down the field.’ Well, then you’re going to be in a lot of third-and-longs and second-and-longs because your quarterback’s going to get sacked a lot. Now you’re playing behind the sticks.”

The sticks, or first-down markers, have been a frequent topic this week after the 49ers failed to reach them on their first 10 third-down attempts last week against Seattle. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed four passes in those scenarios. But all four were short of the marker, and the Seahawks’ defense, designed for those situations, swarmed to the ball before the receiver could pick up the first down.

Another third-down pass to Quinton Patton deflected off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted. That pass also was thrown short of the first-down marker.

The 49ers average 5.5 yards per pass attempt, the lowest in the NFL. Last year’s average of 6.9 yards tied for 24th in the league.

Both Kelly and Gabbert said the 49ers did a good job in Seattle at creating manageable situations on third down and that the play calls were correct.

“When you’re third-and-one to -four, you’re calling underneath routes where you can catch and carry,” Gabbert said. “You’re getting the ball out because that’s when you’re most open, coming off on rubs and picks, beating man coverage. You’re not calling 18-yard in cuts on third-and-two, so when you’re in third-and-manageable, you’re calling underneath stuff, letting guys get open quick and get the first down.”

On a positive note, Gabbert wasn’t sacked – the second time that’s happened in three games this year. One of the team’s sacks was given up in Week 2 in Carolina by Marcus Martin, who was substituting for injured guard Andrew Tiller at the time. The other came at the end of the Carolina game on a Gabbert scramble on which he was tackled just before the line of scrimmage.

That means none of the 49ers’ starters is responsible for a sack this season.

Tight end trouble? – Tight ends Vance McDonald (hip) and Garrett Celek (back) practiced in a limited fashion for the last two days and are listed as questionable on the 49ers’ injury report.

Cornerback Jimmie Ward has been ruled out after suffering a quadriceps injury in Seattle. That means either Keith Reaser or Rashard Robinson will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Cowboys.

For Dallas, wide receiver Dez Bryant is listed as questionable with a hairline fracture in his knee. He did not practice this week. Also questionable are starting tackles Doug Free (quad) and Tyron Smith (back). Starting guard La’el Collins has been ruled out with a toe injury.

Huggies needed – Tickets? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Diapers?

Fans who bring an unopened pack of diapers to the game will have a chance to meet 49ers alumni Bubba Paris and Brian Jennings and will be entered into a contest to win, among other items, tickets to a future 49ers game.

The diaper drive benefits the National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit group that seeks to ensure every child has access to a supply of diapers. The dropoff area is at the Faithful Mile on the west side of Levi’s Stadium.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at