San Francisco 49ers

Kelly defends Gabbert; Lynch returns to practice

Chip Kelly says team competed in loss to short-handed Cowboys

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After reviewing Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Cowboys, 49ers coach Chip Kelly had the same take on Blaine Gabbert’s fourth-quarter interception as his quarterback: He should have thrown the ball deeper and given wide receiver Torrey Smith a chance to run under the ball.

But that mistake didn’t change Kelly’s assessment of Gabbert’s outing. Overall, he reiterated Monday, Gabbert played well.

“You look at that ball he threw to Garrett Celek,” Kelly said of a third-quarter, 29-yard pass to the 49ers’ tight end. “That’s as good a throw as you’re going to see in this league. I mean, (Cowboys linebacker) Sean Lee – if I was coaching on the other side of the ball, I don’t know what I could tell Sean Lee. I don’t think he could have been any closer in coverage to him.”

Gabbert’s completion percentage (69.6) and passer rating (91.9) were far higher than they had been the previous three games. Still, Gabbert and the offense were unable to regain momentum after the Cowboys scored their first touchdown midway through the second quarter, and the 49ers had only a field goal in the second half.

Gabbert’s other dubious throw was a 3-yard completion to Smith on fourth and 6 late in the game. On the route, the 49ers sent two receivers deep, and Smith was supposed to break his route back to the middle of the field. When Gabbert was flushed from the pocket, Smith did the correct thing and ran in the same direction. Could Gabbert have done anything differently?

“Not really,” Kelly said. “They did a good job of clamping down on the two guys that were going deep.”

Et cetera – Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch’s suspension ended Monday, and he practiced in full. Kelly said the 49ers hope Lynch will get on the field Thursday against Arizona, but it depends on how he practices this week.

▪ Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who suffered a foot injury in Sunday’s game, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (ankle) and cornerback Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) didn’t practice Monday.

▪ Guard Zane Beadles (ankle), cornerback Chris Davis (quadriceps) and tight end Vance McDonald (hip) were limited in practice.

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