Chip Kelly’s comments Sunday that the 49ers weren’t equipped to keep pace when the Patriots took a two-score lead in the fourth quarter were interpreted by some as a slam on the man in charge of equipping the roster, general manager Trent Baalke.
Not so, Kelly said Monday.
“It’s just overall how our team is built,” he said. “We’re built to run the football. I mean, (running back) Carlos (Hyde) is the main focus of what we’re doing offensively. We have a running quarterback that complements him, and our play-action pass complements that.”
He added: “We’re not a team that can throw the ball 60 times a game. That’s not how we’re built.”
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Hyde had one of his better games of the season against New England in averaging 4.5 yards a carry and finishing with 86 rushing yards, his highest total since a Week 3 loss to the Seahawks. The 49ers rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
But it was clear Sunday that the 49ers did not have anyone in the passing game to complement Hyde, especially with the team’s most accomplished wide receiver, Torrey Smith, out with a shoulder injury. Colin Kaepernick attempted 15 passes to wide receivers against the Patriots. Four were caught, two each by Quinton Patton and Chris Harper.
Kelly seemed to make note of that lack of firepower immediately following the game.
“We don’t have a go-to wide receiver that’s going to elicit double coverage and then all of a sudden you’re going to get single matchups across the ball and then we can line up in empty (backfield) sets all day long and throw the ball all over the lot,” he said. “That’s just not the way we’re built right now.”
When it was noted Monday that any NFL team must be able to play from a deficit at times, and because of that, should be able to throw the ball, Kelly said, “Well, that means you have everything.”
“I’d love to be a team that can throw the ball 60 times, and I’d love to be a team that can run the ball 60 times,” he said.
With Smith on the sideline, rookie Aaron Burbridge started the game at one of the wideout spots but was targeted only once in his 29 snaps and had no catches. Harper played 33 snaps and had two catches for 35 yards.
Meanwhile, some fans are wondering whether DeAndre Smelter, a former fourth-round draft pick of Baalke’s who was added to the practice squad last month, will be promoted to the 53-man roster over the last six weeks. Kelly didn’t sound optimistic.
“He’s been OK,” he said when asked how Smelter’s looked in practice. “But he hasn’t been better than the guys on the active roster.”