Blaine Gabbert’s outing in the 49ers’ victory over the Falcons was a good first step in proving he’s no longer the skittish, callow quarterback who was chased out of Jacksonville.
A similar start against the Seahawks would be considered an Olympic-level leap toward that end.
Whereas the Falcons’ pass defense was 25th in the league with 10 sacks before facing Gabbert and the 49ers, the Seahawks are second in total defense and have 23 sacks, six of them in their victory over the 49ers in October. And the game is in Seattle, where 49ers quarterbacks have thrown three interceptions to every touchdown pass since 2011 and where they have a woeful 59.2 passer rating over that span.
Sunday’s game will be Gabbert’s first against the Seahawks. And while he was on the sideline for last season’s 17-7 loss there, it also will be his first attempt at running an offense amid CenturyLink Stadium’s notorious din.
“I think any away stadium’s tough to play at just because it’s a hostile environment,” Gabbert said this week. “It’s not your home turf. I enjoy playing on the road. It’s kind of a sweeter victory when you win on the road.”
Gabbert, however, has little experience hushing hostile crowds. He was 2-11 in road starts with the Jaguars, with both wins in Indianapolis. The Colts went 2-14, tied for the worst record in the league, in 2011. The next year, when the Jaguars beat Indianapolis on a last-minute, 80-yard touchdown pass by Gabbert – the play is considered the high-water mark of his tenure in Jacksonville – the Colts were 11-5.
Still, the Jaguars mostly were a bad team during the Gabbert era, something 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith noted this week.
“I think people probably view him in a certain light, but there haven’t been too many people who have done well in Jacksonville,” Smith said. “That’s not a knock on everyone down there, but it’s tough when there’s a lot of changes and new guys around. Hopefully he’s able to showcase his real ability here.”
Gabbert is off to a promising start.
Even though the 49ers were without starting running back Carlos Hyde and starting wide receiver Anquan Boldin against the Falcons, Gabbert threw for two touchdowns and wasn’t sacked. It was the first time a 49ers quarterback survived a game without going down since Oct. 13, 2014.
Even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he thought Gabbert looked “confident,” a word no one would have used during the quarterback’s Jacksonville tenure.
Is Gabbert a changed man? Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said a transformation occurred between 2014 and this year. Chryst, who was the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach when Gabbert arrived last year, conceded Gabbert looked a lot like his Jacksonville self during the 49ers’ 2014 preseason. But there’s been a metamorphosis since.
“He stayed with it,” Chryst said. “There’s an industriousness there. There’s a determination there that you have an opportunity to work with. And when someone has those attributes outside of their physical attributes, you feel like you can help them get better, and I think then the confidence comes through that.”
Hyde ruled out – The 49ers’ top running back experienced soreness in his left foot this week and will not travel to Seattle, coach Jim Tomsula said Friday.
Hyde, who suffered a stress fracture on the side of his foot Oct. 11 against the Giants, has missed the team’s last two games and didn’t practice this week.
Shaun Draughn likely will get his second straight start with newcomer Travaris Cadet and Kendall Gaskins providing backup. Cadet likely will serve as the team’s change-of-pace runner, a role originally meant for injured Reggie Bush. Gaskins has been getting work as a short-yardage back.
Hyde, meanwhile, has been bothered by pain in the foot, so much so that he went down in a heap after planting on it in an Oct. 18 game against the Ravens.
The second-year runner essentially took a month off, and Tomsula on Wednesday said the plan was for Hyde to practice this week. He experienced soreness in the foot again, however, and has not practiced.
“We were optimistic that we’d get more work done,” Tomsula said. He declined to say whether surgery is now an option. That type of injury typically is fixed by inserting a screw, according to orthopedic surgeons.
Meanwhile, Boldin (hamstring) has practiced every day this week and is listed as questionable to play against the Seahawks. Cornerback Kenneth Acker has cleared the league’s post-concussion protocol. Both missed the 49ers’ last game against the Falcons.
For Seattle, linebacker Bruce Irvin (knee) has been ruled out; running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) is questionable.