SANTA CLARA – Blaine Gabbert did nothing Thursday night to reassure the 49ers’ fan base that coach Chip Kelly has the right guy at quarterback.
The chants of “We want Kap!” grew louder as the evening progressed and the crowd thinned at Levi’s Stadium. But despite the wishes of some of the fans in attendance, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not get off the sideline for a fourth consecutive game.
The 49ers were absolutely abysmal in losing their fourth consecutive game, falling 33-21 to the Arizona Cardinals, a team playing without starting quarterback Carson Palmer. The 49ers are in last place all alone in the NFC West with a 1-4 record.
The 49ers, a team with no margin for error, committed error after error after error in gifting the Cardinals everything they would need in what they considered a must-win early season game.
Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, which Arizona turned into 10 points. Gabbert, who was sacked just three times in the first four games, was sacked seven times for minus-27 yards, including a safety on a Calais Campbell sack in the closing minutes.
The 49ers also committed a fumble that set up a Cardinals touchdown but only after also committing a penalty on a field-goal attempt gave then a fresh set of downs.
The 49ers let the Cardinals pull even late in the first half when Gabbert’s pass attempt on a third-and-10 play from the 49ers’ 24 was tipped by Chandler Jones at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Campbell.
One play later, Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton hit a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a 21-yard touchdown. Fitzgerald later added another touchdown. Both were against 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock. Fitzgerald has 16 career touchdowns against the 49ers in his 13th NFL seasons.
Stanton started his first game since 2014, and it showed. He moved into the starting lineup after Palmer was not cleared after sustaining a concussion on Sunday. Stanton completed just 11 of 28 attempts for 124 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Fitzgerald caught six passes 81 yards.
The 49ers practically handed the Cardinals their second touchdown of the game, too.
Return man Chris Davis coughed up the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half. The 49ers’ defense held the Cardinals to an apparent 26-yard field goal. However, Arizona coach Bruce Arians took the points off the board after Rashard Robinson was penalized for running into the kicker.
On the next play, running back David Johnson took it into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Johnson became the fourth consecutive opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against the 49ers. He gained 157 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rushes.
Gabbert’s second interception early in the fourth quarter led to a field goal that provided the Cardinals with a 10-point lead.
The chants of “We want Kap!” picked up a few decibel levels in the third quarter as the Cardinals took a two-touchdown lead.
But Gabbert briefly quieted the restless fans when he helped pull the 49ers to within seven points with an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. Gabbert scrambled for gains of 11 and 24 yards on the drive, which was capped with Carlos Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown run. Hyde gained 78 yards on 22 rushing attempts.
But after the defense forced a three-and out, former 49ers cornerback Marcus Cooper stepped in front of Jeremy Kerley to intercept Gabbert’s pass near the left sideline.
Most of Gabbert’s damage came on the ground, as he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 10 rushing attempts.
Bellore for Bowman
The 49ers placed NaVorro Bowman on injured reserve before Thursday’s game and activated outside linebacker Aaron Lynch after he served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. Lynch started at outside linebacker, reclaiming his former starting job from Eli Harold.
Nick Bellore, one of the 49ers’ top special-teams players, made the first start of his six-year NFL career in Bowman’s place. Bellore and Michael Wilhoite started at inside linebacker. Wilhoite replaced Gerald Hodges in the starting lineup for the first time Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bellore had an up-and-down game with some missed tackles. He was credited with a team-high nine tackles on defense. Bellore added two tackles on special teams and a forced fumble.
This ‘n’ that
--The 49ers’ last-ranked passing game had one brief sequence of success in the second quarter. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who has proved to be the 49ers’ only reliable receiving target, had four receptions for 63 yards on one drive. He and Gabbert hooked up on a 9-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead.
--Hyde was penalized late in the first half for taunting. After catching a 7-yard pass from Gabbert, he got into a jawing matchup with some Cardinals defenders. Hyde flexed his biceps and tossed the ball into the air. Under new NFL rules, one more penalty such as that in Thursday’s game would have led to an automatic ejection.
--Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey joined rookie DeForest Buckner on the inactive list. Dorsey’s knee did not feel right after the 49ers’ practice on Wednesday, so the team held him out of action. Dorsey is returning from a torn ACL he sustained in November.
--Defensive lineman Taylor Hart, who the 49ers claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles after the initial cut to 53 players, saw his first action. He was inactive for the 49ers’ first four games.
--Outside linebacker Tank Carradine sustained a toe injury in the third quarter. Chris Davis left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.