Kelly: Gabbert has good understanding of 49ers' offense


Kelly: Gabbert has good understanding of 49ers' offense

DENVER – Blaine Gabbert failed to convert on his only two third-down pass attempts.

And those plays, more than anything else, helped explain Chip Kelly’s assertion that Gabbert is giving him exactly what he wants from his leader on offense.

“He’s got a really good understanding of what we’re doing right now,” Kelly said following the 49ers’ 31-24 victory Saturday over the Denver Broncos in the second exhibition game for both teams.

In the first two exhibition games, Gabbert’s play has been up and down. But in six possessions with the first-team offense, he has yet to throw an interception or take a sack.

Gabbert appears to have the upperhand in the quarterback competition with Colin Kaepernick, who has not practiced since Aug. 10 due to arm fatigue. Kaepernick threw approximately 50 passes in pregame warmups and appears to be on target to return to practice on Monday.

“I watched him,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “I think he’s gotten better and better each day. And we’ll just see. The biggest thing is how he responds, in terms of if there are any residual effects when he wakes up in the morning. I think he’s progressing, and we have a logical plan in place.”

Gabbert completed six of his nine passing attempts for 69 yards. He did not exactly light it up, but Kelly appears to be pleased with his quarterback’s decision-making in handling the blitz.

“I thought Blaine did a nice job of getting the ball where it needed to be,” Kelly said. “They brought a little bit of pressure early and at least he got rid of it and didn’t take the sack. I thought he put the ball where it needed to be, so he did a good job of managing his snaps when he was in there.”

The 49ers opened with a three-and-out that included a third-down incompletion in which Gabbert overthrew running back Carlos Hyde on the left side to avoid a sack.

[RECAP: Instant Replay: Gabbert steady in 49ers' preseason win]

“As a quarterback, it’s so crucial to avoid sacks,” Gabbert said. “Whatever you can do to get the ball out. There was a play we had on a third down. Carlos had a route to the left, rather than take a sack, just get the ball out of your hand.

“Sacks are a big momentum builder for the other team, especially their defense. A defense like Denver’s feeds off of sacks. Anything you can do to neutralize that, get the ball out of your hands quick, and get it into the receiver’s hands is going to help the offense run smoothly.”

On the next series, Gabbert threw short to tight end Garrett Celek on a third-and-7 play. Gabbert got rid of the ball quickly with pressure in his face. The pass completion picked up just five yards, leading to a Bradley Pinion punt. The play met Kelly's approval.

“We got pressure,” Kelly said. “Obviously, he has to throw it short of the first down. Some quarterbacks in that situation are going to hold it because they want to throw it farther. But now they’re going to take a sack. That’s part of being a smart quarterback.

“There’s sometimes that the play that’s called isn’t going to get it. You’re hoping that the guy catches it and breaks a tackle. But there’s other guys that hold onto the ball and just sit there and say, ‘No one was really open,’ and they take a sack. And now we’re in a worse situation. We have a good punter. Sometimes if it’s third and 14, you might not get 14, but if we can get half of that and get 7 more yards and Bradley can kick it a little farther, you can spin the field (position) a little bit.”

On Gabbert’s final series with the first-team offense, he completed passes of 17 yards to DeAndrew White and 19 yards to Vance McDonald. Hyde scored on a four-yard touchdown run.

“I think we improved as an offense as a whole,” Gabbert said. “We got the ball in the end zone. You can always start faster, but just getting into the flow of the offense and playing more this week.”

Through the first nine practices of training camp, Gabbert and Kaepernick split the first-team reps. Since Kaepernick has been out of action, Gabbert has taken all of those snaps. He said he feels more comfortable as he continues to learn the system.

“It goes back to the repetitions,” Gabbert said. “I try to take advantage, especially this week, going against a great team in Denver. Just make the most out of each opportunity I have to go out there. It definitely carried over into the game. Any time you can get a rep in practice and in games, you have to treat it like a piece of gold.”

The most surprising performance of the evening belonged to freshly signed Christian Ponder. The 49ers had 40 plays available in the game plan, and Ponder said he knew about half of those plays.

Ponder completed seven of eight passes for 86 yards to finish the game. Ponder rushed for a 22-yard touchdown and found Dres Anderson on a 30-yard touchdown pass on a play he had not practiced.

“I know he’s never run that play before we called it in the game,” Kelly said.

Said Ponder, “We drew it up on the sideline. It was a play that has already been installed, I just hadn’t learned it, yet. We saw something and made an adjustment and it worked out well.”

The 49ers signed Ponder on Tuesday to replace veteran Thad Lewis on the team’s 90-man roster. Rookie Jeff Driskel had a solid showing, too, completing six of seven attempts for 66 yards.

Marquise Goodwin stays positive through more family tragedy


Marquise Goodwin stays positive through more family tragedy

SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin revealed another tragedy struck his family this week.

Just five weeks after the death of his unborn child due to complications in pregnancy, Goodwin revealed his biological father passed away last week.

“I’m blessed,” Goodwin said after the 49ers’ 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans. “I’ve been dealing with a lot. I’m blessed. I’m thankful for the opportunity. God has shown me so much in this season. I had a lot going on this year losing my baby and I just recently lost my biological father this week.

“It’s just been a lot, but I really didn’t let the outside negative energy affect how I play, how I approach this game or how I come to work each day. I just kind of stayed positive and kept my mind fresh, and I relied on God to bring me through all of the situations that I’ve been through.”

Goodwin has played a key role in the 49ers’ three-game winning streak. On Sunday, he caught a career-high 10 passes for 114 yards in the 49ers’ win over the Titans. In the past three games, Goodwin has 24 receptions for 319 yards.

Goodwin has already posted the best numbers of his five-year NFL career with 51 receptions for 897 yards.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 25-23 win over Titans

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 25-23 win over Titans

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 on Sunday:

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has brought something special to the 49ers. The team won just once in its first 11 games of the season. Since Garoppolo took over as the starter, the 49ers are 3-0, including two late-game comebacks.

His performance Sunday was his best, as the 49ers took down the Titans – a team battling for a spot in the AFC playoffs.

The 49ers were trailing by one point with 1:07 remaining and had the ball at their own 25-yard line. Garoppolo immediately completed passes to Trent Taylor, George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin. And the next thing you know, the 49ers had moved 48 yards down the field for the game-winning field goal.

Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 pass attempts for 381 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 106.8.

The 49ers are settling for way too many field goals, so all is not perfect. But considering where this team – where this offense – was before Garoppolo arrived on the scene, and it has been a remarkable transformation.

The 49ers rolled up 414 yards of total offense despite a sputtering run game. Garoppolo spread the ball around to nine different receivers – including himself. He made the ill-advised decision to hold onto a ball that came back at him after being deflected at the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo was quickly tackled for a 6-yard loss.

So, yes, he’s not perfect.

As if five field goals and a streak of 19 accurate kicks in a row was not enough, Robbie Gould had to make one more on the final snap of the game to prevent what would have been a heart-breaking defeat.

Gould was true, making a 45-yarder as time expired, to go along with kicks of 38, 48, 28, 50 and 48 yards. He made five field goals two weeks ago against his former team, the Chicago Bears, in a 15-14 victory at Soldier Field.

In the past three weeks, Gould has made 15 field goals – something no kicker has done in NFL history over a three-game stretch.

Gould has made 36 of his 38 field-goal attempts (.947 accuracy) and already is second all-time in club history for made field goals in a season. David Akers made 44 in 2011.

Every game during the 49ers’ three-game win streak there has been someone else who steps up in a big play. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, however, has been the constant.

Goodwin caught a career-high 10 passes for 114 yards, including an 11-yarder on the field drive that helped get the 49ers into range for Gould’s winning kick. In three games with Garoppolo as the starter, Goodwin has 24 receptions for 319 yards.

But he is not alone.

Tight end Garrett Celek had three catches for 63 yards. Rookie tight end George Kittle had a big 24-yard reception on the final drive and finished with 52 yards receiving. Undrafted rookie wideout Kendrick Bourne contributed four catches for 85 yards.

And on the defensive side, there was no play bigger than DeForest Buckner’s stop of DeMarco Murray on a third-and-2 play for no gain that forced the Titans to settle for Ryan Succop’s 50-yard field goal with 1:07 remaining and ensured the 49ers would have enough time for Garoppolo to work his magic.