Chip Kelly was noncommittal about the identity of his starting quarterback immediately following the 49ers’ blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
A day later, he confirmed what seemed to be a certainty: Colin Kaepernick will start his second consecutive game on Sunday when the 49ers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium.
“I think there are some things he did on Sunday that you can build upon,” Kelly said. “For his first extended playing time since last year, I thought there were some real positives there that we need to continue to kind of try to build with him and get him going. (Kaepernick) gives us the best chance against Tampa Bay this week.”
Kaepernick picked up five of the 49ers’ eight first downs rushing on his seven attempts, not including a kneeldown to run out the clock at the end of the first half. Kaepernick's best run came when he escaped a potential safety by breaking a tackle of Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes in the end zone and rushed for a first down. Kaepernick finished with a team-high 66 yards rushing.
“Sometimes the protection broke down, but he kept some plays alive from that standpoint, did a good job keeping the ball out of harm’s way,” Kelly said. “(He) didn’t throw any interceptions. There were no balls where you were like, ‘Oh, geez, that was a close one.’ Sometimes you can have a game where you didn’t throw any interceptions, but you should have, the defense just dropped them.”
Kaepernick and the 49ers’ offense got off to a good start on Sunday. He completed eight of his 11 first-half attempts for 135 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 144.1.
But in the second half. Kaepernick connected on just five of 18 pass attempts in a stiff 22 mph wind for just 52 yards.
Kaepernick made his first start since Nov. 1. After the 49ers’ 27-6 loss to the Rams, Kaepernick was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of rust,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “I think there’s some things, he’s not a guy that’s played seven straight games and is seeing things just like that. But that’s understandable.
“Really, his last extensive playing time was in the San Diego game (final game of the exhibition season). But there’s room there where I think he can grow and I’m sure as he watches the tape with us (Tuesday) and we get a chance to sit down and visit with him and go through everything, he’ll see some things and get a chance to get a little bit better and that’s the thing that we’re encourage by because he did a lot of really good things and I think we just need to try to build upon that as we move forward.”