One thing I hope my readers never, ever do is confuse pessimism, criticism or a lack of confidence in a player or his abilities with a genuine dislike. There are precious few figures in sports who have actually inspired a legitimate, human dislike or anger and almost all of them are disgusting garbage humans who do some very bad things.
So when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a bullseye on his back that I am more than happy to target and hit each and every time I put words to paper for this great site, remember that I don't dislike him ... I just think he sucks. But he was not to blame for much of the offensive woes in a Week 14 loss.
In other words, it should be of no surprise to you that I took no joy in Gabbert's rough, rough day against the Cleveland Browns in Week 14. I was not happy to see Gabbert taken down over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. There was no schadenfreude, there were not "I told you so!" celebration Tweets ... there was only cringing and a genuine concern for a person's safety.
The Browns put a beating on Gabbert that few quarterbacks could handle and keep coming back for now, and I was very relieved when I finally sat down to watch the game and I discovered that a handful of his sacks were just runs out of bounds and not actual, punishing tackles.
I'm writing this article early in the day. If I wrote it at night, I might be tempted to find some whiskey to help me get through it. Let's look at all nine sacks the 49ers allowed against the Browns.
This is a big post -- I will link each GIF in the play description if for some reason the GIFs do not load for you. Blame Fooch.
2nd and 10 at SF 42 (9:45 in 1st Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 41 for -1 yard (Donte Whitner)
This play was broken from the start. Few Browns players were fooled by the play action and I elected to go with the angle from the coaches film, because it's very obvious that Gabbert has no real options to throw to. They are all covered well and the only thing that's disappointing to me is the fact that Gabbert hasn't quite grasped the concept of throwing the football away. This was not an inspiring start to the game.
2nd and 9 at SF 38 (4:28 in 1st Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 28 for -10 yards (Armonty Bryant)
The 49ers immediately break this play like it's going to be a quick pass, but aside from the running back potentially getting out in the flat to Gabbert's left side, the wide receiver routes are taking quite awhile to develop. The offensive line plays well as a whole, and you can even see Erik Pears pass off his man and immediately make a second, crucial block that would have extended the play if Bruce Miller didn't completely whiff on stopping his guy.
Tight end Blake Bell keeps his man for the entire play, though Joe Staley and Marcus Martin don't really have much to do on the play. Miller simply let his guy go and Gabbert took a big hit. To be fair, Gabbert wasn't exactly blindsided and he probably should have let that pass go.
4th and 1 at CLV 30 (15:00 in 2nd Quarter): Gabbert sacked at CLV 36 for -6 yards (Nate Orchard)
Most players get beat on this play, unfortunately. The 49ers have a huge problem with bunching their interior linemen up without actually trying to run any kind of a pinch play. Staley gets his man, but the result of the play is that Pears gets beat, Andrew Tiller doesn't really get to block anyone, Daniel Kilgore also doesn't really get to block anyone and the reason is both of those players willingly back up as opposed to push forward.
Alex Boone quickly gives up on following his man, either because he expected someone to be further to his right and they weren't there. Miller makes an OK block and tight end Brian Leonhardt is in on the play. He does fine. Where things really break down is Bell -- it looks like he is supposed to chip before running out, but instead of actually chipping, he kind of taps a guy on the arm as he runs past the edge rusher, who comes in unblocked and gets to Gabbert.
3rd and 3 from SF 34 (7:50 in 2nd Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 34 for 0 yards (Jordan Poyer)
This is another busted play where there wasn't really anybody open on third down. Quinton Patton is open, but that's not a first down, and the play has broken down pretty fast. Pears and Staley both eventually lose their men, and Gabbert runs out of bounds for another "sack."
2nd and 5 from CLV 39 (1:05 in 2nd Quarter): Gabbert sacked at CLV 41 for -2 yards (Desmond Bryant)
Pears is beaten soundly on this play and Gabbert should probably show a bit more awareness in the pocket. Boone eventually gives up his guy as well, but I think he did about as much as could have been expected of him. It's Pears who gives up the initial pressure and in the end, the sack. Tiller and Staley block well, though Marcus Martin has essentially nobody to block on this play.
1st and 15 from SF 37 (6:24 in 3rd Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF34 for -3 yards (Christian Kirksey)
Does this look familiar? It's Gabbert running out of bounds for a sack. As for who is to blame, just look at the right side of the line. Gabbert was probably smart to get out, but I'm not sure why he didn't roll out to the left instead. A frustrating, frustrating play.
2nd and 18 from SF 34 (5:59 in 3rd Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 27 for -7 yards (Xavier Cooper, Desmond Bryant)
Staley and Martin both cover the same guy, Tiller eventually loses his man but he blocks well initially and the primary breakdown on the play occurs in two spots at the same time: center and right tackle. Pears and Kilgore both get pushed back big time, Kilgore especially, and Gabbert has no chance to throw the ball as he's hit from both sides at the same time. Gabbert sees Pears' guy and wants to step up into the pocket, but he steps right into Kilgore. Not a good look.
1st and 10 from SF 34 (15:00 in 4th Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 28 for -6 yards (Orchard)
Just about everyone on this play recovers well, save for Tiller. He doesn't have anybody to block, and I'm unsure if maybe Pears was supposed to be assisting Leonhardt, who is the one who gives up the initial pressure and the sack. Staley, Kilgore and and Martin do fine on the play, but the new tight end on the roster, unsurprisingly, gives up the sack to the rookie.
2nd and 8 from CLV 42 (6:47 in 4th Quarter): Gabbert sacked at SF 49 for -9 yards (Armonty Bryant)
Staley gets beat, but there's also an unblocked man who forces Gabbert to start moving. But Martin may have made a mistake on who he was supposed to block, because the guy who gets by him and gives at Gabbert was glaringly obvious on the pay. Kilgore blocks his guy, Pears blocks his guy and Tiller isn't sure who to block, again. This one seems like a blown call at the line, the guy coming around the outside clearly wasn't in coverage and Martin let a very obvious guy right past him as well.