The San Francisco 49ers can point to an assortment of reasons they lost on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys. Two of the biggest swings were on the Jaquiski Tartt personal foul, and then Blaine Gabbert’s interception on a deep pass to Torrey Smith.
The Gabbert deep pass is particularly galling because it was entirely on Gabbert. Smith easily beat his defender and a completion would have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Gabbert did this.
Gabbert met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the play. Smith threw his helmet after the play, showing understandable frustration. On Tuesday, Gabbert said he and Smith were fine. He talked about it being one play they both wanted to hit on. He talked about them moving on and learn from that experience.
Smith spoke about it as well on Tuesday, specifically the frustration on the missed deep ball. Smith (and plenty others) viewed it as, if the 49ers hit on that play, they probably win this game. They were trailing 21-17 with 10:38 to go. Maybe they don’t win, the game, but the potential swing was huge.
Smith was only targeted twice, and has not been a major component of the offense through four weeks. Smith discussed the lack of looks in the context of winning vs. losing:
“I’m fine being patient. I’m completely fine not getting the ball as long as we’re moving the ball and we’re scoring points. I’ll never complain about that. But when it’s tough, and I’m waiting and then I know we had the opportunity to change the game like that and then we missed, it’s tough.”
Smith also discussed the need to learn from it, and make sure everybody is on the same page. Unfortunately, it appears the team has not really learned much from the poor connection between Gabbert and Smith this season. We’ve seen some positives in the passing game, but it has just not been there all that much between Gabbert and Smith (this stat covers 20+ yards through the air, not 20+ yard completions):
With that interception, Blaine Gabbert is now 1-11 on throws of 20+ yards downfield this season. #49ers— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) October 2, 2016
Smith has gotten open a fair amount this season. Sometimes Gabbert has found other options that move the ball, but sometimes Gabbert has either missed Smith or not seen him while making a bad decision to throw elsewhere. All in all it’s frustrating to watch.
Here’s the full rundown of Gabbert’s press conference on Tuesday.
What’s the focus on when you have get back to work so quickly?
“Well, it’s just getting caught up on your preparation. You’re really three days behind schedule so we started early. I started getting ready for this game on Sunday night after the game just because it’s such a shortened week. You really have to get your mind and your body prepared to play on Thursday night.”
Do you have to kind of cut corners, that’s not the right word, but do you have to kind of de-emphasize--?
“No, not at all. Regardless, short week or not, you can’t skip any part of your normal preparation. If anything, you have to do more especially from the physical aspect to get your body feeling the way it should by Sunday, which happens to be Thursday this week. And then from a mental aspect, like I said, it’s just everything is sped up. So, if you have to watch extra film in the morning, during the lunch break or at night, you have to stick to the same routine, still watch the same amount of film regardless if it’s a short week or not.”
Does it help at all that it’s at least a familiar opponent? Are they doing a lot of the same things that you’ve seen from them?
“Well, they are a talented defense. Yeah, it’s a division opponent so we’ve played them in the past. We’re familiar with their defensive scheme, but familiar opponent or not you still have to prepare the same if it was a team that we haven’t played before. We still have to kind of figure out what they’re doing this year, what they’ve been doing as of the last couple of games and still prepare the same way.”
This is going to be the third running defense that you’ve faced in the past five weeks that’s ranked among the top. How do you approach that defensive front and get them off their heels early to open up that run game?
“It goes back to just focusing on the fundamentals. Every defense is good in the National Football League and we’ve had our fair share of the top defenses in the last four weeks. That doesn’t effect on how we play. We just have to focus on the things that we can control. That’s our preparation throughout the week in the film room, getting our bodies and minds right to play this team and whatever they bring us and show uson Thursday night we have to be ready and prepared to execute against it.”
You seemed to be throwing with tremendous confidence for most of the game on Sunday. There was one throw in the second half in the red zone on third down that you one-hopped to WR Jeremy Kerley. What happened on that play?
“I think it was [WR] Aaron Burbridge actually.”
OK, Aaron Burbridge.
“Just threw it short. It got knocked off a little bit, thinking of the play correctly, and just short throw. It was tight coverage. I wanted to keep it low. I just overcooked it a little bit too low.”
What you saw last week against the Rams, they played actually a decent amount of nine men in the box. Schematically, just by alignment, can you get a team out of it?
“Yeah, every team goes into certain games with different personnel packages. Rams, a lot of two tight end, two back sets and so every defensive coordinator is going to have a certain package versus a different personnel group that week. What we have to do is prepare what we think they are going to play against us. If you come out in 23-personnel, heavy tight end sets with two running backs, you’re going to get a 10-man box. That’s just the way the defensive coordinator is thinking. We have to prepare against the things that we think we are going to expect with the offensive plays and formations and personnel groups that we run personally.”
Based on what you see on film, will you know on third downs, like on third-and-five, third-and-six, third-and-13, kind of what defense you’re going to see just because those are big downs?
“Yeah, third downs are huge and they are a big point in any football game. Every coordinator, every team, kind of has tendencies on third downs and third-and-one to two, say third-and-three to six, third-and-12 plus. It’s just figuring out what those tendencies are, what you think that you’re going to get versus certain formations, where their blitz tendencies are, and just do as much film study as you can, get as many looks as you can out on the practice field. But, at the end of the day, you have to have all that information, be able to process it but go out there and play. See what you see out there, make the right call and just go play ball.”
As a quarterback, when you see someone, a receiver like WR Torrey Smith frustrated like he was Sunday, how do you approach it? Do you need to have a conversation with him? Do you just need to--?
“No. Torrey and I are fine. It was one play. We both wanted to hit on it. It was a big play in that football game and it didn’t turn out. The past is the past. We’ve moved on from that. We’re both on the same page on what we see in that route and we’re going to hit that moving forward. We were both frustrated at the time. That happens. We’re competitive guys. I don’t want to throw a pick there. I’d much rather throw a 65-yard touchdown. Trust me. We’ve just got to move forward and you learn from that experience.”
Are you seeing defenses lean towards Torrey and try to take him out of the game, paying more attention to him than maybe year’s past?
“Are we seeing that more recently?
Yeah, are they skewing their defense?
“Well, every defense is going to have their game plan for a specific game. Whether that’s double Torrey, have a guy follow Torrey around the football field. That’s a package that we just have to be aware of, but at the end of the day, whatever play [head coach] coach [Chip] Kelly calls we have to go out there and execute it regardless if they are double teaming Torrey. You have to be cognizant of where kind of that double team is, but I have to stick to the progression. If he’s in alert on a specific play we’re alerting it. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to go play ball and the open guy is going to get the ball.”
Is that what the Cowboys did? Were they double teaming him?
“The Cowboys played a lot of man coverage, some two guy stuff over the top of Torrey, but it was just kind of where the routes dictated me to throw it. We were calling a bunch of man beaters early on with kind of Jeremy in the slot. Some of the zone coverages there late in the down they were pushing underneath Torrey and we hit [TE] Garrett Celek there on a big corner stop on a third down conversion. Especially in the zone coverages like that, they know where our speed guys are and it’s just kind of off where the underneath defenders go which kind of leads me to where I throw the ball.”
How comfortable are you feeling in this offense and how much more can you improve with more knowledge of the scheme?
“I think the improvement’s going to happen every week. The more reps you get in a game, the more and more Chip and I are on the same page. He’s calling a certain play, I know why he’s calling that play. He sees something on the field. When we get on that same page we’re really going to take off. We started to click really well there early on in the game versus the Cowboys. We were hitting on all cylinders. That improvement, that chemistry and that consistency is just going to continue to build throughout the season.”
Do you feel like that chemistry is built with Garrett Celek? I know you haven’t had TE Vance McDonald for most of the last two games. One handed catch last week.
“Yeah, Garrett’s been doing a great job and had a great catch there on [Dallas Cowboys LB] Sean Lee, a couple big third down conversions. Had a good hop throw on the left side and he’s a great football player. He’s always in the right spot. He does everything the right way and he had a great game on Sunday.”