As 25,000 empty seats at Levi’s Stadium suggested, the 49ers’ season was reduced to one of moral victories weeks ago. In that regard, they didn’t leave empty-handed Sunday.
The 49ers weren’t good enough to beat the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals in a 19-13 loss, but as had been the case for much of the season, at
least they were competitive at home again.
Better yet, they may have found a quarterback for next season, although it remains to be seen what role Blaine Gabbert will play at that point.
In his third consecutive start, Gabbert did enough good things to keep his team in the game. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 318 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“He’s a heck of a quarterback,” said receiver Anquan Boldin, who had a team-high five receptions. “You guys see it. He’s poised. He’s under control. He understands where to go with the ball.”
“Today he ran the offense well,” coach Jim Tomsula said. “There are always things that can be cleaned up, you can get better at, but he has continued to get better.”
While Gabbert has better statistics than predecessor Colin Kaepernick, the offense has averaged only 14.3 points per game with Gabbert at the controls, virtually no different than the 13.6 with Kaepernick in charge.
“I’m just taking it one game at a time,” Gabbert said. “Confidence is key in this profession. If you don’t step on that field with that confident mindset, you’re not going to play well.”
The officials were front and center throughout the game, and the 49ers seemed to think they influenced the outcome. Of the 20 accepted penalties, 13 were against the home team.
“I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” Tomsula said.
“I mean, it felt like we were playing two teams,” Boldin said. “I thought it was ridiculous all day. I mean, if you’re going to call a game that way, call it both ways. Don’t let it be just one, so lopsided.”
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer scored on a 8-yard scramble to break a 13-all tie midway through the fourth period. When the extra point failed, the 49ers had a chance to pull one out.
Gabbert moved the offense to the Arizona 30-yard line, but he took a crucial 10-yard sack on third down. That left the offense with a fourth-and-20 predicament that Boldin nearly converted.
“I’ve got to find a way to get rid of the ball,” Gabbert conceded. “I can’t take a sack in that situation.”
The 49ers saw their record drop to 3-3 at home compared to 0-5 on the road.
“No, sir,” Tomsula said when asked if he had an explanation for the wide difference in play.
Silver linings may be harder to come by next weekend, when the 49ers meet the Bears in Chicago. They’ve lost all but one of their road games by at least 16 points.