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Blaine Gabbert Leads 49ers to First Preseason TD

Posted Aug 24, 2014

The San Francisco 49ers second-team quarterback led the team's first preseason touchdown drive, capped with a 6-yard pass to tight end Vance McDonald.

If you believe preseason counts when keeping track of historical trivia, then Blaine Gabbert completed the first touchdown pass for the San Francisco 49ers in the history of Levi's® Stadium.

Gabbert tossed a 6-yard score to second-year tight end Vance McDonald to give San Francisco its first touchdown of the 2014 preseason with 46 seconds left in the first half. The scoring play was one of many positive displays from the young quarterback in a 21-7 home victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Gabbert, the fourth-year signal-caller whom the 49ers traded for this offseason, entered Sunday's game with a simple mindset: stick to the basics.

"I just wanted to go out there and play good football," said Gabbert after he had his best preseason performance with the 49ers thus far. "That was my mindset today and just have fun. It's a great opportunity we have to play in this great stadium. You've got to enjoy it. That's what I focused on today, just have fun and play football."

Gabbert did just that. He completed 7-of-11 passes for 66 yards and posted a team-high 110.4 quarterback rating.

"I thought he was getting the ball out, on time," Jim Harbaugh said. "I thought our quarterbacks were more accurate this week and there was some improvements made."

Gabbert's day began in the second quarter with the 49ers trailing, 7-3, following four possessions with starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the field. Gabbert began to develop a rhythm with McDonald and connected on a 17-yard pass to get San Francisco's offense going.

Gabbert said he'd been working extensively with the 49ers tight ends and the extra practice work paid off.

"He's another guy who goes out there every day with the same mindset - that's just to get better," Gabbert said of McDonald. "We worked on individual routes with those guys because there are so many opportunities for the tight ends to be singled up on linebackers in 1-on-1 situations. We have to maximize those opportunities when we get a talented athlete on a linebacker."

On a 1st-and-goal play from the 6-yard line, McDonald lined up at fullback ahead of rookie running back Carlos Hyde. Instead of McDonald making a block, it was Hyde who cut down a Chargers linebacker, allowing McDonald to get open in the left flat.

Gabbert put the ball on the money and McDonald easily made his way into the end zone from there.

It was an impressive exclamation mark on the drive, and it also signaled Gabbert's growth in a new offense. So while many critics were quick to point out Gabbert's less than eye-catching statistics in two previous preseason games, Gabbert kept his head down and continued working.

When asked if he put added pressure entering Sunday's game, Gabbert said flat-out, "No."

"If anything," Gabbert began, "I apply pressure to myself and that's just to go out there and get better. We wanted to put some drives together. I wished we would have scored on some other drives that I was on, but we'll have a look at the tape and learn from the mistakes that we had."

Gabbert said his knowledge of San Francisco's offensive playbook continues to grow. He said he's looking forward to getting more in-depth on specific game plans for regular season opponents.

That time will come soon enough. For now, Gabbert can take pride in accomplishing what he wanted to before the game started.

He had fun and played good football.

"Everyone was on the same page," Gabbert said, summing up the team's improved offensive performance. "Communication was at a high level and when we do those things, you see the level we can play at."