Blaine Gabbert raised some eyebrows by leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Week 9 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. But despite the strong performance in his first start since 2013, many onlookers were anxious to see what the quarterback would do for an encore against a tougher foe in Seattle.
Although the final score wasn't what the 49ers envisioned, Gabbert took another step forward on Sunday by completing 22-of-34 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown in San Francisco's 29-13 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
"Guys were making plays. The offensive line was giving me time to get rid of the ball and receivers were making tough catches," Gabbert said postgame. "But at the end of the day, we didn't do enough to win."
Gabbert finished the afternoon with a 98.2 passer rating, just short of becoming the first San Francisco signal-caller to eclipse the century mark in Seattle since J.T. O'Sullivan accomplished the feat in 2008.
Gabbert's improved numbers came after he completed 15-of-25 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the team's Nov. 8 win against Atlanta.
Gabbert will almost certainly have a chance to continue his growth in San Francisco's remaining six regular season contests. The club's starter for the first eight games of 2015, Colin Kaepernick, was placed on the Injured Reserve List on Saturday.
Prior to that roster move, Gabbert's position as starter had been described as a week-by-week situation.
"The mindset doesn't change," Gabbert said. "It's one week at a time and one day at a time. That's the only way you can succeed in this league – to focus on the details and play good football."
Gabbert's best drive on Sunday came on a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Trailing by three touchdowns, the quarterback marched his team 92 yards in nine plays and a minute and a half to get on the scoreboard. It was the San Francisco's second-longest scoring drive of the year.
Gabbert was 6 of 7 on the drive, including completions to Shaun Draughn for 19 yards, Quinton Patton for 15 yards and Anquan Boldin for 17 yards. He also scrambled for 10 yards to set San Francisco up in the red zone.
Gabbert capped the methodical drive against the second-ranked Seahawks defense with a dart down the middle of the field to Garrett Celek for a 19-yard touchdown.
The quarterback orchestrated two more scoring drives in the second half, but both stalled near the goal line and amounted to just six combined points.
"We had a great offensive plan," Gabbert said. "We fluttered there in the red zone. You have to get touchdowns when you're there – especially against a good football team like that. You can't come away with field goals."
At 3-7 on the year, the 49ers would likely need to win out to have a chance at the postseason. Gabbert spoke about his mindset with the team stuck at the bottom of the NFC West.
"We'll just keep fighting," he said. "We're competitive people. Win, lose or draw we're going to come in Tuesday with the same mindset we've had since Week 1 – and that's to go out there and win the next football game."